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Being With Those Who Are Suffering

Marti Wibbels, MS, LMHC

Afghan

If you’re paying attention to world news today, you know the country of Afghanistan is imploding. The Taliban has already captured Kandahar, its second largest city, promising to take over the entire country in less than seven days. Although thousands are fleeing to Kabul, the Afghan capital, there soon will be nowhere to go.

While the United States has sent troops to evacuate the majority of diplomatic personnel in Kabul and other Western countries are preparing to evacuate their personnel, there is something we can do wherever we are to help this people under siege. We can determinedly lift them up in prayer. The needs are immense: many aren’t able to get basic supplies such as food or water. Families are fleeing for their lives. As their nation’s infrastructure (including hydro-electric plants, roads, and bridges) is steadily, ruthlessly attacked, many are losing hope.

I’ve had the privilege of praying for the people of Afghanistan for more than three decades. The vision of one man—the late Dr. J. Christy Wilson— made that possible. We met Dr. Wilson when he was keynote speaker for the International Students Incorporated (ISI) staff training in Colorado one summer in the 1980s, a conference where Alan and I were directing their student ministry. Due to Dr. Wilson's responsibilities at the conference, he could have easily overlooked us. Instead, he got to know us—and invited us to move to Afghanistan with our daughters to serve as “tentmaker” missionaries. Though we didn’t move to Afghanistan, our hearts were captured by the needs there, so much so that praying for the people of Afghanistan remains part of my daily routine.

When Dr. J. Christy Wilson went to Afghanistan to begin two decades of missionary service, it was after decades of waiting, praying, and preparing. Throughout his childhood, Christy’s parents served as missionaries in  Persia (now known as Iran). When Christy was only five, a pastor who worked with his dad asked Christy what he wanted to do when he grew up. Without hesitation, the five-year-old said he wanted to be a missionary in Afghanistan. The pastor told him, “Missionaries aren’t allowed in Afghanistan.” And Christy replied, “That’s why I want to be one there.”

Although his path to Afghanistan was paved with delays, each one provided opportunities for Christy to learn and grow. At Princeton University, he was captain of the varsity track team. When InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) wanted an Ivy League student to help recruit students for world missions, Christy began serving with IVCF staff. He helped plan and promote their first missions conference in 1946, which was attended by 576 students from 151 colleges, universities, and seminaries, and from approximately fifty-two denominations. Known as Urbana, the conference continues today.

Continuing toward his goal to teach God’s Word in Afghanistan, Christy applied to teach English there, since missionaries still weren’t allowed. When he received no response to his application, Christy left for Scotland to begin his doctorate in Islamic studies at the University of Edinburgh. As soon as his ship arrived in Scotland, he received his forwarded mail, including the long-awaited invitation to teach in Afghanistan—and offered to quit his doctoral program to go immediately. He was told to wait and apply again after completing his doctorate.

In 1951, Christy and his new bride, Betty, were finally able to move to Kabul, Afghanistan, to teach English, beginning a remarkable twenty-two years of service there. His work expanded to becoming personal tutor for the crown prince of Afghanistan and pastoring the growing international community in Kabul. They were allowed to build the only church building in Afghanistan, with strict instructions it was only to be used for non-Muslims, which it was. When government forces tore down the church building in 1973, Christy and his wife Betty were forced to leave the country. But the work they began continued, with many continuing to go to Afghanistan to share God’s love, invited to bring the country their professional skills in medicine, education, agriculture, and other areas of expertise.

With nearly six million residents, the modern city of Kabul doesn’t want to revert to the medieval culture the Taliban desires. The prevailing mood of gloom increases with each report of violence—young women forced to become “wives” of terrorists and families decimated by senseless brutality. In America, while we’re reeling from another onslaught of Covid cases, Afghanistan is experiencing 60-90 Covid deaths every day, along with 1,000 to 2,000 new cases of Covid, all while their nation collapses. Medical help is severely limited. The land of Afghanistan needs our prayer.

We can pray the Good News will increase hope and life through Christian workers remaining in the country and for the proliferation of Christian media, literature, poetry. Pray for people to find new creative ways to share the hope and healing God offers in His Son. Pray for protection for those sharing God’s love and for those already growing in faith. Pray for courage and hope for those who choose to stay and courage and help for those who need to leave.

Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies? To surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship. Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes (Romans 12:1-2, TPT).

As Corrie tenBoom told Christy Wilson after government forces tore down the only church in Afghanistan and forced him to leave, “There is no panic in heaven.” We can courageously pray, asking God to do more than we can ask or imagine!

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