This portrait of my husband and me was painted in a season of my spiritual journey that found me living in Afghanistan. And if the eyes are truly the windows to the soul, I look into my eyes in this portrait and see that I was to learn life changing lessons as we prepared to go to this land of such extremes.
In 2003, my husband made an exploratory trip to western Afghanistan and returned to tell my 15 year-old daughter and myself that the needs were tremendous, the doors were wide open and that a humanitarian organization would facilitate possibilities for Philip to create an educational institution in leadership.
Iasked myself, "How would I fit in, in a culture so very different from the western cultures I have lived in? How will I relate to the women, will I have to cover just my hair, or my face too? Do I have something to offer?"
We had spent 17 years in France and 1 year in Northern Ireland, and loved other cultures and languages, but I was aware that I was struggling with a sense of my usefulness in God's purposes in this setting. Would I even have any kind of affinity with the women, any connection?
That is when a familiar passage in Scripture became alive to me where I was at. In Mark 14:3-9, a woman broke her costly alabaster box of perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus. There are many lessons in these verses, such as the disciples dismay that the perfume was not sold to use the proceeds for the poor, but what spoke directly to me were the comments that Jesus made concerning the woman. These comments were my preparation for Afghanistan. Jesus told the disciples first of all to leave the woman alone, that she has done a "beautiful thing to me".
It struck me that I was going to a land where women had few rights and in public they were almost "invisible" because of the burqa, women had suffered most harshly during the years of the Taliban rule with no formal education and virtual lockdown within their compounds; yet in that first century culture Jesus declared the worth of a
woman who did something beautiful for him, and that gave me hope that I could live in a country like Afghanistan and touch the heart of Jesus and do something he would consider beautiful.
He also said that wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world what she haddone would be remembered.
This is a message of hope I could share with woman in Afghanistan. And thirdly, and for me, most importantly, Jesus said of her, "She did what she could". Those words felt like an arrow shot out of a quiver when I read them, but they hit their mark and pierced my heart when I found myself volunteering in a burn unit in the hospital in Herat, Afghanistan shortly after we arrived.
A French organization was working to start a proper burn unit, and my daughter and I went to see their set up. At this time in 2003 they were just beginning at the end of a hallway with over 20 women and children waiting to have their dressings changed.
There was no sterile room, just buckets and a sink, and half of the young women had burned themselves with gasoline in desperate suicide attempts.
The French nurse was tremendously brave working alone, so I asked who was helping her. She said that the Afghan nurse being trained was on maternity leave. I looked around and saw that it would be hours before she would get through the dressings so I asked her if I could help her , she responded in
French, "Yes, if you can". And I thought of those words of Jesus,
"She did what she could".
I thanked Him for preparing me for all we have experienced and lived in Afghanistan."