Thieves and Bar Tricks in South Africa

The crane-truck that donated the delivery of our container literally did not come to a stand still before 2 boys stole some steel hooks from its tool boxes.

Upon overhearing some ladies talking about it, I walked up to the group of boys that always hang out in the street and asked who would like to make a quick 20 bucks. Needless to say, I had everyone's attention and when I did I said "20 bucks to guy that bring me the items Pitte and his buddy stole" and then I walked away. I think I must have caught them off guard knowing that it happened and also knowing the name of the culprit.

Everyone jumped up and three minutes later I handed the stolen items to a perplexed driver that did not understood why I had the same items in my hand that he had in his tool boxes. (No brother these are not duplicates, they are yours!)

The next day I saw the two culprits, called them over and had a heart to heart with both. God granted me the wisdom to realize the situation was more complex than what meets the eye. 

That evening I kept playing with ideas concerning how to connect with these boys. I googled "minute to win it" and for some reason ended up with "bar tricks!" Ok, I know the big picture stuff about bars and in the same breath I confess that I have developed a curiosity and appreciation for a good bar trick – they can be very funny and more important, useable!

The next day we were scheduled to pour the foundations but the opportunity to play the bar trick on these boys was the reason for the grin on my face.  As usual, the boys started to hang around shortly after our arrival.  Containing my excitement and putting on my poker face, I walked up to them and asked if they knew that the container (the 40' one onsite) had magic powers.  Of course, they laughed and threw out chirpy comments, as expected for 14 or 15 year olds.  Pulling out a $100 bill (South Africa rands, not dollars), I said "$100 bucks says you cannot stand right next to the container and lift your right leg."  Needless to say, I had their full attention.  The chirpy comments and laughter appeared to have no limits as they prepared themselves to collect.  

It is an exceptional feeling when you have a bunch of boys going wild and you know they forgot one tiny little street smart lesson: "pay attention when a deal is too good to be true."  Oh, it was sweetness in the making.  I only had one more move to take care of so I said "What is the counter to my $100 on the table?"  For a moment they got quiet but I quickly suggested 1/2 hours volunteer work from each if they failed.  After asking for a show of hands, 7 out of 7 boys were in and their excitement for collecting a quick $100 was back to full throttle.  

First one up...I explained how the challenge must be done.  Left ankle, knee, hip, shoulder and cheek must touch the side of the container.  Then, without falling over, lift the right leg (hint: this is impossible).  A few short minutes later the sweet words rang in my ears: "Sir, we think we owe you a half hour of work."  

For more than an hour I had seven boys helping to dig the foundations ... it was a beautiful thing, very beautiful!!  They had to take turns with the shovels and picks and every time I saw a pick not swinging or a shovel not working I said.. "Gentlemen, that pick or that shovel must not stand still." I could not help to keep smiling as their chirpy comments were now focused on one another, each knowing more and having more muscle that his buddy and then ready to show off.

Afterwards, I offered coke and cookies to show my appreciation, which also opened the door for a deeper question, "50 bucks to the person that can tell me what was Adam's sin as it relates to men."  I could see all had the "ate forbidden fruit" answer in mind.  Before they even had the chance to answer, I informed them that it was not the correct answer and that we will leave it for the next time we see one another. 

The reason these boys hang out in the street and not in school is because they are all expelled - for the most part because of fighting. Stealing is almost a given for all and I am no fool to think they will not outsmart me the next opportunity they get. Securing the building site including what was built during the day keeps me tossing and turning. 

Nevertheless, what happens next to the containers, outside the walls of the planned "Super Kitchen," or if you like, "Outside the Bowl," is indeed the reason for being here in the first place - this week it was a sweet reminder of that and I thank God for it."

Written by Mars van der Colff (South Africa OTB Country Director)