Being guilty is very uncomfortable I’ve been reminded. Especially as a missionary, hurting a person to whom we should be ministering. I suppose it happens constantly, there is just rarely anyone able to come and confront.
This morning a young man (who is now probably about 30) whom we employed many years ago came to weep in our kitubbi. Since we let him go, he had tried his hand in several businesses (with our help) and agriculture (with our help). But he has been unable to manage his family and finances the way he hoped without a steady mission job, and so had high hopes of being employed by one of the influx of new foreigners this year. When that did not happen, he concluded that we were to blame. One of the people who declined to hire him gave him a very blunt assessment of his problem of dependency, which he interpreted as coming straight from my mouth. After more than a decade of relationship this hurt his feelings terribly.
The truth is, he stopped working for us when everyone scattered after the ADF invaded. But the truth also is that we did not rehire him when he reappeared much later, rather relieved to not have a “high maintenance” person in the middle of our family and life 6 days a week, and glad for the opportunity to have pared down the number of people around our house. And the truth is that we have not encouraged others to hire him, more concerned to “protect” our colleagues from someone with a lot of problems (who got passed on to us by people who preceded us), instead of being concerned about this man as a human being who can learn and change and grow and get a second chance.
So I was uncomfortable coming face to face with the dehumanizing impact of labeling a person and passing that label on, then having it come back to bite me unexpectedly. After he poured out his anger and disappointment to Scott in the morning, I went on my bike winding through footpaths until I reached his neat little compound. We sat on a bench in front of the house, leaning against the earthen wall and watching children play in the swept dust. Part of God’s mercy to reveal my heart, to remind me that the person who asks for help too many times is still a person. Some days one longs for a washing machine who does not have four children and a pregnant wife and a sick father, or for a vacuum cleaner that does not want to borrow money so it can sleep under a leakless roof.