Wow! Can you believe it? It’s day 31! Yes, we are a day late… but still we made it! Together, we made it, I’m overwhelmed that we’re finally here. It will be strange to not write each day, it will be strange to write on other topics again.I hope you will stick with me though, I have loved interacting with you all so much.
We’ve looked at education, poverty levels, work days, culture, prejudices, war, development, and many other things. It’s been important to shout out the good stories, it’s been lovely to write out the honest stories, it’s been an honor to introduce you to different people, and it’s been humbling to know you praying for those individuals and for the country. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I sit here today and I pray that you will not forget. That you will remember the good happening in Afghanistan and you will praise God for it, that you will remember how Afghans are people like you and I who just want to live life and you will pray for peace for forgiveness and for healing, that you will remember individuals and you will pray for their situations, that you will remember, when you hear negativity on the news, that the picture is much bigger than that. I pray you will remember that Afghanistan is so much bigger, so much deeper, so much more varied, so much more beautiful than the headlines would have you believe.
Then there is one more thing, because I pray you will not forget, that you will continue to pray and remember these people, I have some exciting news for you. There are still so many untold stories, so many of the stories I’ve shared are unfinished, there are new stories being heard and created day after day; and so for you my friends, I will be blogging on Afghanistan every Wednesday! I will continue to share their stories, I will continue to give you a view of everyday life there. Keep coming back, keep reading, keep sharing with others, keep seeing the real picture.
Thanks for showing up here day after day… I think I might take a day or two off now, to try and remember how to write on other topics!
This is part of the 31 Days series.
Click the button to find my other posts.
Wow! So this series is nearly over! Can you believe it? I will be posting my last one in this series in 12 hours!
But before we get too emotional… It’s Q&A day!!! The day I pick 10 of your awesome questions and answer them!
AND I promise to try and answer any question left in the comments today, on the topic OR off the topic. Let’s get started!
1. All we see is war on the news, but you write about other things. Is the war everywhere? Do you see it?
Lots of questions. Is the war everywhere – yes, and no. War in a country affects the whole country, the whole country has seen devastating war over the past few decades. Only the most remote places have remained untouched. Having said that, now many parts of the country are relatively peaceful. There is still a lot of hurdles to overcome because of what has been, and there are still incidents, but they are relatively peaceful. Much of the fighting is in small pockets of the country. Yes, I have seen things which you would attribute to war. But no, I don’t see them every single day.
2. What food do they eat in Afghanistan?
Mainly we eat a lot of rice and bread. Mutton is the main meat. Fruit and vegetables are VERY seasonal, and are pretty limited in choice and quality. All food is cooked in a lot of oil, and tomato paste seems to be the base for pretty much every food. A typical meal might be rice with shredded carrot in it, fried eggplant, and bread. For special occasions or as a rare treat they will eat meat. Tea is the main drink. Black in the winter, green in the summer. Good luck trying to find anyone drinking anything else!
3. You wrote about girls being educated. What is the education like there?
The government places a lot of importance on education, and more and more families are beginning to realize the need and benefit of sending their children to school. This means the next generation of adult literacy rates will be considerably higher. All state education is free, including university – I know fantastic right?!?! Unfortunately the standard is very low. Children start school traditionally when their first tooth falls out – usually around the age of 6 or 7. State school run for 2 hours each day, 5 days a week. 3 months holiday is taken for winter when it is too cold to study, and then 3 months holiday is taken again in the summer when it is too hot to study. As you can imagine this means even if a child is in school, their actual learning hours are very limited.
4. What is your favourite thing about Afghanistan?
The people. Their hospitality, their incredible strength and endurance, their loyalty, their beauty.
5. If you had one prayer for Afghanistan, what would it be?
Don’t hold back on your questions guys! This one is tough! I’m going to kind of cheat and give you two answers, because my first one isn’t quite explicit enough. My first answer is… Jesus. Jesus for each and every single person and situation, his rule, reign, grace, love, justice. But if you feel like that is too general or too much of a Sunday School answer… then… healing and forgiveness. Forgiveness between individuals, between people groups, between nations. Healing from all the hurt, pain and trauma of the lifetimes of war, poverty, hatred, bitterness, and unforgiveness. That is my prayer.
6. Why do you choose Afghanistan, and is it really worth it?
God really laid Afghanistan on my heart. I wept and prayed over the nation for 9 years before I ever had a chance to visit. Then, when I did, my heart just broke and burnt even more. How do you walk away from something God has written on your heart so strongly? Is it worth it? Totally. Some days I wonder, some days I think not. Those days are Chicken Street days; but if I’m being really honest – then the answer is yes. You can read about it here.
7. What can we do, if anything, to help from here?
Pray. You might not think that sounds like much, but really prayer is the backbone of all the work we do out there, and prayer changes things, and opens doors, and works miracles.
Write. If any of these stories have particularly touched you and you feel like it, write a letter of encouragment to one of the people or to a specific group and email it to me – I will try my hardest to pass it on. Write a letter of encouragement to workers like myself out there – help them to keep going. Write a letter to those serving in your countries forces in Afghanistan – there are normally ways you can do this, check your countries military website. Write, tell the stories of Afghanistan, send people here, find your own stories in the news or ask me for some.
Give. Donate money to projects, or to helping me continue to serve in my ministry, email me for more details.
8. How can we support you in your ministry?
Thanks for asking, I’m humbled and amazed.
Please pray for me, for wisdom, for endurance, and for grace. Pray that Christ would shine out of me, pray that I would always be ready to give a reason for the hope that I have, pray that God would provide opportunities to share.
All the work and ministry I do is 100% unpaid voluntary work, I rely on the support and donations of others to live. If you feel led to support me financially please get in contact email@example.com so I can give you more details.
9. Is there a middle class in Afghanistan? What does it look like?
I had to think about this question quite a lot, but the answer is yes! There is a middle class. Afghanistan is a poor country, unemployment is high; the “working class” is barely above the “absolute poverty” line – if they even make that; the middle class are comparative to the West still poor; and the upper class is in a league of it’s own. I guess there is an upper middle class in their too. The middle class (in my mind… please feel to correct me fellow Afghan people), would be those who are well educated, to university level (or higher), who work lower in government, for foreign NGO’s, teachers, doctors, etc. Most of them will live in a yard likely shared with some other family, but likely to have their own home. In the situation of a husband having more than one wife, each wife will likely have their own housing section. They will have TV, possibly some form of computer and maybe internet. They will be able to afford to heat one room in the winter for at least part of each day. Their children will be in school. It is possible their sons, and maybe daughters, will be in a semi-private school, where they pay a small fee and the children go to school for 4 hours a day. They will be able to feed their family, and probably afford basic doctors fees.
10. Are all marriages arranged? Do men really have more than one wife?
The majority of marriages are arranged, yes. There are some marriages that have happened all by themselves. An arranges marriage doesn’t necessarily mean a love-less marriage. Many couples learn to love each other as the years go by. The age for marriage is rising now, and although it is still not unheard of to find children as young as 8 or 9 being engaged, many girls are at least 14 before they marry. Secondly, yes, some men really do have more than one wife. They are legally (under state and Islamic law) allowed to have up to four wives. I know many women who are one of 2 or 3 wives, and some men who have multiple wives.
Ok, that concludes our Q&A session. Remember you can still ask questions in the comments and I will try my best to answer each of them. Come back tomorrow for the wrap up of this series and an exciting announcement!
This is part of the 31 Days series.Click the button to find my other posts.
We’re running a day late – it’s just how I roll… late. No really, I’m late for everything, always. Plus it’s pretty Asian. So I’m going with it! That means tomorrow will be #30 where I will answer your questions, so keep sending them in. Comment here, tweet @e_j_reading , or email me at pathofauthenticity.gmail.com . You’ve got about 24 hours left! Friday we will be “finishing” this series up. But if you’ve enjoyed it then make sure you come and read on Friday because I have an announcement to make!
I sat in Haji Mohmmad’s* little office, in this Christian NGO, opposite his desk from him, ready to conduct the research interview I had planned. His thick black facial hair encased a friendly smile. This, combined with his rounded belly, little wire glasses, and deep laugh made him seem like a jolly character. His title ‘Haji’ tells me that he has been on the Hajj, and suggests to me that he is a very religious person. I wonder what it is that has found him working for a Christian NGO. I am in a privileged position, it often takes months or years before you can start asking some of the questions I had been asking of Afghans, but as someone conducting research they felt it acceptable for me to ask, and for them to answer. Prompted by my questions Haji Mohmmad tells me his story:
“We are 4 brothers and 2 sisters. My mother and father new that education was important, so as we grew up we were always went to school. Even when we had to be refugees in Pakistan, still my parents made us study and learn. When the oldest brother was getting old enough to think about university my parents spoke with us all. They told us that it is good for us to study in healthcare, that this is a good profession because it is honorable and because it makes good money. My eldest brother studied to become a doctor, the next brother studied to become a dentist. I was always top of my class at school getting the best grades, I wanted to be a doctor. My family made me see that it was good if I became a pharmacist instead. That way our family has a good business – a doctor, a dentist, and a pharmacist can all work together. So I did what they said. Now in my family we have a doctor, a dentist, a gynecologist, and two pharmacists. I own a pharmacy, but as you can see I do not work there anymore, instead my brother runs it.
Many of my brothers and sisters now live in different countries. I was going to live in Australia, to find an Afghan wife there. My brothers spoke to my mother though and said that if I left she would not have a son to take care of her – so she asked me to stay here. I stayed and found a wife here, and now I have 1 son and 3 daughters. It is my duty now to stay and look after my mother, my other family will sometimes email to find out how she is, or maybe sometimes they will visit.
Now I am an office manager here. For some time I worked helping with the finances and learning, and now I am the office manager. I like working here a lot. The atmosphere is very good, they are very honest people, and very kind. My brothers often tell me to leave this job. They say that I can make much better money in other places. The other places will pay me a better salary and I can also make more money by issuing fines or through bribery. But their work is dirty, it is not honorable, it is not pleasing to God, and if I did it it would make me feel very worried. Here the work is good, everything is done the right way, and everyone is treated fairly. Here my conscience is clean, and that is the most important thing to me.
I like this work very much. Now it is like I have two families. My family at home, and my family at the office. Here everyone takes care of each other, sometimes we argue, or we don’t like what the other person is doing, but then we learn to say ‘ok, that is their opinion, or that is their way of doing something, and this is mine. We are just different’ and then we can be peaceful together again.
I am very happy with this job, I would rather have less money and work here than have much money and work there.”
Haji Mohammad had been fortunate to be a part of a family who educated him well and a family who forward planned and worked together to achieve financial stability. He has high moral standards and is not willing to compromise them for money. He recognizes the love, honesty, moral standing, and grace of his Christian colleagues.
There is much poverty in Afghanistan, there are many uneducated people. But there are also people and families like that of Haji Mohammad who have studied hard and worked hard to become educated and financially stable. You may perceive Afghans as being those who hate the West, persecute Christians, and threaten peace – yes there are some – but there are also many, who like Haji Mohmmad, embrace the grace and honesty of Christians, who would like to learn from the good aspects of the West, who simply want a brighter, more peaceful, more moral future for their children, and who are willing to work hard to achieve that.
Let’s remember them, let’s thank God for them, let’s cheer them on, let’s shout out their stories.
*Name changed to protect identities
This is part of the 31 Days series.
Click the button to find my other posts.