We usually don't take children this age, as by this point they are typically too streetwise and independent to be molded. In this case, knowing the background, we hoped there were extenuating circumstances (such as hunger) leading to some of the problems. We told the social workers we would work with Thabang and try to help him.
The first night he was here we found that he had gotten up in the middle of the night and taken food into the bathroom and eaten it. He wasn't very good at covering his tracks. This type of behavior is very normal when new children arrive, as so many of them have been fending for themselves. We are usually able to break that behavior simply by feeding the child and showing them they will be cared for. With Thabang this wasn't the case. He continued to steal food, and then if he was given something he didn't like he would try to secretly throw it away and then take something he liked more.
We learned quickly that he hadn't had much authority in his young life. Having quit school there wasn't really anyone telling him what to do at all. Twice he left The Village just to go wandering around just because he wanted to, even though he had been told by 3 different people not to leave the property without supervision. When given instruction by his housemother he would completely ignore it, or even blatantly challenge it.
While Thabang was clearly very intimidated by Brian and me, he displayed no concept of respect for his housemother. He even told one of the other boys that he didn't care what she said or if she tried to punish him because he was big enough to take it.
In the short time he was with us several of us tried to reason with him. Brian spoke with him a couple times, as did I. We even had Zachariah speak with him in hopes that the communication barrier would be removed. Once I tried to explain to him how good his life could be at The Village, that this could be the best thing that ever happened to him. But his behavior continued as he rejected our counsel.
Eventually, knowing that this kind of behavior could hinder the growth of the other children, we had to tell the social worker that they needed to find a new place for Thabang.
That hurts. When an 11 year old kid has already been set on this path in life, knowing the window has passed where he can be helped, it is hard to accept. You would love to invest everything trying to reach him, but you can't put the other children at risk in the meantime.
I hesitate to share this story, but you need to know the reality of life here. "A child left to himself will bring his mother to shame." We are seeing the fruits of scores of children left to themselves.
The most poignant truth I see in situations like these is God's relationship with mankind. He is there, offering His love, offering adoption into His family, giving us freely the best life we could imagine. But in our stubbornness so many of us turn Him away. We continue to treasure the petty pleasures we find in life, rejecting the awesomeness that He wants to give us. God doesn't reject us, we reject Him. As Thabang refused to soften, refused to listen, so also do we, not willing to see the riches He will provide in Christ. If that is you, please, I beg you, stop living your miserable life and accept the love and forgiveness God offers through His Son.