So, how did you guys do with July's challenge?
There are two countries that really stood out to me that I have never spent much time learning about or praying for before.
The first is Afghanistan. I hear about it all the time in the news, but in reality, how much does the news really say? I didn't know much about the country past Islam, the Taliban, and death tolls. Well, maybe I knew I little bit more than that, but not much.
When learning the history of this war-torn country, the people that God really placed on my heart are the women. I won't go into much detail, but really, the way of life for the women of Afghanistan in recent history is beyond my comprehension. I am far from being a feminist, but I am so thankful for the freedom I have known my whole life.
I will leave it to you (for now) to research more if you are interested, but I will recommend a book called "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini. The characters and story are fictional, but the setting is real life Afghanistan over a stretch of several decades. I promise, if you read this book, you will be changed.
The second country, Eritrea, is one I knew nothing about other than location.
What drew me to Eritrea is a man named Andy.
Andy works at a Photo Lab. Six years ago when I returned from my first trip to Africa, I went to his photo lab to get my pictures developed. When I went to pick them up he said he really enjoyed my pictures from Ethiopia, because they reminded him of home.
I learned that Andy was from Eritrea, and fled to Ethiopia due to political crisis in his home country, and from there he moved to the United States.
Other than what Andy had told me about Eritea, I never learned anything more. That is until I was looking over the map of persecuted countries, and saw Eritrea there in red.
I don't use that photo lab anymore (thanks to digital cameras and the internet), but every once in a while I'll stop by and say hi to Andy. He has followed my journey to Zimbabwe and back, and when I walk in he greets me with a warm smile and says, "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be somewhere in Africa?" (He says that everytime :)
After I read more about Eritrea and the suffering its people, specifically its Christians, have under gone, it really gives me a greater respect and intrigue for my friend.
And that brings me to this month's challenge:
Learn somebody's story.
I hope to, this month, visit Andy and learn more of his story, as well as others.
We interact with dozens of people everday. I have noticed the older I get and the more of a hurry I am in, the shorter and less significant these interactions become.
It could be anyone: your barista, someone you work with, someone who goes to your church, a friend of a friend, someone you interact with online...the possibilities are endless. Challenge yourself to go a little deeper with someone outside your normal comfortable circle.
To this day I have a friend that I shook hands with at a church I was visiting three years ago during the usual 1 minute "greet someone you don't know" time, a friend who I met two years ago sitting the row in front of me at a concert, and a friend I made six years ago at a photo lab.
These monthly challenges are things, in my own life, that I see need change, or that God places on my heart to do. This month's challenge is personal to me, as it is something I miss about myself.
I want to slow down and take the time once again to really hear people, to know them, and to learn their stories. Will you join me?