I have an iPhone. It’s a 4S so yeah, I know it’s old. But it’s mine and it works just fine. I got it brand new and unlocked nearly 4 years ago. It’s served me well in many countries. And I’m sure it will continue to serve me well – even though it has a very slow response time…. The other day my son Trae was trying to convince us that it’s time to upgrade. I told him that Dad might (he also has a 4S), but only because his has a cracked screen.
Yesterday Neal and I were out doing some errands. The errands aren’t a big deal – but getting to them is. Traffic in Niamey has become, how shall I say, HIDEOUS! You get behind the wheel and you have to work at maintaining your salvation. Going out to do the simplest things has become an event. The craziness that ensues is worthy of it’s own blog post. That said, I decided to make a call while sitting in traffic. Had an enjoyable chat with Lola, my friend and co-missionary working in Maradi. She’s always encouraging – which is great considering the traffic. We finally arrived at our destination We were going to look at tile for the guest house we are building in Tamou.
We went in to the lovely air conditioned store, greeting the guard as we went. We found lots of gorgeous tile with less than gorgeous prices. But we did find one that would be a possibility. We said thank you and headed back to the car as it was time to pick up Tobi from school. This meant crossing the river. That’s a big deal. We wave to the guard and are on our way. Within seconds I decide to check for my phone. I can’t find it. Think. THINK! When did I last use it? Oh yes – my chat with Lola, just before we arrived at the shop. That means it should be with me. Neal pulled over and quickly called my phone. It rang several times, then just quit. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear any ringing. This required further research. What had I done with my phone?
I thought about it- and realized the most likely thing was that after saying good-bye to Lola, I set the phone in my lap instead of back into my purse. And if that was true, the next likely thing that happened was that when we arrived at tile mart, I got out of the vehicle and my iPhone fell off my lap – OUTSIDE. It’s important to note here (in my defense) that the parking ‘lot’ is sand. You pull your vehicle just off the street (the one full of traffic) in front of the storefront. So I’m sure my phone just dropped soundlessly into the sand and I went on my merry way, clueless. I may have even buried it!
We hadn’t driven very far so I rushed back to the tile store to look around. Nothing. Except sand. I explained my situation to the guard who was sitting on a bench with some of his friends. We communicated using 3 languages, and he finally understood. I of course knew it was entirely possible that he himself saw the phone and pocketed it, and he also knew that I was entertaining that thought. He dramatically told me that if he found something like that he would take it in the store. There wasn’t much more I could do but thank him. And pray. Though I did go back into the store – just to cover my bases – and ask if anyone had turned in a phone. I knew how unlikely that was. Due to language issues, their first response to my question was ‘we don’t repair phones here’.
The guard was still working on convincing me of his innocence while I walked back to our vehicle. I actually didn’t think it was him, because any amateur detective could see that his view was of the drivers side, not the side where the phone dropped out. But talk about a sick feeling in your gut. Like anyone, I have everything on that phone. LOTS of information. While feeling sick, thinking of all that was lost, I also found myself praying. But it seemed so impossible. The phone was long gone. And let’s face it. The phone wasn’t stolen. It was found. By someone other than me. On the way to get Tobi, we called my phone a few times but it was obvious it had been turned off. We were now late for Tobi and I figured he had called. I sent my phone a text message in Hausa that if the person that found my phone called this number there would be a reward. Of course calling the number would be tricky if you couldn’t open the phone!
We are on our way to get Tobi and Neal was trying to make me feel better. Which was extremely sweet of him — he could have been really upset with me, since it was my fault. Instead he was reminding me of the age of the phone, and that when we get new phones we usually just give our old ones away, so just consider this giving it away. A bit early. See what I mean? Sweet. We tell Tobi our reason for being late and he was bummed for me too. He helped my try and activate ‘Find my iPhone on Neal’s phone, but the cell data signal was to weak to make it work.
We were on our return journey home (believe me, it’s a journey) and were processing what might need to be done, and what I would do for a phone. While feeling quite hopeless, I said outloud, “God, you know that I have always turned lost things in – whether it be money or stuff. Now it’s time for my harvest on that”. That’s it. And honestly, I went back to thinking whether I needed to change personal info etc.
We were close to home, stuck in the thick of everything when suddenly Tobi is shoving his phone to the front seat, telling me its my phone calling. What? I didn’t realize it, but he had called my number again – even though it had obviously been shut off. This time ‘it’ answered.
” Uhh, hello? You have my phone? Where are you?”
“Yes. I’m at BIA” (BIA is a bank, across the street from the tile place).
I hand the phone to my husband who has stopped our vehicle in the midst of the chaos around us. I wanted to be sure I heard correctly. “Yes”, I heard him say, “We’re coming. We’ll give you 10,000 for ‘calling’.” (10,000 is around $20)
“No problem” said the voice on the other end. Of course this was all done in Hausa.
We wondered as we made our way back through the maze of traffic if he would actually be there when we got there. We would know soon enough.
The hope of recovering my phone made rush hour traffic a bit more bearable. I began thanking God for such a quick and amazing answer to prayer – in spite of my doubt.
We pulled up to the bank and called my phone again. Neal and Tobi got out to see if they could spot the voice in the midst of so many people. Who was he? It was kind of amusing. Felt a bit like a scene from a movie. Any one of the people around us could be the one who ‘found’ my phone. I saw them walk around a bit more, call again. Then we see 2 young
thugs guys dressed in black jeans and t-shirts. One of them needed his drawers pulled up – but at least his unmentionables were black as well (and by that I mean his undergarments).
The transaction happened quite quickly. He held up the phone, Neal took it and handed him 10,000 CFA with a thank you. Mr. findmyphone and his sidekick walked away very quickly, twenty bucks richer.
We’re pretty sure that our benefactors were watching from across the street to be sure we didn’t bring the law with us before they revealed themselves. The fact is however, they didn’t steal the phone. Based on my synopsis of what happened, I lost my phone. They found it. Now, given where we were (a well-known area for petty theft, pick-pockets etc), I have little doubt that given the opportunity to steal they would have. But this particular phone just fell into their laps (and out of mine!). If you were to ask me to describe what petty thieves looked like, I would tell you to look at these two.
Let me add here that I’ve never felt scared/nervous walking around Niamey. People are generally quite friendly. Yet they themselves know that thieves are lurking around. While I’ve never had anything stolen while on the street, I have had strangers walk up to me and highly recommend that I zip my purse up. Don’t I know there are thieves around? We laugh and I thank them. And try to remember to keep my purse zipped and close to me.
I’m not sure what made those boys turn the phone back on and answer that call. Was it because they realized that without the passcode they couldn’t even make a call, let alone get into the phone? I realize that it’s not that difficult to wipe a phone like that, but I’m sure these guys didn’t have the know how. They could easily find someone who did, but not without lots of questions.
Or was it just the Holy Spirit moving in answer to prayer. He does that.
As we backed out, phone in hand, I prayed for those 2 guys – that they would be confronted with the reality of the Gospel. I felt like celebrating. Maybe a bit like the lady and the lost coin. And wow – this is how Jesus feels when 1 lost sinner turns to Him. I get it.
Regardless of the reason, what seemed a hopeless situation was turned around by the simple fact that God is faithful! He always has been and always will be. And that’s one thing I can take to the bank!