“He was so kind, compassionate. He took care of my daughter. Look, she is becoming well. And he talked to us. He cared about us. Thanks be to God!”
I smiled. The mullah and his daughter had just returned from Cure Hospital in Kabul. The doctor he spoke of was Jerry Umanos, a Chicago pediatrician who’d moved to Kabul to help the people of Afghanistan.
That same doctor was killed on Thursday, 24 April, 2014 as he reported to work at Cure Hospital in Kabul. Two other American doctors, a father and son were killed with him. The young wife of the son was injured, but will live, now as a widow.
I wish I could return to Afghanistan and sit with that mullah, his now well daughter and his wife. I wish we could share our grief together. I know the mullah is grieving. I know he saw the news on Afghan TV and recognized the doctor who’d been so compassionate and kind – the doctor who had saved his daughter’s life. I know he is wrapping his hands together and straining for words to voice his outrage, his shame in his countrymen and his sorrow.
I grieve for myself, my loss and my own horror.
I grieve for the woman, robbed of her husband. I recall meeting her before she moved to Afghanistan. She was so excited, so full of joy. She knew where she was going and why. Christ had invited her to love the people of Afghanistan with him and she was awed at the privilege of receiving such a sacred invitation.
I wish I could sit with her now. I wish I could hold her hand and share her tears. I know there are no words, only presence. God’s presence. Our presence. We, all of us who love God and love our neighbors share in this young woman’s joy and in her loss.
In this world, you will experience persecution. They will cut you down and drag you out. And while they are doing it, they will think God is pleased. He is not. The righteous will inherit the land. The cries of the weak will someday prevail.
In the meantime, we will love. We will be gentle and wise. We will face violence and hatred with compassion and grace.
We will go; to Afghanistan, to inner city Chicago, to Sudan, to the homes of neighbors wrecked by fire, flood or poverty. We will walk in schools and hospitals and offices. We will carry the treasure of Christ within us.
We will love in the vulnerability of our humanness and the grace of our experiences. We will laugh. We will cry. We will live. And someday, we will join Jerry, and so many others who’ve gone before us. We will join our Jesus who also was slain by the very people he came to love.
When we do, we will recognize the holiness of our journeys and the sacredness of our losses. We will know the deep satisfaction of having lived our lives worthy of the high calling of Christ Jesus, our Lord.
We will rejoice for love is eternal.
Just ask the mullah whose daughter still lives.