By Dwight Nelson, Pioneer Memorial Church
What if you were living somewhere in Afghanistan, racing across the dusty wilderness toward Kabul, desperate to catch the last flight out of that beleaguered city, only to arrive in time to see the aircraft’s jet trail vanish into the ether? In two conversations last weekend I talked with individuals who have been apprised of the actual situation on the ground and who have assured me there still are many who for legitimate reasons hoped against hope to be on that last plane out. But alas, it was a not-to-be.
In a fete of prescient timing, the latest issue of Christianity Today arrived two days ago—cover story, “The Other Story of Afghanistan” (September, 2021). The author Rebecca Hopkins reports on the backstory behind the humanitarian aid of nongovernment organizations in the country, about 140 of them (according to the US Agency for International Development), many of them Christian organizations. While the Afghan record of aid workers suffering violent deaths over the past twenty years is somber, nevertheless workers of these charitable agencies continue to serve Afghanistan’s predominantly Sunni Muslim populace.
An author and aid worker, who for safety reasons uses the pseudonym Anna Hampton, says that while some will leave the country “because of security concerns,” the fact is “others will find ways to stay.” She went on, “‘There is a 100-year modern history of the Christian foreigner in Afghanistan. . . . It’ll get small again, but it’ll be there.’” Why do such workers remain? “‘We love Jesus and we love the Afghan people’” (39).
But in a biblically correct though perhaps (in this case) unexpected interpretation, Anna Hampton defends those who have chosen to leave the country: “‘Both Jesus and Paul fled risky situations,’ she said. ‘Workers need to see where God is speaking and guiding and leading them either to continue to move into a higher risk situation, or to retreat for a time’” (39-40).
Have your friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues secured their place on the last flight out? What are we waiting for?