Well, lads and lassies, I would have some really great pictures to share with you today. We had a special shoe distribution for some beautiful children in Masiphumelele. They were 4 to 6 years old, with tiny smiling faces and beaming pearly whites. One beaming little boy arrived in bedroom shoes like the Bear’s, worn through and worn out, and I was so happy at the thought that he would be getting new shoes today!

But there were a few ugh…hiccoughs.

As we began sizing the children’s feet in preparation for the footwashing, we realised we’d incorrectly estimated what sizes we would need. Hero Hubs and I discussed what our best option would be … blessing half the kids and bringing shoes for the rest next week just didn’t seem like a good idea. Three pre-primary schools had come together for the distribution. Eventually we decided to make the two and a half hour round trip adventure from just outside Cape Town back to Gordon’s Bay to get more shoes, and we’d bring the shoes back and the distribution would happen in the afternoon instead of the morning.

We were on our way, making phone calls to rearrange and reschedule other bits and pieces of the next few days because of this mishap, and the weather which had been foreboding and windy all morning seemed like it was taking a turn for the worse as a drizzly sprinkle began.

We travelled the Beach Road back to Gordon’s Bay and Hero Hubs noticed a fragile and skinny looking lady, in a pink winter hat and scarf, who was hoping to catch a ride. {The Bear was not in the car with us, in case you’re getting worried.} It was an usual decision as we have probably only given lifts to people about three times in the year that we’ve been here. As the fragile lady climbed in, I looked back to begin to chat with her, and to say the least she had a rather strange appearance. Her makeup was unusually heavy, eyebrows thickly drawn on and eyes outlined in black.

She chatted with me, polite but a little distant, and as I looked back at the shoe sizing list in front of me, I began to ask for her help to decide whether the names on the list were boy’s names or girl’s names. (We have boy shoes and girl shoes for these young ages, so we try to make sure to have a good spread to cover each gender.)

Finally we came to the off-ramp where she wanted to be dropped off, and she asked us to go over the overpass and drop her on the other side. Her conversation in the car had seemed strange and stilted, her departure was just weird, and HH and I kind of looked at each other like Ugh…what? And then I fortuitously happened to grab the camera bag out of the back. I began to say, “Well at least she didn’t steal our camera….” but as I picked up the bag, I realised it was MUCH lighter than it should have been.

SHE STOLE OUR CAMERA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She’d somehow managed to unzip the camera bag without us hearing, and with HH keeping an eye on her. She slipped out both cameras* and she zipped the bag closed again without us knowing. Hero Hubs slammed on the brakes, reversed down the hill on the grassy shoulder, and threw it into drive. We were in hot pursuit, on our way up the down ramp to catch the thief. Cars wondered what the heck we were doing and pulled out of the way as I tried to gesture frantically, Sorry, but it’s an emergency!!!! Good thing we were still in our friends’ Land Rover from the Jeffrey’s Bay trip.

*Let me pause for a moment to better explain exactly what had just been stolen. 1) Our Canon 40D. The camera we decided to invest in before the Bear was born. A, so that we could take good photos in Scotland for the grandparents thousands of miles away in the US and SA. And B, so that we could take photos for our ministry partners to share about our work in Scotland, and now SA. 2) Our handheld video camera. A similar investment decision, we bought this little video camera to make movies for friends and family far away. My Dad and my brother helped us buy it as a Christmas present in 2007. Please don’t make me add up the totals of how much we just lost — I am just not ready to look at those numbers yet.

So back to the emergency.

We fly up the down ramp and jump out of the Landy to start asking questions. Did you see a lady come by here wearing a pink beanie and a scarf?

We began asking questions, my heart sinking minute by minute, and we started to drive through the area looking for her.

The community jumped into action. A couple of guys spoke with a group on the street, and a guy with dreadlocks and a mountain bike took off with purpose. Two other guys who were helping us look hopped in to lead us to the train station where she might have run. They ran up the stairs like their life depended on it, across the bridge over the tracks, down the other side, and started asking questions.

No one had seen her. They got back into the car and pursuit continued. At this point we’d called the police twice but hadn’t seen them yet. As the guys directed us on where to circle again, we came back to the group of friends, and they were gesturing for us to come quickly.

The guy on the mountain bike produced our little handheld video camera. My heart leapt and sank at the same time.

They’d seen the lady. They’d caught the lady. They took the camera away from the lady.

But there was one problem. We had never explained that there were two cameras. So she coughed up the smaller, less expensive of the two, and they let her go.

And then there was a realisation. That was actually a man dressed as a woman. So all this time we’d been asking “Have you seen this lady…” we should’ve been saying what the locals say: “Het jy ‘n lang skraal moffie gesien?” Which loosely translates: “Have you seen a tall thin homosexual guy around here?” {This is not meant to be offensive toward anyone with alternative sexual preferences. I am just explaining what the locals would say, and telling the story how it happened.}

When mountain bike hero realised there were two cameras, his face showed how disappointed he was, and he was off in pursuit again. Equally, the neighbourhood gang handed us our camera with joy, but then was so disappointed to know there was another camera out there.

We were off on the trail again. Meanwhile, we passed a gentleman in a green truck whom we’d asked earlier if he’d seen the…moffie. He took HH’s business card to let him know if he found anything out, and he went off in a different direction to help us look. He knew where the druggies usually went to sell stuff.

Eventually the gentleman in the green truck phoned us to say he’d found out the last name of the guy who’d stolen the cameras, and also where s/he worked. We passed the guy in the green truck later, and he said he had to get back to the office, but he planned to look some more when he got off work.

By this time, it seemed hopeless, and we knew we had to go and fetch the shoes to take back to Masiphumelele before it was time for the children to go home. It was tough to move on.

The amazing thing was that we recovered a camera, the unfortunate thing that we didn’t recover the camera. But here’s hoping the lang skraal moffie will have a change of heart, or pass it on to someone who will look at the smiling faces of the children we took pictures of this morning, see the Samaritan’s Feet posters in the background, and choose to do the right thing!

We were really, really blessed to see this community, one that might look rough around the edges from the outside, come together and rally to try to help us in such a trying moment. They really cared about what happened, and really wanted the wrong to be righted. They don’t want the wrongdoing of a few to give a reputation to everyone else.

In the end, SABC3 didn’t show up, and we didn’t even have our camera to take photos of the beautiful kids that received a pair of shoes today. But great things happened. Jesus’ Name was lifted up. As the afternoon came to a close, the children gathered to sing praises to the Lord and to thank Him and us for their new shoes. And that one little boy who arrived in holey bedroom shoes left in a sturdy pair of shoes that will protect his feet for a long time.

And if it was all for just one of those kids to know that God loves them and cares about them, then it was all worth it.

Today was a good day, and God can work everything together for good if we love Him and trust Him.

I’ve got a feeling, lang skraal moffie or not, this story ain’t over yet.