News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists
SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2007


How much is laptop worth?

An old college friend, John Wickes, works hard to make a difference in Africa, but waiting for the results requires patience.

Occasionally, however, results come quickly and in unexpected ways.

This was the case recently in a matter that could star in Dumb Crook News.

Someone stole a computer and other items from the children’s home that John directs in east Africa. John and his workers had little hope of recovering the goods, but contacted police so they would have a report for an insurance claim.

John suspected that a male acquaintance named Suzi was involved in the theft. Soon, and in bizarre fashion, his suspicions were confirmed.

In a town about 750 miles away, police were interrogating Suzi. Suzi was trying to sell a laptop computer and police suspected it was stolen. As the interrogation began, police ordered him to empty his pockets.

When Suzi pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, he accidentally pushed a quick-dial button.

Amazingly, the phone rang at the children’s home where volunteer Joao Simao answered it. Joao listened in on the open phone line as police questioned Suzi about the computer. Then the line went dead.

Joao called the callback number and the police chief answered on Suzi’s cell phone. Joao told the police chief about the computer theft.

Apparently Suzi and two others had stolen the items and taken them to the distant city to sell.

While you might not attribute this arrest to brilliant police work, you could point to coincidence — or providence.

“I just do what I believe to be right, and it’s like watching paint dry,” John said. “Then, from nowhere, everything happens completely independent of anything I may have attempted.”

Solving a problem in some parts of Africa can, indeed, require an act of God.

To recover the computer, John had to contact local police and get them to agree to travel 32 hours round trip to arrest Suzi and retrieve the computer. John also had to buy three bus tickets: one for the worker who owns the computer, one for a translator and one for the local police officer.

Then he had to buy four tickets for the return trip: one for the computer owner, one for the translator, one for the policeman and one for the burglary suspect.

He also had to house and feed the policeman for the three-day trip.

“If you get robbed here,” John said, “it’ll cost you more if you go to the police.”

Scott Morris is managing editor.

Scott Morris Scott Morris
DAILY City Editor

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