We received a visitor from our past yesterday. Mohammed had been our night guard throughout our previous four-year term. Unfortunately the relationship ended badly, largely due to my failure to understand the rules regarding severance pay. Most of the problems could have been resolved if I had written out his monthly payslip differently and given him a written letter informing him that his job would be ending at the end of our term. However Mohammed is illiterate and the lack of a written letter given well in advance meant I should have given him an extra month pay for his severance package. In the end I was called before the Work Inspector and made to pay an extra $600 because I failed to specify on his payslip that he was getting a $1 daily food allowance as a night guard. As Jesus said, settle your accounts quickly or the judge will make you pay every last penny.
Since our return we have not heard any rumour of him until this weekend. Apparently he had come to Niamey for a wedding to which our house worker, Gazoul, was also invited. Over the weekend he and Gazoul sat down with a couple of other people to chat. During the conversation he asked Gazoul if he thought he should visit me or not because he felt embarrassed about what had happened. Someone else asked, “Well what did you do?” At first he was too embarrassed to say but finally explained how he’d complained to the Work Inspector. “Oh, that was bad,” one of the others commented. “You shouldn’t go back—he’ll be mad at you.” Disappointed but still hopeful he gave Gazoul a phone number, saying, “If they’re willing to see me give me a call.”
Catching up with Mohammed yesterday we discovered that shortly after our departure he had returned to his native Mali with his family, just north of Timbuktu. They had been alright herding goats and planting rice until the rebellion a year ago. As a light skinned Touareg he and his family were the object of prejudice since the terrorists of northern Mali initially took the guise of Touareg freedom fighters before the movement became radicalized into a religious terror movement. Mohammed was fortunate that a friend realized what was coming and gathered as many Touaregs as possible and headed south to Burkina Faso where they have been received as refugees. Those left behind in his community have not been heard from since. What he does know is that people were being thrown into sacks and dropped into wells while still alive. His immediate family is safe in the refugee camp in Burkina Faso but he has lost other family and friends in the violence.
Mohammed ended our conversation by asking my forgiveness for what happened with the work inspector. I responded by saying that I also had been wrong in the whole affair and needed his forgiveness as well. Gazoul, who was present for our conversation, seemed to be fighting back tears as we confessed our errors. We sent Mohammed away with some clothes as gifts for his children, letting him know he was welcome to visit again the next time he came to Niamey.
Reconciliation grounds the gospel in reality as we receive those who have been estranged from us, just as Christ welcomes us back to himself. Pray for Mohammed and his family that the love of Christ will find a place in his heart also. Pray also for Gazoul that our actions and the testimony of the Holy Spirit will bring about a change in his life.