BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE IN UNKNOWN PLACES

 

            TAJIKISTAN!  Was there really such a place?  There must be, for I had been invited, by Missionary friends, to come for a few weeks of ministry.

I wanted to go, but I also wanted to know where I was going.  So, I went online to find this little mountainous, landlocked, poverty-stricken country tucked away in Central Asia—about as far away from home as you can get.  This little country with a population of only 8.7 million people is bordered on the East by China and on the south by Afghanistan.

In 1991 the Tajiks who, for seventy years, had been under Russia’s rule, gained their independence when the USSR was dissolved.

Tajikistan is considered to be a secular state with a constitution that provides for religious freedom.  However, this freedom comes with many restraints.

Ninety-eight percent of the population is Muslim, though many do not adhere to the strict lifestyle or religious practices of Islam.

My weeks, in Dushanbe, the capital city, were a whirlwind of activity.  I spoke for two women’s retreats, substituted at the “Silk Road Academy,” a school for missionary kids, and the children of other expats.  I preached at the international church, and so much more.

Though missionaries are not allowed in the country, everywhere I went I found these beautiful people.  They came, not just from the U.S. but from other countries and a number of different mission organizations.  Each one had an official job—medical doctors, university professors, linguists, engineers, cosmetologists, students, soil experts.  But—under the radar—they were all there for one purpose.  Quietly they went about their work taking every opportunity to share the gospel.

I met an amazing Korean couple from New Jersey, who were well into their middle years.  They had served fifteen years in Afghanistan.  Now in Dushanbe, they opened a Beauty School.  They were concerned for young people who had no direction, no skills and no way to make a living.  So the youngsters came and learned a trade free of charge, and while they learned, this Korean “Mom and Pop” quietly shared Christ with them.

My hosts had worked in Tajikistan for seventeen years. They came as youngsters with a baby girl.  There were no other American missionaries there at the time.  They found a place to live and hired a language teacher.   It is incredible what they had accomplished.  They had established a Bible training school for potential Tajik pastors, helped start an international church, launched a peanut butter and coffee grinding company, established a ministry to abused and abandoned women, opened and staffed “The Morning Star” café, personally training every employee, and planted an elementary academy.

Eve baked cakes and pies and cookies and took them to her Muslim neighbors.  She just wiggled her way into the hearts of these precious people letting the love of Christ flow.

“How did you do all this in seventeen years, I asked?

“We just loved the people,” Eve replied.

And—the people loved them.  People, who were not yet converted to Christ, were converted to this genuine love.

I was enchanted by the Tajik people.  I learned that the red haired Tajiks were the gift left behind by Alexander the Great and his army twenty-five hundred years ago.

I visited the mountain site where ancient Persian kings built their castles overlooking the valley where they trained their great armies.

I was a guest at a Muslim wedding celebration, where the women danced with women and the men with men.  At the Muslim commemoration of “Abraham’s offering of Ishmael,” I ate fried goat in the home of a Tajik Rock Star, where a goat was sacrificed later in the afternoon.  I didn’t hang around for that one.

The next day, still celebrating, I sat on the floor in a farm house, by a beautiful carpet loaded with every kind of delicacy, and ate “Osh,” the national dish.  I was given a fork, though the nationals eat it with their hands, from a communal pot.

Each morning I walked across the road, tapped on a window, which magically opened, and for a pittance, I received a fresh, warm loaf of yummy bread—my breakfast.

Not dismissing the awesome snowcapped mountains, one of the most delightful sights I saw was a giant poster, displayed in a shop window, advertising “Snickers” candy bars. To my way of thinking, “Snickers” run a close second to peanut butter as the world’s ultimate comfort food.  I knew, then, I would survive my time in Tajikistan.

Sharing, laughing, eating, and worshipping with Tajik believers, who were won to Christ through love and faithful witness, was the most blessed of my experiences.

I think now of these committed converts, who have chosen a steep, uphill climb, and I think of those who are laboring faithfully for the cause of the gospel.

Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation…”

In all of our holiday celebration, let’s not forget our fellow believers in faraway places, and the beautiful people, who sacrifice in order to bring “glad tidings.”

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What A Waste

It was early morning, and I was bouncing around in the back of a huge truck on my way to the city dump, in Calcutta, India. (The city is now called Kolkata)  I have sent tons of garbage to the city dump in my hometown, but I have never been there.  So, why in the world—why would I get up before sunrise to visit a dump?

Actually, this site, where 4,000 tons of new waste is dumped each day, is known as Calcutta’s Garbage Mountain, and it has become, for some twisted reason, a tourist site.  No wonder!  The dump covers sixty acres and is ten stories high.  It is permanently on fire from the combustible waste deposited there, and no one tries to put it out.  A fetid, unbearable stench hangs heavily in the air.

Amazingly, in 2016, Calcutta received an award for impressive waste management.  I dare say that the 30,000 miserable souls that live permanently on or around the garbage heap are not impressed.

Many of these garbage residents are rag pickers or waste pickers.  One can find almost anything there including dead babies, smuggled chocolates and medicine, money and even gold.  These souls spend their days sorting through the “yuck” picking out recyclable stuff and burning rotting bodies.

When Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan in 1971, the population of Calcutta grew from one million to eight million overnight.  (Current population is fourteen million.)  The city had no provision for such an influx.

When engineers were asked for a solution, they replied, “Raze the place and start over!”

I was in Calcutta for the first time in 1980.  The sights I saw and the experiences I had sear the mind and make faint the heart.  Never before had I seen such abject poverty, such suffering.  Multitudes lived on the sidewalks sheltered only by a cardboard lean-to.  They drank from the gutters, and at dusk, they lit their charcoal burners to heat tea and prepare what meager food they had.  All over the city black smoke filled the atmosphere and settled on everything in sight.  Beggars were everywhere.  A trip to the market drew a throng of little black-eyed boys begging to be hired to carry parcels.

I was there for ministry, but I ashamedly admit that there were days I was reluctant to leave the house.  However, on that early morning, in 1980, we were on our way to “Garbage Mountain” not as tourists or to see the sites—we were there to feed the hungry.

The line had already begun to form before our truck came to a halt at the designated site.  It was all very orderly.  In single file, the line of women and children snaked through the wasteland as far as the eye could see waiting politely for the one nutritious meal they would have that day.  They came with their tin cups and other containers.

Each one was given a cup of milk and two substantial whole grain pancakes.  I don’t know how long we were there or how many people we fed, but after awhile they were gone.  I imagined they had found a quiet place among the rubbish to enjoy, perhaps, the only meal they would have that day.

I asked why there were no men in the line.  I was told that, if the men were fed, there would be no motivation to find work.

Our faithful, longtime, missionaries worked tirelessly.  They had established a thriving church, an elementary school, a feeding program and a hospital in Calcutta, and in every place, in every way, they preached the good news of Jesus Christ.  Yet, from a distance, stacked up against eight million “waste” people it seemed so little—too little.

The trip to the dump hung over me like an albatross.  I thought about those emaciated children gladdened by a cup of milk, and I wondered whether or not I had made any difference at all while I was there.

In reflection, I thought of the widow in Mark 12: 42 (The Message) “One poor widow…put in two small coins—a measly two cents.  Jesus…said…this poor widow gave more than all the others…she gave extravagantly what she could not afford—she gave her all.”

The “garbage dump” people around us are seldom lovely and appealing.  Sometimes they are utterly repulsive.  But in Matthew 10:31, Jesus, who cares when a sparrow falls, declared that the least person is worth more to Him then many sparrows.

Jesus asks us to look at the need around us.  He asks to give extravagantly, even what we cannot afford—to give our all.  In fact, Luke 38 (The Message) says, “Give away your life…giving, not getting, is the way.  Generosity begets generosity.”

You may feel that “your all” is not very much, but just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, He will multiply your “gift” and make it more than enough.

Giving “all” brings bonus and blessing.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

SISTER EFFIE

Effie Doshier was my Sunday school teacher when I was five years old.  I adored her.  When permitted, I sat with her in church.  It was there on a Sunday evening where, after the pastor preached, she bent and whispered in my ear.

“Faye,” she asked softly, “Would you like to pray with me and ask Jesus to come into your heart?”  I was already crying knowing, though I couldn’t have verbalized it at the time, the Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart.

“Uh huh,” I answered with a sob.

She took my little hand and led me to the altar, where we knelt together.  She prayed with me as I confessed my sin and invited Jesus into my heart.

Many would pooh-pooh such a practice, but I knew exactly what I was doing.  Salvation was a truth I had heard over and over again during my short life.

I don’t remember most things that happened to me when I was five years old, but I do remember that night.  That initial salvation experience became a new way of life in Christ Jesus.

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It was a life like that of other believers – a life of spiritual successes and mistakes, a life of growth and backsliding.  Sometimes it seemed that for every step I took forward, I took two backward.  In spite of missteps along the way, with God’s help and that of my parents, pastors and mentors, I stayed the course.

God kept me through those lean teenage years, until finally by a difficult and circuitous route, I understood God’s plan for my life—a place in full time ministry.

Saying “Yes” to God meant becoming a world missionary.  That was a nearly impossible decision to make.  Leaving everyone I loved and, more particularly, everyone who loved me was almost more than I could bear.  Yet,obedience was my only alternative, if I expected God’s blessing on my life.

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In preparation for ministry overseas, I was required to visit our churches and raise support for my work.

 

 

On a Sunday morning, at a little church in Arvin, California, I stood before the congregation and told them that God had called me to minister in Europe on behalf of children.  I talked about how necessary it is to reach kids while they are young, and how foolish we are to wait until lives are ruined before they are confronted with the claims of the gospel.

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As I shared, I recounted the story of my own salvation telling how Sister Effie Doshier had led me to Christ at the age of five.

Following the morning service, a feisty little lady with a sassy hat perched on her white hair came to the front of the sanctuary to shake my hand.

Looking up at me, scrutinizing every feature, she asked, “Are you Faye Clark, whom I used to know in Mesa, Arizona?

“I’m Faye Clark,” I replied, “And I used to live in Mesa.”

“Well, I am Effie Doshier, your Sunday school teacher, “she announced with a great deal of satisfaction.

My family had been close to the Doshiers when I was little, but they moved away and I lost all track of them having no idea where they were.  I was totally dumbfounded by this turn of events.  Nothing would do but I have lunch with Effie and her daughter.  As adults, we became friends.  I spent nights with her when I was in the area.  After I went to the field, she sent me $5.00 and $10.00 money orders with sweet letters.

Effie was kind of like the little widow in Luke 21:2, who put two mites in the offering.  Jesus said that she had given more than anyone because she gave all she had.  Effie’s support was not the greatest amount I ever received, but it certainly was the best.

I can’t forget that she gave her life for ministry to children just as I had.  She was one of the reasons I was in the ministry.

It has been many years since I ministered to children, and I understand that it is getting more difficult to find workers today who will take the time for kids.  But, I must tell you that there is nothing more satisfying than leading a child to Christ knowing that a whole life has been saved for His Kingdom.

If you have young children in your home, don’t neglect their spiritual welfare.  Talk to them about Jesus.  Read the Word to them.  Pray with them.  Don’t leave this all-important responsibility to someone else.

AND – if you have any energy left at all, volunteer to help with the kids at your church.  Be like Sister Effie and give your best to Him.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW