In the dark of night a thief smashed the passenger-side window of a 1995 Honda Civic that had been parked on the street by John Yang’s mother-in-law, ransacked the car and made out like a bandit — if that bandit were a devout religious observer with an ambitious plan to spread the gospel.

The thief, who has not been identified, took off with a bag stuffed with a Bible and about 60 religious booklets written in Hmong. It’s unclear why the older purplish-gray Honda was targeted, although Yang speculated that it could have been for parts.

“If they were going to break into a car to get something, there was a BMW right behind ours,” Yang said. “I do find it funny in a way, that you go through this and all you get is a bag full of Bibles. I hope [the religious material] does work for them eventually.”

The crime occurred overnight Tuesday when the car was parked on Hazel Street just south of Maryland Avenue E. on the East Side of St. Paul.

The modus operandi itself isn’t that unusual; many thieves smash and grab whatever’s available. In this case, the religious materials were in a leather bag in the trunk.

“My mother-in-law is a really devout Jehovah’s Witness,” Yang said. “She always has these with her.”

The same thing happened to the same car in 2011, except that time, the car (and just as much religious material) was taken. It was recovered three months later, stripped of some parts and inoperable.

But Yang and his wife, Dorothy, were able to keep their sense of humor about the latest hit. The car was not taken, and a fellow church member is repairing it for free. “I just hope that [the thief] spreads the books around and puts them to good use,” Yang said.

Chao Xiong