I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty ~ 2 Corinthians 6:18
I looked through the windows of our SUV, saw men holding AK-47 rifles, and thought, “How did we get here?”
That Sabbath day in Kabul, Afghanistan, started with sunshine and bright blue sky. An afternoon drive into the gorgeous mountains seemed like a nice way to finish out an already remarkable week. We, a group of six Loma Linda University (LLU) physicians, had experienced an exceptional time in the unique culture of this country, teaching the special people of Afghanistan.
As we lectured to local physicians and toured hospitals, seeing unique medical conditions, it was both incredibly educational and heartwrenching. Our physician team had been blessed by having Borhaan Ahmad, an LLU pediatrician, with us. Borhaan grew up in Kabul and this was his first trip home nearly 20 years. Seeing Kabul through his eyes made every experience of the trip feel personal to all of us.
We passed through Kabul and entered the countryside, seeing both spectacularly beautiful scenery and a country at war. We stopped to take pictures but Ayub, our driver, warned us not to wander far, as the red-painted side of the rocks surrounding the road indicated land mines. The majestic peaks shining in the sunlight encircled us as we saw one incredible scene after another.
Witnessing these surroundings, I almost felt that I was experiencing “time travel” back to biblical times. I saw large herds of goats and sheep in the countryside, accompanied by running children, bearded fathers, and mothers in long robes flowing in the wind.
Borhaan surprised us by saying: “My father’s driver, who was like a member of our family, grew up in a village close to here.” We entered the next village, and suddenly AK-47 toting men surrounded our car. I thought, “How did our idyllic journey so quickly change?”
We all exchanged concern glances as Ayub and Borhaan answered questions from the armed men. Unexpectedly, the leader of the village men stepped forward, suddenly dropped his gun, began talking excitedly, and then embraced Borhaan. Wow! What did the words mean?
The village man in charge was the Ahmad family driver’s son. He invited us to his father’s home just off the road. In the shadow of the majestic peaks, we watched a frail man in long robes with his cane make his way carefully across a meadow.
Part way he stopped, dropped his cane, and, with tears streaming down his white beard, embraced Borhaan. As we all fought back tears, I thought, “I will remember this special moment forever.” I experienced profound inspiration, albeit preceded by several seconds of fear!
What a difference a few moments made as we went from being held at gunpoint to being welcomed as family. We experienced a version of paradise–sitting outdoors on Afghani carpets and pillows, surrounded by orchards, and served fresh fruit, nuts, and tea. I was transported back to the time of Jesus, a time when weary travelers were welcomed. I was reminded once more what a special thing it is to be the sons and daughters of God.
–Tamara Thomas, LLUSM class of 1987, is LLUSM vice dean for academic affairs and associate dean for faculty development. She is also vice chair and professor in the department of emergency medication.