Tag Archives: afghanistan

Levis and Hijabs

30698037_10155553271969077_4312443565172064256_nImagine walking into the 9/11 memorial next to a vibrant, first-generation New Yorker who is dressed head to toe in traditional Muslim attire. Her hair is completely hidden beneath her hijab, and layers of loose-fitting clothes cover her wrists and ankles. She is twenty-one, bright and articulate. Her conversation, despite a slight accent, sounds much like that of any American college student as she complains about how hard Calculus Four is. We know Sushmita will make a fine secondary math teacher.

I want to know how she feels, as a Muslim woman, as she steps into this place, but I don’t want to pry. Finally I ask, “Were you old enough to remember 9/11?”

Sushmita explains that she was too young to understand what happened, but that she experienced the aftermath when she came to school in her traditional attire. The other children ostracized and bullied her. They called her “Osama’s daughter.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“It’s okay.” My new friend smiled. “They carried much pain. They needed to release it.”

20180411_141302As this vivacious young woman walked through the memorial, it was obvious she carried much pain as well, not for how she was treated, but for tragic deaths of so many of her fellow New Yorkers. She stood for nearly thirty minutes listening to name after name, story after story, of New Yorkers who died that day. Long after I couldn’t take it anymore, she and my daughter lingered there, grieving. Honoring the ordinary people who suffered that day. Standing in solidarity with their friends and families.

I walked also with another new friend, Mina. Mina is a beautiful Afghan woman who has lived in the states for five years and recently applied for citizenship. Her grief was palpable, as was her concern for ours. I soon realized she didn’t experience the memorial as one who’d seen the devastation on TV like I had. She saw it through the lens of her life in Afghanistan, where such tragedy occurs on a regular basis.*

Often we asked each other, “Are you okay?”

“Yes. Are you?”

The time came when the grief flowed out in my new friend’s tears. For the people of 9/11, for the people in her homeland who daily face the fear of attack. She told me that every morning the first thing she does is check Facebook to see if her family in Afghanistan is alive. She is glad to be here with her husband and children. Safe from the daily fear of bombs. But her brother, her sisters, her loved ones in Afghanistan live daily with the very real possibility of tragedy.

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Mina pointed at two young women standing nearby, Sushmita and my daughter, Sarah.  In broken English she explained that at any moment a bomb could explode between them, taking half of each of their bodies. She pointed to her hand and talked of a friend who no longer had a finger. Another who no longer had an arm.

We were women together that day. An American team with their new friends from another culture. Grief and love bound us together, weaving through the varied experiences that brought us to this place and the shared experience of the moment. Before and after this time we would laugh together. But in this space we wept as one.

Please pray for Mina and Shusmita. That love will bind their wounds. Pray for their struggle as they press forward in their desire to live as free Americans who come to this land to love and be loved.  Please pray for the safety of their families in their countries of origin, the loved ones who face great uncertainty every day.

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Blessings,

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*Today’s heart-breaking story from Kabul, Afghanistan.  As I work on this blog, I text with my friend Mina. She sends me pictures of this tragedy, and once again we cry together, her from her home in NYC, me from mine in Denver. Two women. Hearts forever joined.

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Surprise Twists and Turns!

It’s called the million dollar highway. Some sources also call it one of the world’s most spectacular (and dangerous) stretches of pavement. However, when traveled carefully in good weather, it’s a breath-taking experience of incredible vistas.

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Each one just as amazing as the last.

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One after the next, so incredible you scan constantly, not wanting to miss a single moment of the beauty.

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Sometimes you have to climb out of the car to see it all.

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But here’s the thing. This road is full of hair pin curves.

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They happen unexpectedly, usually with abrupt drop-offs on at least one side.

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We drove this road last May, our borrowed van full of our son’s stuff. A dresser, bed, clothes. You get the idea. We moved him from his college apartment to his new home and job. It was a full van, and I am not great at driving with decreased visibility out the windows. My husband drives a work van full of stuff every day, so I requested the passenger seat.

The problem with the passenger seat is you have absolutely no control. You can’t hit the brake when you want to slow. You can’t control the position of the vehicle, no matter how close that sheer edge looks. You have to trust your driver. (And as most of you know, a nagging, fearful wife is not very effective in these situations. Your man knows how to navigate the terrain and will likely not do it your way just because you catch your breath and spout advice.)

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But the great thing about being in the passenger seat is you can more fully enjoy the view without the responsibility of navigation.

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If you can just let go of your fears and go with it.

The problem is that while you’re exclaiming over yet another incredible panorama, you don’t see that sharp turn ahead. Suddenly you’re upon it. Disequilibrium makes you gasp and grab something to steady yourself. Fear hits.

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The twist is not only sharp and quick, the grade is also steep.

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Even in the moment I felt the stirring as we drove last May.

The need to pay attention. The prompting to trust my driver to navigate the unexpected turns in the road, to let go of control, to enjoy the glorious ride.

And to remember.

Remember how it felt to trust and enjoy beauty instead of micro-managing.

To drink in the wonder and excitement instead giving into fear of what is around the bend or how suddenly the change came upon me.

Of course I’m not talking about navigating Route 550 from Durango through Silverton to Ouray.

I’m talking about life.

Maybe you relate. Maybe life has thrown you some curve balls, not necessarily bad, but certainly unexpected.

Or maybe you’ve chosen an unknown road. One you’re breathlessly excited about. But you feel insecure. You don’t know the appropriate speed or how to navigate the next bend. You don’t know how much fear you must face to take in all the glory and wonder of the choice.

The weeks following this trip I had both experiences. A breathless choice and an unexpected curve ball. I keep reminding myself to trust the One who guides me on the best pathway for my life, who advises me and watches over me. But sometimes I gasp at the steep road ahead or feel the disequilibrium when the sharp curve redirects.

I’m not ready to write much about the unexpected curve. It’s still unfolding. Right now all He has asked of me is a mindset change, a readjustment of my thinking, plans, and dreams. That alone is a sharp turn, one that causes me disequilibrium.

But I am ready to write about the choice to adventure. To stretch. To follow where His Spirit calls even though the journey is unknown, and I have never done anything like this.

This choice is exciting. A bit scary. Full of joyful wonder. Poking at my insecurities and inadequacies but breath-taking too. Beautiful. New.13903190_10154455712793179_4641395257159691296_n

I was chosen to serve with a women’s team traveling to Afghanistan later this summer. The eight of us will meet with several groups of beautiful, courageous ladies who have worked tirelessly to better their communities and build toward a hopeful future for their children and their country. Our team seeks to build relationship, to encourage, to believe in the hope they possess and to share our own for them.

As I step out into this journey, I am stretching. It’s not just the miles I will travel or the insecurities I posses about navigating an unfamiliar culture. It’s not even the pain and fear that arises when another bombing rocks the world of the people I already think of as my friends. It’s the longing to be better than I am. To love more. To have more strength. To serve well.

What about you? Where are you stretching? What call up your deepest longings and passions. Where do you feel a prompting to something new, something bigger than yourself?

May God bless us all.

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PS Would you partner with me in this new adventure, my friend? If you’d like more information about the Afghanistan service trip, let me know. I’ll add you to my list of people getting updates. You can contact me by email: Paula at paulamoldenhauer dot com.