Friday, May 2, 2014

Living in Afghanistan

In the Land of Blue Burqas 
by Kate McCord (a protective pseudonym)
Genre: Non-Fiction

"The gray-bearded and black-bearded man in the back of the rickshaw eyed me. The gray-bearded man asked me, 'Are you a Muslim?'

"For him, the word Muslim had a very clear definition. He did not just mean 'Are you submitted to God?' To which I could have said, 'Yes, of course.' He meant something much more precise: 'Do you submit to the laws of the Prophet Mohammed as recorded in the Holy Quran and Hadith and as taught by the mullahs?' Whatever true response I could give would not be welcome.

"Still, I could give a true response. I answered the gray-bearded man's question softly without arrogance or apology, 'No, I am not a Muslim. I am a follower of the Honorable Jesus Messiah.'

"The black-bearded man scowled, his brows furrowed. He leaned too close to my face and glared directly into my averted eyes. His words came out as a command, short and abrupt: 'You should become a Muslim. It would be better for you in this life and the next.'"

I cannot imagine living through many of the situations that this woman found herself in. For five years, this single American woman lived in a hostile country among people completely different to her, with beliefs on the other side of a chasm from hers. But thankfully, God can cross any chasm, no matter the length.

This book was exceptionally written. I felt close to the author, like I was sipping tea across from her as she told me about her adventures and conversations in this harsh, yet beautiful land. These conversations are very clear and poignant. I did not return from the land of this book the same; I have a greater sympathy for Afghans, understood a little more where their worldview originates from, and the world they live in. I liked how Kate (yes, we're even on a first-name basis, though that's not her real name), didn't just say that Afghans are really like us, and all people are the same. She recognized how different their livelihoods and beliefs are from ours, respected those differences, and tried to understand them; she didn't shy away from difference.

It was really amazing, and such a God-thing, that this woman was able to live for so long with her Afghan neighbors in relative safety. I respected how she tried to follow their rules and enter their culture. She was very cautious about everything, all the time, and always attempted to live in a way that respected their culture. Kate also talked about Jesus in a way they would understand, and often shared the stories he told with her Afghan friends to explain a difficult concept. It convicted me, because not often do I share Christ's teachings with those around me, nor am I so delighted to listen to them as the Afghans were.

At first, I was a bit confused/lost in the structure of this book, because it is built on different themes, not a plot. But it only took the first two chapters to get it. I also wished that Kate went into more detail about all that she did in Afghanistan and more about her personally, but I understand how careful she must be with these stories.

One more thing that I had a problem with this book was that I didn't like how Kate kind-of downplayed the gospel. Not Jesus, but the great story of how we need Him. She focused, at least in this novel, on people hearing Jesus's teachings and changing their mindsets based on that. I definitely think this can happen, but I believe only true, lasting peace and change can come from fully embracing Christ. I'm sure she shared the gospel, and she had to be careful if/when she did. I just wished she would have included these encounters more, if possible.

This novel gave me a love for the Afghans and also a greater appreciation for Christ as I saw him laid next to another culture's god. This woman's story is an awesome picture of Christ's love and humility, and I want to strive to be more like her.

I give this book a 4.5 out of 5 and recommend it for 16 year-olds and up because of the depth of the content.

What I learned: Where to begin? To many Muslims, the idea that God is love/loving is strange and new. Pausing before responding to someone is an excellent strategy. The sun, light, and warmth is an excellent picture of the Trinity. Why, you ask? You must read the book to find out!

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