As heard from a returning tentmaker
When I was a tentmaker teacher in Libya there was not a whole lot to do for a single man on my days off. The school was far away from major cities and I seldom met any other foreigners.
My students encouraged me to join them on weekend excursions far into the Sahara, driving with their 4 wheel vehicles over massive dunes. We frequently camped at a desert oasis surrounded by palm trees, swimming in warm tepid water, enjoying BBQ’s on the open fire and drinking tea late into the night. These were also times for intense faith discussions far away from prying eyes and ears. The oasis was the perfect spot for baptisms.
One evening as the sun was setting I decided to hike to the top of a nearby sand dune. As I sat at the top waiting for the sun to set, a man with flowing robes and with his face mostly covered walked up to me out of nowhere.
He greeted me and asked where I was from. When he heard I was from Canada, he became intrigued and sat down on the sand beside me. His questions poured out in quick succession: How do you like Libya? Are people treating you well? Are you getting enough food? What do Canadians think of Libyans? Why do you come out from the city to this desert?
My reply to the last question was that I enjoy the silence, solitude, clear skies at night that allow me to see the stars so clearly and that this is a good place to think about important things and hear from God.
The man responded by saying, that is why I come out here as well! We had a bonding moment. He was respectful and intriguing but seemed distressed. He earnestly listened to my story of why I was a follower of Isa.
As he stood up to leave, he asked me one final question. Should I give up my quest for nuclear weapons? As an idealistic, pacifist young Canadian, I was surprised by his question and passionately blurted out: Of course you should, they are evil and all of them should be destroyed!
The man thanked me for my response. After saying farewell, he walked down and over the next dune.
I was left wondering who this man was. There was a presence about him, like he owned the Sahara.
I decided to follow his tracks and got as far as the second dune, when two men in black clothes and machine guns stopped me. Down in the valley I could see a large encampment of tents and black SUV’s. I asked the men in black if it was Qaddafi! They nodded yes and told me to go back.
Of course it was a total co-incidence that only a few weeks later, in December 2003, Qaddafi announced to the world that he was voluntarily ceasing his quest for nuclear weapons.