Last Christmas, a man from Afghanistan showed up at our church. Just in case you have never been my city, we don’t have very many Afghani people! Before I met him, I noticed him from a distance. His traditional attire—a thigh-length, white, button-up coat with matching white pants—caught my attention in the Christmas crowd. After the service was done, I had the pleasure of meeting this man and, through a combination of broken English and Google Translate, I learned what had brought him to our city—war. Fearing that the Taliban would murder him, he ran 7,000 miles from his home to the place I call home.
In the months since we have met, I have thought a lot about the price of war. Although our church has been doing its best to welcome him and his family to our community, I cannot help but think how much the move has cost him—Having to learn English. Taking his driver’s test. Finding work. Raising kids with his wife in a city where none of us can speak Pashto or Dari, their native languages. This man has shown me pictures of his old life in Kabul, including videos of him dancing with family and friends at weddings. He has lost so much. Too much.
But before we lose hope, let’s remember what Jesus said about such things. In Matthew 24, amidst his stark prediction of wars, rumors of wars, and love grown cold, Jesus made this promise: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (verse 14). Before the end comes, even in the midst of the “birth pains” of this war-filled world, the gospel will be preached.
If you’re a history lover, have you ever noticed how God has used wars, famines, and hardships to connect people to the good news of Jesus? Think of the stories in the Bible of Joseph’s family heading to Egypt when there was no food. Or Ruth meeting Boaz because of a famine and some funerals. Or the apostles scattering to preach salvation because Saul was hunting them down after Stephen’s stoning. Our always-in-control God knows exactly how to use the sins of man to increase the salvation of men.
“Our Father, your kingdom come.” That would be the right prayer to pray when war hits close to home. Father, please use this conflict to further your kingdom. As people run for their lives, may they run into the arms of those who know the heart of Jesus. Open the hearts and homes of local Christians that their light would shine brightly and new citizens would be added to your kingdom. You have done it before, Father. Do it again.
Recently, some generous members of our church donated some clothes and furniture to our new Afghani friend. After a quick internet order, I added a gift to the pile—the gospel of John in his native language. I wonder if he has ever read it? Or ever seen it? I’m not sure, but I do know that the gospel is being preached, even in the midst of war.