#8 Life in Afghanistan :: Broken, beautiful, worship.Posted: October 8, 2013
We’re taking a different approach today, looking not at Afghans but instead at the crazy people who go and choose to live there.
In the middle of millions of Afghans are a scattering of people who give-up their comfortable first-world lives to go and live in a war-torn land, to live and speak hope, to bring grace and love, and to try and create a brighter tomorrow for those living in a pitch black today. A small band of volunteer aid workers who have responded to Christ, and who simply want to love as he loves. The lives they live are incredible and I am honored to call many of these friends. They have taught me incredible amounts about love, about grace, about forgiveness, about how to live in such a place. Many have given more than you or I will ever know, some have made the ultimate sacrifice. I am ever grateful for the ways in which each of these people have added to my life.
It was a cold January evening. My roommate and I had trudged the frozen snowy streets wearing layer upon layer and yet were still chilled to the bone. I had not been back in country long and was looking forward to seeing old friends, especially those not aware of my return. My departure several months earlier has been somewhat hurried and unexpected (to say the least), and so it was special and healing to be back. We were one of the first to arrive. I sat and watched as people after me entered, some close friends, some acquaintances not seen for months, others new faces. I watched as they hugged, and welcomed each other, I noted the reactions to me being back – surprise, encouragement, confusion. I could read them all well, because I too had the same mix of feelings. I sat and observed, only partaking in the interactions around me when it was demanded of me, I noticed the hunched shoulders burdened with stress, the creased faces crafted by weariness, the neediness in the hugs exchanged, and the sighs speaking of the struggles within.
I observed as we worshiped, a variety of reactions. Some unable to bring themselves to sing such words. Others declaring the truth with such confidence. Yet others just reaching out for hope, for endurance, for a renewal of joy, for a glimpse of their Saviour in glory, choosing to worship, to believe, to give thanks in their brokenness and the brokenness which surrounds in this place, each and every moment. Worshiping here often feels heavy to me, and yet there is something deep about it too. I think it is the way that as a community the choice is made to come and praise in the face of the dark realities that surround us so often, in the living beside people whose lives are those you would not imagine writing nightmare tales about. Yet in the midst of the darkness He is the light that guides us through, and so we reach out and we press forwards, and we choose to praise because who we knew Him to be when we lived in our comfortable suburban houses is still who He is when we live behind bullet pierced gates.
The worship came to an end and we moved on to sharing our low-lights and our highlights of the year past. That was when the pain shone through the most. A small few among us found it hard to think of a low-light, many could think of several painful points. And many simply confessed that the year just felt light one low-light after another, like a constant struggle. And the vast majority of our low-lights revolved around this place, around the affects, and the consequences of living here. The pain, the hurt, the struggles, the sacrifices, were all laid bare. The raw wounds that this place had afflicted were on display.
Next we all picked a Bible verse out of a hat and had to share for 2 minutes on it. How it spoke to us, and how it applies to our situations here. That is when God shone through. All these people, my friends, my brothers and sisters, who had just exposed their cuts and sores, were now speaking of how much bigger God was. They chose They spoke of hope, and joy, and peace, of how God is the source of such things, and how they can never run out. They spoke of wisdom and guidance, of the need to continue to love and forgive, to love and forgive…. to love and forgive, after all the scars each one had from this place. They spoke of God’s goodness, of his ability to do great and wonderful things, of his faithfulness…. after the account of the years we had had.
A room full of broken people, choosing to hold on, to have faith, to press in, to obey, and to continue. Choosing to trust, to praise, to give thanks, to love, and to know that He is faithful. And there, in that act of worship and sacrifice, was so much beauty. The beauty of a group of broken people declaring that God is bigger than their pain and despair.
Maybe this is an unfair negative picture, maybe it’s realistic. The fact remains that is is an incredible privilege to work in such a place. You can ask any one of those people sat in that room and yes, they will tell you it is hard, they may even tell you that at times they simply want to run away; but they will also tell you this – they will tell you that they deeply love the Afghans, they will tell you there is no greater joy than seeing a man crippled through war find hope, they will tell you tales of great hospitality, love, and loyalty from the Afghans that surround, and they will tell you that they are thankful for the opportunity to live in such a place.
Because God is still worthy and to serve Him is an honor like no other.
This is part of the 31 Day series