To Catch a Thief

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To Catch a Thief

Two weeks ago Friday I was home alone and was force-fed a lesson in gratitude.

See, I wasn’t really home alone.

I was on the couch working on an essay for SheLoves, Lucy was at tennis, and Tom had just left for football. And then I heard a noise from the front entrance. And then I saw a man standing by our water jugs, rifling through items on the front table.

I hollered, “hey!”

He answered in broken French that he was looking for someone named David. I shouted at him to leave, to get out. We stood in the hallway for a while staring at each other, so close I could have grabbed him. He turned and ran out the door.

He stole three thousand franc, about $18, the cash I had on the front table to pay Lucy’s monthly dues at tennis. Other than that he didn’t have time to swipe anything.


It wasn’t until he was gone that I fully realized what had happened and what could have happened. I started shaking and half-crying/half hyper-ventilating. Often thieves here carry knives. What if he knew I was home alone? What if I had been upstairs or hadn’t seen the shadow of his movement in the hallway. What if he hadn’t run away?

People here expect thieves. I wouldn’t say Djibouti has an inordinate amount of thieves and there is amazingly little violent crime. Petty theft is fairly common though so no one was surprised to hear my story.

Friends are shocked, however, when I tell them about our break-in in Minnesota last fall. It seems to shatter an illusion of America as paradise and Americans as incapable of criminal behavior. Other than, of course, when it comes to international military action.


Being robbed is always terrifying and infuriating and leaves one feeling vulnerable and violated. In addition to that swell of emotion, I decided to feel thankful. I was thankful for the stark, brutal look at reality. Thankful for the way this makes me look at people and wealth and desperation and the human need for God. Thankful for the way Djiboutian friends and I can relate and for their concern.

I counted and we have been robbed at least 13 times in the last ten years (not counting being robbed of our home, all possessions, jobs, and security when we evacuated from Somaliland) and we have been robbed in five different countries. That makes me thankful for mercy and that only things have been taken.

I prayed for release from fear and I prayed for the thief, that he would use the three thousand franc for food and not for khat or alcohol.

Have you been robbed in a foreign country? In the United States?

By |March 1st, 2013|Categories: Djibouti Life|Tags: , , |8 Comments


  1. Tanja March 1, 2013 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    Yes, I have been robbed overseas. It was in a very poor neigbourhood in a small town. Two girl friends and I were walking home to our missions base after our aerobics class. It was just getting dark, and we were all excited after finishing our first fitness class together, and we were NOT paying attention. Suddenly, my one friend stopped and I turned around to see two young men holding something sharp up to her throat. They were telling her to give them her backpack. My friend did not want to do that, as the keys to the whole missions base was in that pack, every door that had a lock. So she hesitated, and they started getting agitated, grabbing her tighter.

    I almost did not understand what was happening, that we were being robbed and my friends and I were in danger. I was about to take off my own backpack to hand it over, when all of a sudden, I remembered how I used to chase away stray dogs while walking the streets a few years back. I lived in Mexico then, and there were a lot of stray dogs who some times came out of nowhere trying to bite me. Back then I had just had a teaching about the power of the name of Jesus, how every knee must bow to the name above all names, and inspired by this I would turn around and look them straight i the eye and tell them “In the name of Jesus, get lost!”. It always worked. The dogs would always submit and obey.

    Well, back to the assault. When I remembered all that, I said to myself, “these are people, not stray dogs, but it might work anyway”, so I stopped taking my backpack off, looked at them and said “In the name of Jesus, let my friend go!”. Something happened in the spiritual realm right then. My friends were both filled with faith and started saying the same thing, and the young men were thrown into confusion, letting go of my friend, and then they took off running down the street. So did we, in the opposite direction, and that was the end of it.

    I have wondered ever since what actually happened that night. What ocurred as I mentioned Jesus was so powerful, it was like the atmosphere went from dispair and darkness to peace and light in a millisecond.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones
      Rachel Pieh Jones March 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm - Reply

      What a great story, thanks for sharing it. So true that in the moment it is almost impossible to fully realize what is actually going on. Its like our brains can’t keep up with the circumstances. Amazing that you were able to think clearly and respond and even more amazing is what happened! So glad you were both okay.

  2. Trish March 2, 2013 at 11:26 am - Reply

    This has nothing to do with this post, but I just want to tell you I LOVE your blog. So many of the issues you bring up I already have rumbling around in my head but haven’t had time to really think through them yet. Thanks for writing and thinking and sharing 🙂

    • Rachel Pieh Jones
      Rachel Pieh Jones March 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      Thanks Trish! I so appreciate hearing that.

  3. Kelly March 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    I’m a new follower of your blog. So scary! Glad you’re okay. How did he get in?

    • Rachel Pieh Jones
      Rachel Pieh Jones March 5, 2013 at 3:32 pm - Reply

      Thanks. We are in a duplex with two gates and the other side was accidentally left open…

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