Writer & Spiritual Director, Speaker & Workshop Facilitator & Santé Ministry team member
In late 2000, God drew my attention to Afghanistan. At the time, I’d just finished a project in Europe and was on my way home for the Christmas holiday. I was tired, pleased with the work we’d completed, and ready to go home.
I arrived at the airport early, found a bookstore and picked up a travel book called “An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan” by Jason Elliot. I thought it would be interesting. That’s all. No intentionality. Just a book to pass the flight.
God had other ideas.
By the time I landed in the States, I was captivated.
I logged onto the Internet and read story after story about Afghanistan. In those days, the country was under the harsh rule of the Taliban. Every news story tugged at my heart. I found myself praying for the Afghans and hungering to know more.
I ordered books from Amazon and checked out stories on other websites. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Villages bombed, valleys destroyed, men forced to grow beards and imprisoned until they did, women covered in burqas, forbidden to wear heeled shoes or allow their voices to be heard in public.
I read about refugees fleeing to Iran, Pakistan and anywhere else they could go. I read about the windows of homes being painted black to prevent anyone from seeing the women inside. I read about public executions, brutal amputations, beatings and whippings. My heart broke within me.
I read and I prayed. I knew I was obsessed. I just didn’t know if it was from God or my own fascination.
In the meantime, I continued to work, tend my garden, celebrate in my church and enjoy my friends.
One night, at my small group I shared my obsession with Afghanistan. I offered an idea, timidly, more as a wonder than a decision. “I think God wants me to get involved with Afghanistan.”
My small group leaders shook their heads. “No way. Stay home.”
I kept praying. I had the sense that God was saying, “Pay attention.” I was sure He wasn’t saying, “Go.” Still, every time I lowered my head to pray, I thought of Afghanistan.
September 11, 2001 changed everything.
I was at a meeting in Paris when the news reached us. The first phone call came just after three o’clock in the afternoon. I struggled to understand. Then the second call arrived. Shocked, I understood. Even before the press speculated, I knew Afghanistan was involved. In that moment, in that conference room in Paris, I knew, with absolute certainty, I would go to Afghanistan.
At the time, I didn’t think about the dangers nor how much it would cost me. I just knew I would go. Again I prayed. This time; where? How? With whom? The answers came slowly.
In early spring 2002, I passed a television showing a clip of Afghan women covered in light blue burqas walking back into their country, their babies in their arms and their children by their sides. I stopped midstride, turned toward the soundless TV and began to weep. I knew I wanted to help those women.
In 2004, I disengaged from my career and took my first trip to Afghanistan. A year later, I moved there full time. I lived in Afghanistan full time for six years. They were hard, beautiful, glorious, terrifying years. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. In 2010, security in the small Afghan town I lived in disintegrated. My co-workers and I had to evacuate. The loss was heartbreaking.
I returned to the States and wrote the book, “In the Land of Blue Burqas.” As I wrote, I heard again the voices of my beloved Afghan friends and the words of Christ spoken into their suffering. Those memories are so precious, full of life and hope.
Moody Publishers heard about the book and decided to publish it. For me that’s been yet another gift for which I’m grateful. Now, thousands of readers have joined me in a journey with Christ into Afghanistan.
When I left the States for Afghanistan, I had faith, and it was rich and strong. Still, my experiences in country took me deeper than I could have imagined possible. Now, I continue to harvest the lessons I learned in that dusty, war-torn land.
Throughout it all, Christ has been with me.
I’d love to hear from. If you’d like to contact me, just send an email to: Kate.email@example.com . I’ll usually respond in 3-5 days.