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27 February 2018

Short story competition: Mr Mdaiwa’s Mercy

Short story competition: Mr Mdaiwa’s Mercy

We were very impressed with the standard of the entries for the under 18s short story competition. This winning entry, by Amisadai Monger, is based on the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23–35. 

The red sun was emerging from the depths of Lake Victoria. Fishermen tugged at their nets full of dagaa. Mr Mdaiwa stood at the shore listening contently to the friendly hustle and bustle of the nearby market. 'Bei nzuri' merchants cried as they lured buyers to their stalls of mangoes and pineapples. 

"Mdaiwa!" A shrill voice cut through the gentle lapping of the water of Lake Victoria and the squawks of Malibu storks. Mdaiwa turned around, annoyed. He groaned inwardly, it was none other than his obnoxious neighbour, Tatizo.

"What do you want?" scowled Mdaiwa. He looked into Tatizo's sneering face. 

"The Mwenyekiti, Mr Samehe, wants to see you. He wants the money you owe him." 

Mdaiwa's face dropped. Of course, he had been dreading this day. He owed Mr Samehe a very large sum of money which he hadn't managed to repay … yet. He would find a way. But for the moment, he would have to face the Mwenyekiti's wrath. Mdaiwa set off towards the village office, trudging slowly, trying to ignore Tatizo's taunting jeers.

Mr Samehe was sitting at the single wooden table in the shadows of the small office. "Mr Mdaiwa, I loaned you 100,000 shillings for your new boat. You promised the money back after one month." He clapped his hands sharply together. "It has been five months and still you have not laid down the money. Where is it, Mdaiwa?"

Mr Samehe frowned at Mdaiwa from behind his desk, crinkles forming on his forehead. Mdaiwa wiped the sweat from his brow. He didn't have the money. He had used it for a relative's wedding and did not have enough to buy a new boat.

"Please, Mr Samehe, I will repay it! Give me more time, I beg of you! Just one more month." Mdaiwa beseeched.

"Ehhhheee" Mr Samahe exclaimed crossly.

"You must give it now."

Mdaiwa knew he could not repay that money. And how would he get the money if he didn't have a boat to catch fish? If he could not fish, how would he and his wife and seven children live? No, he would have to sell everything and his older children would have to go to the city to beg for money. He pleaded for forgiveness and mercy.

Mr Samahe looked at him with compassion. "Sawa, Mr Mdaiwa, I will have mercy on you. I shall cancel your debt all together!" "Asante Bwana! I am forever grateful!" Mdaiwa shook Mr Samehe's hand and quickly made his way back down the dirt track to his house. As he walked through the fields of brown tipped maize, he came across Mama Rehema carrying her buckets of water back from the Lake. She was a widow, one of Mdaiwa's neighbours and owed him 10,000 shillings which she had borrowed for medicine for her sick child.

Mdaiwa stopped her in the path. "Rehema, where is my money? You should have repaid it ages ago. Nipe pesa!"

"Please Mdaiwa, my child has been so sick. She has malaria again and I still need the money for more dawa. I'll give it to you once my child is better. I promise!" She implored. "That's no excuse. Your child is not so sick! See she still cooks ugali and sweeps the dust off your floors! Give me the money! If you don't, I will take your goats and throw you out of your house."

Rehema begged his forgiveness, but Mr Mdaiwa refused to listen. In the end she wept and ran off in the direction of her house.

Tatizo had seen and heard the whole encounter. He soon passed by other neighbours and told them how Mdaiwa despite being forgiven his debt was refusing to forgive the debt of widow Rehema. The neighbours took the news back to Mr Samehe, the Mwenyekiti.

Later that day, as the sun began to sink into the glistening Lake, Mr Samehe and some of the other village leaders stood at the doorway of Mdaiwa's  tiny house overlooking the lake. Mdaiwa could tell by the fierce look on the Mwenyekiti's face that he was not just coming to share his ugali.

"Mdaiwa, I had mercy on you just this morning by cancelling your debt completely. Why then do you not have mercy on your fellows? Why did you threaten poor Rehema with taking her goats and throwing her out of her house? She owed you only 10,000 shillings, whereas you owed me 100,000 shillings. Surely you are the one to be punished. You must sell all your belongings, including your old boat and house, to repay your debt. Your children will have to beg on the streets of Mwanza, and you… You shall be put in the village jail. Let this be a lesson to you."

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

Amisadai Monger, age 13, has lived most of her life in Tanzania, East Africa where her family served as missionaries in the Mwanza region. Her story is set in the modern-day village of Kayenze on Lake Victoria.

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