Living Behind the Veil

I'm often asked what I wear in Afghanistan and what it's like to wear a veil. It's freedom. Freedom to have a bad hair day, freedom to arrange my chadar to conceal the curve of my breasts and backside, freedom to not be an expatriate for a little while. It means freedom to hide even on the street from the Afghan men's eyes which seem to strip me naked.
When I relax my shoulders and walk less purposefully, less confidently, my eyes downcast and covered by sunglasses, I pass for an Afghan woman. I hear the men whisper in Dari, "Is she a foreigner or local woman?" I chuckle but am silent. On the street, I'm also a free target....freely exposed to groping, sexual innuendos whispered to me as a man bicycles by, free to have stones thrown at me, freely seen as no one's wife, daughter, sister, mother, friend, or boss. I step inside my gate, and remove my chapan and chadar. Now I'm someone's boss, motherhood returns to me as little steps run to greet me, and I receive a kiss from my adoring husband. Now I'm free to his loving and gentle eyes which know and enjoy my curves, free to once again be under the protective umbrella of being a wife, mother, friend, colleague, boss, niece, sister, daughter, woman.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Cross-Cultural Risk Axiom #4

ax·i·om   ˈaksēəm/
  • a statement or proposition that is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true. 
  • Example: "the axiom that supply equals demand"
  • synonyms:     accepted truth, general truth, dictum, truism, principle;

#4:  Risk is Situational
    Risk is Situational.

    What does this mean and why is it significant in cross-cultural risk assessment and mitigation?

    First of all, we must understand the nature of the risk problem.  Without understanding this, we may inaccurately respond to risk with answers that do not effectively address the complexity of a unique cross-cultural risk situation.   

    The answer to the risk question is urgent. 

    A person asking a question about risk is not asking a question of intellect. A risk question is not the result of a thirst for knowledge which can be answered simply through deductive or even inductive reasoning.   A person asking about risk---what to do, how to think, how to process their emotions---is facing a problem in a specific situation involving their whole selves and/or people who are dear to them. 

    Many questions call for an answer, but a problem in risk specifically calls for a solution. No problem, such as the situation faced in risk comes out of hypothetical inquisitiveness.  A risk problem exists because it has grown out of a real risk situation. Facing risk means facing a specific threat to
    the well-being of people, projects, or efforts being engaged in. 

    There are two sources of understanding risk that are in constant tension: situational thinking and conceptual thinking. 

    Risk is much more than an intellectual question.  Risk is both a situational and a theological problem.  The concerns and questions arising out of risk and the threats of risk arise because they are much more than intellect. They include matters very dear to our hearts. 
    • Am I called to move into greater danger with my children?
    • What if my children are murdered because of choice I have made to follow Christ? 
    Each risk scenario is unique and the risk questions being asked are specific to that situation.  The Spirit of God, through His Voice and through His Word is able to answer our toughest questions in risk...if we are willing to take the time to work it through with those on the front lines. 

    Go to: 
    Risk Axiom 1: Risk asks different questions than suffering asks. 
    Risk Axiom 2: Safety is not a feeling.
    Risk Axiom 3: Severity is as severity is felt.
    Risk Axiom 5:  Risk requires situational and conceptional thinking.

    1.Who Is Man? Abraham Joshual Heschel, Chapter 1 The discussion on questions and problems in these paragraphs is paraphrased from page 1 of Heschel's discussion and applied to cross-cultural risk. 
    2. The Social Roots of Risk:  Producing Disasters, Promoting Resiliency, by   Kathleen Tierney

    Friday, December 22, 2017

    The Parable of the Indian Tree

    Subsequent generations needed to know the way, a trail marker was needed....a tree along the route to point the way to the sacred place.

    So the Chief set out to find a suitable tree along the route.  He selected a young maple sapling and bent it over and staked it to the ground.  He knew exactly which direction he wanted the Indian Tree to point and the purpose of the tree.

    As years passed, he gently refined the leather thongs tying the tree to the ground, and repeatedly visited the tree to ensure it was growing correctly in the right direction and at the right angle.  Sometimes he needed to scrape the tree gently, causing sap to weep out, but the knife wounds helped to ensure the tree would grow each year in the correct angles.

    The Indian Tree flourished in its purpose decade by decade. It grew strong and a right angle.  In the forest it clearly stood out, pointing the way for all those looking for the right path to the sacred place.

    People began to come on the narrow path, a few at first, but increasingly the path grew broader as more people found the sacred place with the help of the Indian Tree.  The tree served its purpose, and people were happy they could find the way and were no longer wandering lost in the forest.  The tree was happy when it saw people helped along the way. Its leaves filled out and burst into color every Spring and every Autumn.

    While the tree looked glorious in all seasons and was faithful to its purpose, the Indian Tree was clearly different from all the other trees in the forest, especially those closest to it. The surrounding trees were uniform, straight, and either had no scarring or never reflected on the meaning of the scarring they did have.  These other trees began to look down on the Indian Tree, to scoff at its right angle.

    As the years passed, people who didn't understand about the sacred place and didn't understand the purpose of the Indian Tree began to laugh at the tree. Others shook their head and pitied it.  Why did it have such a strange angle?  Why wasn't it like all the other straight trees? Something was wrong with it!  Some folks tried to help, out of pity to try to straighten it. They wanted to make it look like all the others.

    They tried to chisel at the tree to cut off the unique angle. They caused deep wounds within the tree.  But they couldn't cut through the whole trunk - it was strong and thick. So they decided to use it for other purposes.

    They began to set things on its horizontal arm.  At least it would be useful to them! At first it was just young children sitting on its horizontal limb, but eventually people wanted to build on it and use it for more. A bench was built on its ledge, cutting the tree severely, making it gasp. Then they weighted the horizontal arm even more, building a shelter over the bench, so they could sit there.

    As the years passed, the bench and shelter grew even more elaborate into a house, and the weight of the house on the horizontal limb began to pull at the roots of the Indian Tree. The tree began to lean to one side. It wasn't meant to be a bench, a manmade shelter, or carry a house on its horizontal limb. The tree struggled to stay upright, to live for its purpose and point people along the way. It knew it could handle only so much weight and stay upright.

    The tree sensed the pressure from all the trees around it, the pressure to be like them, and it felt their scoffing, their pity, their attempts to make it like all the others, the pressure of the people passing by laughing at it, and knew that while it was strong, very much more stress and it would snap in two and lay down and die.

    A violent thunderstorm came, the kind only found in that area, and the forest shook. Trees swayed, limbs snapped, and the manmade shelter built onto the horizontal limb of the Indian Tree blew off. Finally!  The tree was free once again from some of the weight sucking its life and strength.

    The Chief was long gone, and the tree knew it was all alone except for a few close friends who understood its purpose and celebrated its different shape. Sometimes the tree cursed the way it was, and sunk into depression, its branches and leaves wilting, and at other times it was happy when it saw it was still helpful to a few people and was still needed by a few.

    One day a little girl came on a hidden path, once a broad path for those on the their way to the sacred place but then overgrown once more as the Indian Tree sank into obscurity.  The little girl stumbled on the tree and stood and wondered at it.

    She saw the scars, the place of deep wounding, the flat place where the shelter used to be, and wondered at the people who used to know the tree in decades past. She wondered at the Indian who had first tied down the tree, and wondered what its marking was for.  She sat on the horizontal limb, and reveled in its protective canopy and silence. She listened to the gentle wind moving its branches. She returned often to the tree, rejoicing each time she saw it standing proudly in all its unique angles.

    The tree witnessed to her of its strength to stand through so many storms, because its thickness betrayed the fact it was very old and all the trees around it were young and thin. Clearly, the Indian Tree's contemporaries had long since passed, leaving it surrounded by those who never knew the Chief. The little girl enjoyed the tree and its difference among all other straight trees.

    The girl grew up, but she never forgot the tree, remembering it in her heart. Eventually developers came and cleared large swaths of land to build large cookie-cutter houses for wealthy people who didn't care about the sacred place, the path, or the trees. The developers cut down all the straight trees, but left the one unique Indian Tree in all its glory, marking the way to a time and a place long gone.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2017

    Video: Risk Scenario 1: Mob Attack - Stewardship

    As a review, the main steps of Risk Assessment and Mitigation are the following:
    1. Evaluating the Risks
    2. The BowTie 
    3. Graph on all 4 Quadrants
    4. Stewardship
    5. Mitigation
    6. Endurance Strategies
    See the RAM Flow Chart also as a guide. 

    The video on stewardship of resources in light of a potential mob attack with medium probability is available below. 

    Risk Scenario 1 Mob.Stewardship from Anna E. Hampton on Vimeo.

    You may notice that I've separated out Stewardship from Mitigation in the steps so that I can explain a little more background of stewardship.

    One piece not included in this video is the stewardship of self.  I will create a video just on that issue at another time. However, please refer the to pages 4-9 of the RAM Action Guide for all the aspects of stewardship. 

    In Facing Danger, stewardship is initially discussed in Chapter 4 and then again in Chapter 11.

    Go to all videos here. 

    Cross-Cultural Risk Axiom #3

    ax·i·om   ˈaksēəm/
    • a statement or proposition that is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true. 
    • Example: "the axiom that supply equals demand"
    • synonyms:     accepted truth, general truth, dictum, truism, principle;


    #3:  Severity Is As Severity Is Felt 

    Our third risk axiom may seem to be in direct contradiction to Axiom #2 (Safety is NOT a Feeling). Upon closer examination however, it important to recognize the distinction between the two. 

    While it is true that safety is not the same as our feelings about a risk environment, feelings must be taken into account when weighing risk’s impact on ourselves and others.

    When assessing severity in cross-cultural risk, it is important to measure several important aspects: 

    1. Evaluate how severe a risk event would impact others in at least 6 groups of relationships: 
    ·       My relationship with myself
    ·       My relationship with my family
    ·       My relationship with my team
    ·       My relationship with my community
    ·       My relationship with my partners back home
    ·       My relationship with my organization, NGO, or company

    2. Evaluate the likelihood that a risk event would have a severe impact.
    It is common to confuse the terms severity and probability. Probability refers to how likely something will happen. Severity refers to how likely an event would have high impact

    When assigning terms to describe severity levels, it is important to be consistent for all risk events being measured. This allows for a more objective comparison between risk events. 

    Some may choose to assign numbers for severity, ie. 1 indicating low severity and 10 being high. Or some may assign descriptive words on a scale from "negligibly" up to "catastrophic." Or both could be used:
    1=none or slight 2=Minimal 3=Significant 4=Major 5=Catastrophic

    3. Understand the psychological issues behind severity - each one will feel the impact of severity differently.
    Emotions are directly tied into interpretation of severity - is this a risk event that touches prior trauma in the individual, team, or community? Or is the potential severity of the risk event touching a fear within the person?

    Do not discount emotions as unreasonable or a sign of weakness. God never calls fear a weakness.  Emotions can be rational, just as reason can be emotional.  God is both rational and emotional, and we reflect His image. 

    For example, a community that has experienced a natural disaster will respond differently in the next natural disaster (of the same type) than folks who haven't.  

    (See these two blog posts on risk and decision making and the impact of emotions and psychological condition. They can be found half way down this web page here.)

    Go to Risk Axiom #1: Risk asks different questions than suffering asks.
    Go to Risk Axiom #2: Safety is not a feeling
    Go to Risk Axiom #4: Risk is Situational

    Friday, December 15, 2017

    Cross-Cultural Risk Axiom #2

    ax·i·om   ˈaksēəm/
    • a statement or proposition that is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true. 
    • Example: "the axiom that supply equals demand"
    • synonyms:     accepted truth, general truth, dictum, truism, principle;

    #2: Safety is Not a Feeling

    Part of a theology of risk is to understand the essential truths of cross-cultural risk.

    Aspects of this axiom are referred to in Risk Myth #1. But in my book, Facing Danger, I share in the first few paragraphs of Chapter 1 that we felt unsafe under the Taliban but in reality were quite safe and protected by them.

    Once Kabul was liberated by coalition forces in early 2002 and we returned as a family, we felt the freedom on the streets and thus felt safe. We had no idea we were in grave danger. Just a few months later in November 2002, we experienced a massive armed robbery when 10 armed men entered our home one evening during the month of Ramazan. They had murdered folks in the previous two homes they robbed that day.

    Neal was almost killed. It shook the expat community and resulted in the American Embassy and Ambassador following up with us a couple of times (he even enjoyed an early Christmas meal with us!). We increased the height of our walls and added concertina wire and glass shards to the tops of our walls. 

    But I knew concertina wire and glass shards would not stop robbers or a mob - these barriers are easily overcome but at least would slow someone down if they attempted it again. 

    As I told the CIA guy who stopped me one day on the street to ask me if I felt safe, we have angels standing guard on the tops of our walls and at our gates and doors (that's another story on how I could tell he was CIA). 

    Neal and I were impacted differently and had different rates of recovery from the robbery. But the main lesson for others is that Safety is Not A Feeling!

    We need to become situationally aware of what is going on around us. 

    • What is the police force like? 
    • Are they getting paid enough to make righteous decisions, or is the economy so bad that they are easily bribed? 
    • Who is in charge?
    • Is that person truly in charge? (What percentage of the neighborhood or city is supporting them and how many soldiers are employed by them? Who is their enemy and how strong is that strong man? 
    • Who is the strongest strong man in the neighborhood, suburb, city? 
    • Which shop keepers and neighborhoods would help shelter me? 
    • Where are safe places to run to? 
    • Which ethnic group is most hospitable and open to a person like me? 
    • Where is the best place to hide if gunfire and bombs go off? (constant situational scanning with an exit strategy without looking like you are hyper-vigilant)
    • How far in have evil people been known to infiltrate? (One Afghan colleague told me the line around my suburb where I should not cross, where even he would not go.  We often had parts of the city "off limits" to us, and it was the Afghans telling us these things).
    • Where do I situate myself in a room so I can see who comes in but also so I can get out easily but not be surprised behind me? (Back to a wall but not a corner)
    • Where can I keep my communication devices handy? (both our handheld VHF radios were on the fireplace mantle when the robbers entered. I was able to quickly grab my cell phone and hide it under my armpit. Neal's cell phone was next to his radio in the living room.)

    When we begin to feel safe in a foreign culture, we need to increase our awareness of how much we really cannot sense in another culture because there are subtle cues we simply won't be able to pick up on no matter our linguistic abilities and cultural competence and even our training in situational awareness.

    One time I was walking in the Karte Char bazaar. It used to have the best second hand shoe shops, and so few foreigners went there we liked the atmosphere. I went with two other women to shop, one of whom was brand new in-country. As we were walking, she turned around and said to me, "that shop keeper back there just leaned over and spoke to me in English and told me we shouldn't be here right now. Is that normal?"

    I had been enjoying my time looking at the items in the shops and the bustle of the bazaar. But my adrenaline immediately shot into high gear as I was worried about us being kidnapped.  My instinct was to move us three women to the middle of the street where we could easily be seen and get my husband on speaker phone so he could hear what is happening. I looked frantically around for an old Hazara man wearing glasses driving taxi to take us home. Approximately 98% of the drivers don't wear glasses, which means most of the country is driving blindly. Hazaras are a friendly culture group, and an old man wearing glasses would be the safest driver to get us out of there. I spotted the type of driver I was looking for and we hustled into his taxi and told him to drive fast.  I breathed a sigh of relief when we were 3 kilometers away from the area, but asked Neal to stay on the phone with me until each woman was dropped off and I was safely home.

    So despite having been there for such a long time, I simply didn't know the cultural cues of when bad guys may be near.

    Safety, or the appearance of safety, such as American TSA does not mean we really are safe. (American TSA: with a 95% fail rate to detect weapons, thus providing apparently the worst security in the world).

    A lot of what appears to be public safety is in reality just theater. 

    We cannot put our hopes in guns, concertina wire, brick walls (Neal saw a mob tear through a brick wall with their bare hands one day in Tirana, Albania, when the people were enraged at the government). He has quite the dramatic story of being rescued out of there on Marine helicopter.

    Heaven is the only truly safe place where evil will not be able to touch us.

     Until then, it's wise to be as aware as possible and not let our guard down.

    Here's what Jesus has to say about this in the Gospels:

    Matthew 24:42-44 So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

    Luke 21:19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

    Luke 21: 34-36 But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like traip. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

    As Mother Dorothea stated, "Here, St. Luke writes that anxiety is on the same level as drunkenness. The answer is to be alert at all times, praying for strength to escape what will take place on the entire earth."

    Luke 21:36 Be alert at all times. Pray so that you have the power to escape everything that is about to happen and to stand in front of the Son of Man.

    Mark 13:32-33 However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!

    And in the Letters:

    1 Corinthians 16:13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, act like a mentsch, be strong.

    Ephesians 6:18 - "Be on the alert with all perseverance" 

    Colossians 4:2-6 - Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude. Don't forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I'm locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I'll be able to make Christ plain as day to them. Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don't miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. 6 Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.

    I Peter 5:8 - "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

    I Thessalonians 5:6 - So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

    Go to
    Cross-Cultural Risk Axiom #1: Risk asks different questions than suffering asks.
    Cross-Cultural Risk Axiom #3: Severity is as severity is felt. 

    Thursday, December 14, 2017

    What I Don't Smell

    I sit by the real heat from my fake fire in a small town in Minnesota. I smell cinnamon, cloves, and orange simmering in a small cast iron pot on my stove, since my fake Christmas tree gives off no scent.  And I reflect on what I no longer smell.

    I no longer smell the pungent odor of garlic and fish filling our apartment building at night. Wow!  Wish I could be invited to whichever home is making that!

    I no longer smell the rotting odor from the sluggish Kabul river when the Spring Rains have long gone.

    I no longer smell the fresh baked naan which always made my mouth water.

    I no longer smell the Afghan french fries being cooked at the cart just down the road from my house.  Fresh-cooked Afghan french fries are the best in the world. I loved the joy on the Afghan-French-Fry-Cart-Man's face when I hired him to bring his cart into the school or community center yard to cook up fries for large parties. And I loved the joy on everyone's face as they munched on delicious Afghan french fries which wouldn't make them sick.

    I no longer smell garlicky kebabs being grilled, whether in Turkey or Afghanistan.

    I no longer smell fried potato BolanI being cooked. (I never really liked the leek BolanI). 

    I no longer smell the leaking gas from the hose running into my stove.

    I no longer smell the sewer smells running into our apartment from the open drains in our apartment in Turkey.

    I no longer smell the burning trash as I walked the streets of Kabul.

    I no longer smell the smell of death and dying which seemed to envelope us every day.

    I no longer smell the freshness of the air when we picknicked in the King's Garden or walked in the high mountain villages of the Himilayan Mountains when we visited remote villages.

    I no longer smell the pollution of the Stationary Bazaar.

    I no longer smell sickening car exhaust filling the car as I rode in the back seat of my driver's car, and as I could feel the contents of my stomach threatening to come up from car sickness as my driver repeatedly stepped on the gas and then break.

    I no longer smell animal flesh hanging in the meat shops of the Karte Se Bazaar, covered in flies. Make sure to get there at 6 in the morning if you want it fresh!

    I no longer smell the comforting smell of yeasted donuts rising in my kitchen as I heat the oil to fry them for my family.  It smelled better overseas somehow.

    I no longer smell the chlorine from the small pool we maintained for our children and lots of other children so they could enjoy childhood in a militarized war zone of a city. They call Turkey "home" and Afghanistan a place of a delight and childhood wonder.

    I no longer smell the delightful mix of mint, red pepper, garlic, and frying meat in my favorite Kayseri Manta restaurant.

    I no longer smell the unique mix of spices of KabelI Palau.

    I no longer smell the cheap perfume of my Afghan women friends who regularly came to see me because it was too dangerous for me to be seen in their neighborhoods.

    I no longer smell the soft sent of Khala-jan Guldara (not her real name), a woman who became like my Afghan mother and our kids' Afghan Grandmother.

    Lord, help me to never forget the smell poverty, death, and dying all around me.  Small town USA is so clean.  THERE ARE NO SMELLS. 

    Help me to long for the smells of the marriage feast of the Lamb. 

    Go To:

    What I Don't Hear
    What I Don't See

    What I Don't See

    I close my eyes, and scenes flash before my eyes.

    I no longer see the dirty streets of Kabul.

    I don't see the gutter of sewer that I needed to avoid as I walked on the uneaven street.

    I don't see the goats feeding on the garbage pile just down from my house.

    I don't see my sons clambering through the concertina wire and glass shards on top of the walls surrounding our home and yard as they played tag with their friends.

    I no longer see the Italian pizza oven we built in our yard and had so many wonderful pizza parties with Afghan and expat friends.

    I no longer see the poor burkha-clad woman holding her emaciated baby, sitting in the middle of the busy street as cars drove by her without a look at her empty outstretched hand.

    I no longer see the thin faces of the women who regularly rang my doorbell asking me for something, anything, as they stood at my gate. I prayed in Jesus' name for them as I handed two kilos of rice and beans from the stash I kept just for this purpose.

    I no longer see the mean boys on the street who seemed to delight in harrassing me and my children by pretending to ride their bikes straight at us.

    Men with Guns.

    I don't see the guns, guns, guns everywhere. Men with kalishnikovs slung lazily over the shoulders, or the tell-tale bulge of a gun on the Turkish men around me. More men in Turkey are weaponized than are not.  Americans may believe in having guns, but we have no idea what it is to live in a militarized culture.

    I close my eyes to remember seeing the locked-down fortress Kabul had become...once a beautiful and open city. Now, a bunker and firebase.

    Men with Guns. 

    I no longer see gun towers with men pointing their guns.

    I no longer see the gigantic cement and sand barriers surrounding every restaurant, every embassy, every NGO, every Afghan Government office, every hotel, protecting from suicide bombers.

    Americans are so open!  They leave their curtains open at night so anyone can look in. So strange.  I close my heavily-lined curtains at 5pm every night now, even though I live in a small town in Minnesota that doesn't seem to have any Muslims and definitely no terrorists. 

    No one can see in.

    We cannot see out.

    I feel safer somehow. 

    My daughter doesn't understand yet why I get upset when she doesn't close her curtains....doesn't she realize that men looking in are a threat? How can I explain this to her? 

    Men with Guns.  

    I still see the 10 Afghan Men with Guns walking calmly into my kitchen and telling me "Shhhhh...we are the police."  Did they think I was a fool? 

    Men with Guns.  

    I still see the men with guns pawing through my beautiful Pakistani-rosewood-brass-inlay jewelry box, stealing all my jewelry, including my Grandma's ring. I kept the jewelry box, because my husband gave it to me, but I put nothing of value in it and I don't enjoy its beauty. It's now just a thing, a reminder of a painful experience. 

    I still see those men touching the ends of their guns to the temples of Neal's head. 

    I looked, and saw their fingers move to the triggers of their guns. I was a milli-second away from becoming a widow. I see myself distract them from Neal, pleading in Dari with them. 

    Oh for the day of Isaiah 2:4  and Micah 4:3 to come soon so there are no more men with guns. 

    Come Lord, Come Quickly. 

    While I wait for His return, I check and recheck the locks on my door still. 

    I no longer see the gypsies roaming the streets of Ankara looking for any scrap they could pick up and sell for money to feed their families.

    I no longer see the thick dust coating my furniture within an hour after the cleaner had dusted it clean. The Germans tested the air quality and found an abnormal amount of fecal matter in the air.  Good Lord!  That's the dust I shake off our clothes out on the laundry drying rack.

    I no longer see the swirling dust storms enveloping my house.

    I no longer see the smiling faces of the first Afghans we met - our language teachers.

    I no longer see the beautiful Himilayan mountains when I took time to look up from the exhaustion of running a home in Afghanistan.

    I no longer see the beautiful 100-foot pine trees circling my home, somehow majestically and courageously surviving years of war and infighting between the mujahadin. I loved those trees. They reminded me there was still a God in Heaven.

    I no longer see the few lusciously green plants of my Dutch friend.

    I no longer see the grieving faces of the family and friends of our friends murdered by Taliban, ....and I no longer see my murdered friends and colleagues.

    I no longer see the smiles of my Afghan women friends as we drunk tea together. Lord, I miss them. I was too sad to say goodbye, and I have regretted it ever since. I have no way of contacting them. 

    I no longer see the special community gathering together at the International Church of Kabul...a time, a place, and a people long gone.

    I no longer see the American MRAP's and German armoured vehicles going down the streets with the gunner at the top pointing his gun at us and others to stay far away.

    I no longer see the wonderful Afghan men who served in our office and were so polite, kind, respectful, professional, caring.  They were the epitome of Afghan culture, and what it could be. I know and remember there were problems, but what a privilege to have known those folks who were so patient with us and our many mistakes.

    I no longer see the cheery grin of my favorite shop keeper who treated me politely when the Taliban were in power and then when they weren't.

    I no longer see the bombed out houses of Karte Se, the bullet holes on the Russian bakery on the road to Karte Char. The bombed out post office at DeMazong. The bullet hole-ridden houses all over Karte Se with the exception of the International Church.  Why, to this day, is the church the only one of all of Karte Se that suffered NO DAMAGE?  What a witness to Your Power!

    I no longer see the beautiful marble filling my home in Kabul and in Ankara. What a luxury! Marble is so cheap there and so expensive here.

    I no longer see the Morning Glories climbing the posts on my marble veranda in all of my homes in Kabul. What an amazing gardner Kaka Aziz was!

    I no longer see the gentle face of my favorite vegetable seller in Turkey who always helped me pick the best vegetables...the ones at the top back of the pile.

    I no longer see my favorite Turkish shop, "Cheap Charlie's" and Mr. Adem's face as he sold me beautiful Turkish scarves at his shop across from the US Base. I could see tears in his eyes when we told him we had to leave.

    I no longer see my children pushing the petal car around our yard - the car we painted to look like Lightning McQueen. How many decades earlier had that car been brought to Kabul?

    I no longer see the smiling and gentle face of our evening watchman who chose to follow Christ, "because His path seems a good one to follow."

    I no longer see the busyness of the Karte Se bazaar, the haggling over garlic and tomatos and second-hand naan (bread) being sold for chickens and poor people, and the second-hand clothes karachis (carts).

    I no longer see MandayI Bazaar, and my favorite Pashtun shop keeper who returned my sunglasses to me - the ones I had left over a month earlier in his shop when I was looking for second-hand shoes for my son.

    I no longer see "Goat's Head Corner."

    I no longer see the Hindu Sikhs' spice bazaar, one of the most beautiful laid out spices sections in all of Kabul.

    I no longer see Chicken Street.

    I no longer see my favorite Pakistani Rug stores.

    I no longer see my favorite naan seller.

    I no longer see the dirty faces of beautiful children begging for handouts.

    I no longer see the famous kite flying battles of Kabul.

    I no longer see the gentle and smiling face of my teenage evening watchman who taught my sons the rudiments of Afghan Kiteflying.

    I no longer see the grieving face of the mother of the Afghan who had become like a son to me - he was in jail because "apparently" he didn't have the correct paperwork for his motorcycle. She and I sat there and cried together as we worried about his safety of being a young kid in jail.

    I no longer get to see my favorite fabric bazaars, my favorite second hand shops, and my favorite Afghan, Turkish, and Lebanese restaurants.

    I no longer see Mr. Kamal, the owner of the most famous and popular Lebanese restaurant in all of Kabul...he was murdered by Taliban when he was trying to protect his customers from the Taliban attacking his restaurant one evening a few years ago.  He was so kind, and I asked him to cater so many team parties and team gatherings for us.  I remember asking him for the special spice recipe for his Fattoush salad, and he told me it was a secret.  But shhhhhhh.....I think it was the Sumac.  Someday I'll try to re-create his dish.


    But I saw You, Lord, as you brought Afghans to courageously choose to follow You.  I saw you break down barriers between foreigners (outsiders) and Afghans (insiders). I saw You in the miraculous healing of blindness, deafness, and I saw Your Hand in the amazing miracle when You turned the salty water to sweet. You gave me a front row seat to Your work in one of the most dangerous places of the world. Help me not forget and to not let my children forget. 

    Help me to see You here in Minnesota. Everything I see is so nice and clean and beautiful - it's hard to see You. We really don't need You here for day to day challenges.  

    We don't seem to have the same need to look for You and see You. 

    We are so impoverished in sight compared to the rest of the world.  Help me to see You in the smallest blessings, and to point out Your activity in my children's lives. 

    Go To:

    What I Don't Smell
    What I Don't Hear

    What I Don't Hear

    I'm sitting here in a small town in Minnesota, USA, in my living room in a beautiful leather and fabric chair given to us on Tuesday by some partners from our main sending church.  The fake Christmas tree is glowing with soft white lights, red ribbon and a crooked star because the cat keeps pulling at the ribbons and dislodging the star, and the fake electric fireplace is on, giving a glow framed with the fake poinsettas and plastic garland.

    Wow!  That's a lot of fakeness, but it sure looks nice and doesn't require a lot of maintenance.

    It really looks quite nice. 

    I thought I heard the Islamic call to prayer just now.   But I know I didn't, because this town is primarily Lutheran and Catholic and I've never seen a Muslim here.

    The Islamic call to prayer is just in my memory from years of living in Islamic culture.

    It's nice not to hear the Islamic call to prayer 5 times a day, even though for almost 2 decades I tried hard to let the 5x daily Islamic call to prayer remind me to pray for Muslims, and now I just don't pray enough for them because I don't hear the call to pray. Lord forgive me!    

    What else don't I hear?

    I don't hear gun shots.

    I don't hear military helicopters flying over head.

    I don't hear distant bombs.

    I don't hear police sirens.

    I don't hear Turkish neighbors complaining, the elderly Turkish couple upstairs having their nightly marital argument and the "click click" of her heels as she angrily walked around upstairs (we live in a single-family house in USA, not an apartment).

    I don't hear Islamic drums beating.

    I don't hear the roar from an angry mob running down my street.

    I don't hear the doorbell ringing from a poor person or a guard or an official from the Turkish medical establishment selling vaccines.

    I don't hear the sellers hawking their wears on the street  like the potato cart seller going by, yelling in Dari, "Kachalu, kachalu, kachalu!" (Potato potato potato!). 

    I don't hear roosters crowing.

    I no longer hear Dari being spoken all around me and I can understand almost everything.

    I no longer hear Turkish being spoken all around me and I can pick out various words.

    I no longer hear Russian, Khazakh, Pakistani English, and the lilting voice of my French colleague who always said my name so wonderfully it made me melt.

    I no longer hear the teasing voices of my Irish, British, and Scottish friends. I've yet to meet a Northern Irish person I didn't like.

    I don't regularly hear the words of sexual innuendo whispered loud enough for me to hear as a man cycles by but not for my husband to hear. I wait until the Afghan man is at least a block away before I tell Neal what the man just said. I am afraid Neal will beat the man to a bloody pulp, and we really came here to point people to Christ, instead of beating them up, so I wait to tell Neal.

    I no longer hear the welcome voice of my husband returning home and feel the immense relief that we've both lived through another day and are together. (Today he wasn't kidnapped. Thank you Lord. Of course I still hear Neal's voice, but not like those years in Afghanistan when each day of life together was truly a gift.)

    I don't hear the speakers of the police Ford Ranger truck yelling "Tez Tez Bura, Tez Tez Bura, Tez Tez Bura" (go faster, go faster, go faster) even though we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic and literally could not move an inch. Why did they think yelling "Go faster" would help? 

    I don't hear the drums and loud music of the nearby wedding hall.

    I don't hear the laughter and hum of conversations from the neighborhood restaurant.

    I don't hear the annoying but funny jingle of the ice cream cart cycling by (we called it hepatitus on a stick). 

    I don't hear a Khakbad (dust storm) starting up and rattling my doors and windows.

    I don't hear a generator running, feeding electricity to a house sucking energy for at least a few lights at night.

    What a luxury life in a small town in America is.

    We are so rich.

    So pampered.

    The silence is so "normal."

    Thank you Lord for the silence, but help me to always appreciate it and not take it for granted. I don't want to ever forget what it was like to be in a place where the noise of people suffering and dying surrounded me.  So much of the world isn't enjoying the silence I am tonight.  I want my kids to know how much I value what we don't hear while living in a small town in America. 

     I ponder the mystery of the 30 minutes of silence in Heaven yet to come. 

    Go To:

    What I don't See
    What I don't Smell

    Wednesday, December 13, 2017

    Video Risk Scenario 1: Mob Attack Step 3 - Graphing

    As a review, the main steps of Risk Assessment and Mitigation are the following:
    1. Evaluating the Risks
    2. The BowTie 
    3. Graph on all 4 Quadrants
    4. Stewardship
    5. Mitigation
    6. Endurance Strategies
    In Video 3, I explain Step 3:  how to graph the 4 quadrants of cross-cultural risk assessment. In this exercise, we consider the probability across 4 aspects of risk:

    1. Frequenency of risk event
    2. Severity of risk event
    3. Geographic Proximity of risk event
    4. Demographic Proximity of risk event. 

    For each aspect, we ask the following: 

    1. Frequency: How likely is the risk event to happen often? 
    2. Severity: How likely is the risk event to have significant negative consequences? 
    3. Geographic Proximity: How likely is the risk event to happen close by? 
    4. Demographic Proximity: How likely is the risk event to impact people like us? 

      I can't emphasize enough, no matter what software or graphic exercises you do, that rational risk analysis, while necessary is not complete. 

      Holistic risk analysis takes into account the Holy Spirit's leading, other security "voices" and organizational authority, one's emotional and mental well-being, and spiritual vitality both vertically with God and horizontally with others, as well as internally with self.

      This is what Facing Danger and the RAM Action Guide are all about.  Consider all the elements of a person and team - the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of yourself and your team, but also balanced with the Holy Spirit's leading.  

      However, there are some cultures that don't do risk analysis - they consider it unspiritual.

      I'll be direct here. 

      That is foolishness and a waste of our Lord's resources. Don't waste your life on a "small death" by jumping headlong into a risk you aren't called to.  Doing risk assessment is part of asking the Lord every time, every moment, what He wants you to do, what will glorify Him the most. THAT is what faithful obedience looks like - doing what you are called to do.

      Risk Assessment and Mitigation (RAM) helps us to know very clearly what part of the battle we are called to - it helps us to find sure footing through a foggy path and then know with clarity real reality.

      The enemy wants us confused, unsure, and very, very afraid.

      Remember, courage is doing the right thing (righteousness) even when we are afraid, and RAM (Risk Assessment and Mitigation) helps us to know what the right things are.

      I recognize that every now and then you recognize you are in immediate danger with no time to prepare, and definitely no time to begin graphing, drawing, or using computer software. It is in these moments that God's grace carries us, but we still ask Him what He wants us to do, even as we fight for our life.  I describe in my book, Facing Danger,  how this happened to me one day when all of a sudden a mob was forming around me and my young son Luke. 

      May God's grace go with you to face calmly and with joy what He's asked you to face and to be willing to suffer for His sake so that more of His children will choose to follow His path, be restored to His Family, and spend eternity with Him and us. 

      Cross-Cultural Risk Axiom #1

      ax·i·om   ˈaksēəm/
      • a statement or proposition that is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true. 
      • Example: "the axiom that supply equals demand"
      • synonyms:   accepted truth, general truth, dictum, truism, principle;
      Risk Axiom: a statement or assertion of judgment about cross-cultural risk.
      These Risk Axioms are short statements that are easy to remember, equipping, and will hopefully come to mind when most needed.

      Risk Axiom #1: 
      Risk asks different questions than Suffering asks. 

      Theology of Suffering and Theology of Risk are not the same. 
      Risk and Suffering ask different questions, thereby requiring different answers. 
      Equipping global servants to serve well cross-culturally requires understanding the questions being asked and responding appropriately. If we reply to risk questions with suffering answers, our responses will not be effective.
      It may be good to start with a Basic Self-Awareness Question which applies to counseling and theology:
      As member care/pastoral providers, what presuppositions and assumptions do we carry into our conversations with field workers?
      This is often the first place of divergence from and miscommunication with those we are coming to help. 
      In the case of Cross-Cultural Risk, field workers often ask questions like, 
      • How do I know whether to move into danger or to stay in a safe place? 
      • How do I know when I have enough information about the risk? 
      • How do I know how to make the best decision in risk? 
      • When is too much risk being experienced? 
      • What is God calling me to in risk? 
      • How does God feel about the risks I am taking for Him?
      • I'm afraid - am I lacking faith?  
      • What do I tell my families back home? (or my children here in risk?)
      The standard answer so often seems to be "Risk is Right" and "You aren't really risking." 
      Both of these over-spiritualized answers have been addressed here and here. 
      In my book, Facing Danger, I include an email almost in its entirety from my 6th grade teacher, Mr. N. (Chapter 8, p. 119-120).  (He's still alive and reads our personal monthly newsletters). He was able to give a meaningful response to us, even though he had never faced what we were facing at that moment in 2008. I still love reading what he wrote to us when we were in the scariest situation - his words still minister to me and I love Mr. N. all the more for what he did for us.  His email was God's word to deeply encourage us and gave us hope that there were (and are) more Followers who truly did understand.
      There is a graphic illustration of this Risk Axiom on page 15 of Facing Danger, with the following paragraph:

      This illustrates that all believers experience suffering, whether living in relative safety or danger. Your theology of suffering determines how you respond to suffering, regardless of where you are. A theology of risk influences whether you move toward more risk or toward safety.
      What happens when a person responds with a theology-of-suffering answer to someone asking a theology-of-risk question? 

      The question we ask people in the 2-day RAM Training is: "What is similar and what are the differences between Theology of Risk and Theology of Suffering?"
      We are delighted when folks begin to discuss this, wrestle with the concepts, and begin to see what presuppositions and assumptions they have been a making.  (We don't have a set answer to this question, because Neal and I are still learning).
      It's the tension between these two theologies in daily life that we have to work out in tandem with what the voice of the Holy Spirit is whispering to us.  
      There really are no easy answers for the complex Risk Questions, but we can coach and guide folks toward discovering what God's answer is for them.
      This is the mystery of life in the Spirit in risk.