This week Noel and I are in orientation for Samaritan’s Purse in Boone, NC. It has been a good week with lots of information. As we make this transition from Afghanistan to Liberia, here is part of a talk Noel and I gave at a church in Texas about the lessons we learned. Life has been busy but it has been important for us to take some time to tell our story and reflect on our time there as we move on to another place.
Transcript from my portion of our talk.
Today I am going to tell you about where we have been and then Noel will share with you where we are going next in this journey God has for us. Before I begin, I want to thank you all and your church for your support through your prayers, finances, and words of encouragement. A little over two years ago we were on home leave and had the privilege of getting to stay in your blue mission house. Due to your support, we went back to the field rested and healthy. Little did we know that God was preparing us for what was ahead. So we thank you for being a part of that preparation.
For those of you that don’t know us, we have spent the last seven years in Afghanistan with an organization called PACTEC. Our mission was “sharing the love of Jesus Christ through aviation and technology so that isolated people may be physically and spiritually transformed.”
Our first 9 months were spent in Tajikistan where we spent time learning the language and culture. After our language learning, we moved to Kabul, Afghanistan. During our time in Kabul, Noel has not only been involved in flying and fixing airplanes but was also in charge of our airport operations. We saw how God has used all his past experiences to uniquely serve our team. Sometimes in life we often think why did we do this or that. But God uses all of our past experiences to advance his kingdom. While Noel was busy flying airplanes, I was involved in education. For most of my time in Kabul, I worked as a high school math teacher at the International school of Kabul. The school was staffed by Christian teachers and used character based education to plant seeds of faith in our students. 80% of our students were Afghan. It was a privilege to be involved in training the next generation of Afghanistan. Sadly this school closed in January of 2015 due to security concerns. After the school closed, I homeschooled Winter and David plus two other teenagers to finish out the school year.
These past two years have been tough ones for our family. There have been transitions, losses, joys, and a deep sense of God’s presence when everything around us seemed crazy. This past year has been the toughest for us as we have been without flight permissions since last June. Looking back on these 7 years, I have 3 Take aways or lessons that I would like to share with you.
- Relationships Matter. First of all my relationship with God matters. Staying connected to God was imperative in order to have the strength and wisdom to do what God had for us to do. Secondly my relationships with my family and team matter. Our workers and others were always watching us. They saw how we related to each other. How we loved. How we forgave. I would often get comments from my students and others on how they liked how I related to my children and had a relationship with them. They wanted that with their parents. Or the guys at the airport would notice how Noel would talk about me and ask questions about our marriage and why it was different. Lastly our relationships with our national co workers and neighbors mattered. These took time and patience. Trust did not come easily. But over time, Noel was able to have good conversations with the guys at the airport about faith and life issues. We met with these co workers and friends to celebrate their holidays and sometimes ours. They loved hearing about what Christmas and Easter were really about. This past Christmas, I was able to be the first one to tell my language teacher the story of Christmas and how much God loved us by sending us his son. Some co workers like our guard Mirwais and my friend Aquilla were like family. Some let us pray for them. Others offered to let us stay in their home if we needed a safe place to go. Some were believers. For others, we are praying that the seeds that were planted will continue to grow.
- We are not alone on this journey. From the beginning many of you have been a part of the journey with your prayers and financial support. Some even helped with baby sitting while we were on home leaves. You have read and listened to our stories, and have laughed at our mistakes and cried with us over our losses. Your prayers have covered us during the difficult times and we are blessed. We were not alone on the field either. In Afghanistan, our PACTEC team worked with many organizations to help take the gospel to the remote areas. You hear about mission workers not getting along. In Afghanistan that was not the case. It was a community effort. We depended on each other. Noel helped by flying them where they needed to go and sometimes helping them get out of a place that was becoming dangerous. I was able to help with their kids’ education. But mostly we were not alone because God was with us. In Deut 31:8. It tells us that God goes before us and that He will never leave us or forsake us. It is sometimes in the darkest places that we see God the clearest. Even our workers recognized this. Last September we hit a huge roadblock in regard to our flight permissions. Many of us thought this was it. At the airport the workers were thinking the same thing. One of them commented that maybe the pilots should pray. So that is what they did. That roadblock was cleared within the hour letting us at least fly our team back and forth to Bamian where we had moved most of our team.
- Lastly, our view of God is bigger. In Afghanistan we saw the heart of God especially God’s heart for all people. The Afghan people were no longer those people. They were a people loved by God. We also learned about God’s sovereignty and trust in a whole new way. Things often didn’t go the way we thought they should. Sometimes you look back and see why God did this or that. We often didn’t. So it is only a God thing that it was in these times that we leaned even harder into God and found He was enough. For example. At the end of November 2014, two friends of Winter and David were killed in an attack along with their dad. Why? It didn’t make sense. We knew they had counted the cost but still it left us reeling. Then in January the international school closed. It seemed like everything was being taken away. As a family, we prayed and talked about whether to stay or go. We felt like God was telling us to stay. We do know that staying when times get tough says a lot to our national staff. They realize that we are not going to bail the first time that life gets tough. The summer came and we lost our flight permissions. We felt like it was harder and harder to do the job God had called us to. We didn’t understand but we did know that God had a plan even if we would never know it. I always said that you would have to take me from Afghanistan kicking and screaming. But this past winter, both Noel and I felt God telling us that it was time to leave. So in February we left Afghanistan not knowing what God had for us next. We can wonder if it was enough but then remember that God is always enough. I want to end with a quote from Kate McCord’s book Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places. She says. How can we keep living, keep loving, and keep giving in the dangerous places God calls us to? We remember, day after day, that Jesus loves us all and his spirit is working in us and within our neighbors. Sometimes we have the privilege of seeing the fruit of God’s spirit in our lives and in the lives of others. When we do we rejoice. Other times we walk by faith, confident in the things we hope for, the things we cannot see.
It has been good seeing many of you these past few months as Noel and I have traveled. We are sad that our time is short, and we missed getting to see many of you. Know you are loved whether we were able to see you or not. We are leaving for Liberia around the 17th of May. We will try to post soon more about what we will be doing there and about our transition time. Blessings, Teresa