Flatirons Men's Afghanistan Trip Day Eight - Sunday, April 29, 2012
I can't even count how many times I've heard the word foundation or foundational used in the business, ethical and cultural worlds. "This is foundational to our marketing strategy" or "The very foundation of our beliefs is centered on (fill in the blank)". But rarely do I get to hear stuff like, "We've got to frame this out so that we can pour the foundation." Today we headed back out to Barak Aub for a second visit to do just that; work on a foundation. There is a widow in the Barak Aub community who is having a house built for her (Thanks, in part, to Flatirons) and we were hoping to get the chance to help a little.
It was a beautiful, clear day as we made the 45 minute trip out of Kabul. Now, I have the directional capabilities of a blind flea, but some of the routes we've been taking are even becoming familiar to me. I can almost find our way back to the guest house, once we're within spitting distance, "Oh yeah...I know! We turn here at the disemboweled sheep shop...then turn left at the rug shop with the armed guard out front!" The men at Barak Aub were already at work when we arrived. In short order, the team was given directives, handed rubber dishwashing gloves, and put to work moving rocks. The foundations on the homes in this little community are all laid the same way -- the way they've been laid for centuries. Large, granite rocks are fitted into a pre-dug trench on the outside and inside parts of the trench, then smaller bits-and-pieces of rock are used to fill the center...in between the larger bordering rocks. Steve Yeager was our eyes and ears on the actual building of the foundation. We needed someone to REALLY learn how this is done because our hope is to come back to Colorado and build a fire pit at the church, using the same technique, in an effort to honor our friends at Barak Aub. So while Steve worked with the foundation masons, the rest of us worked on strengthening our lower backs. We spent the better part of the morning moving rocks and boulders to several designated areas at the building site. It was fun...hauling rocks with the locals...wearing pink rubber gloves...silently communicating with the men (and boys) at Barak Aub...connecting through work and laughter.
The biggest takeaway for me all morning came during our tea break. You always have to break for tea and biscuits at the worksite. While we sipped chai tea, I walked over to observe the building of the foundation. I was struck by the sight of this one little boy. He couldn't be any older than 4 years. He wore a corduroy clothe winter jacket, pants, sandals, and his little head was topped off by a dusty, red cap. He reminded me so much of my own son, Ben, at that age. This little boy was diligently working side-by-side with the other two Afghan men working the foundation. He would look over and judge the size of rock needed, then trot over to a rock pile (a pile we had made), find the right sized rock, then bring it back...and the man would put it into place. Perfect! Standing in this biblical-like land, I watched and wondered if this was what it looked like for Jesus, when he was learning the tools of the carpenter trade from His earthly father, Joseph. This little boy was obviously welcomed at the site -- and even a help. I couldn't tell if either of the men was the little boy's father or not...and it didn't matter. Either way, he was learning something...something foundational...in the metaphorical sense. He was learning how to help...how to be a productive part of his society...and that he mattered...no matter how young or old he was. He mattered to these men and to his village. And that's a foundation that will last long after these rocks crumble and become part of history again.
Our team ended our last day in Barak Aub meeting with a few of the elders from the community. We listened to them, and watched their body language, as they shared their recent struggles and need for more assistance. We all felt helpless, listening to the two main elders talk about their plight. Leaving Barak Aub left the team more than a little somber. When (if ever) will we be back here again? And how will these people fare between now and when we get back. This is where faith has to hold true. God has this in control every bit as much as He does our lives back in Colorado.
The night ended with a special trip to Camp Eggers -- a military installation in the heart of Kabul. Our host was able to get us clearance so that we could join the troops for evening church. We were dropped off at the street and began the long walk through several different security checks. The street was a chasm bordered by high cement walls topped with razor wire. Concrete barriers and armed guards are scattered along the long walk to Camp Eggers entrance. Once we had cleared security, we were escorted by one of the soldiers to the camp church tent. Inside, we joined the troops, sitting in metal folding chairs, singing praise songs to a band made up almost exclusively of soldiers at Eggers. I sat next to one of the largest men I have ever seen. He was a sergeant from North Carolina who stood at 6'8", but looked like he was every bit of 8 feet! And he had the voice of an angel. I know Jim Burgen would love this church. It's the only time I went to church and people laid their automatic weapons on the floor to worship! The "congregation" said goodbye to one of the officers heading home after a year away from home. He shared with the group that he was going home to his wife and four kids -- the youngest being a year old. I don't know how they do it. I've been away from home a total of 8 days and I'm already counting down the hours to see my wife Amy and the rest of the family. This guy's been away from home for a year. He's missed all that stuff you miss when your kids morph through that first year. It made my heart ache.
My heart has ached a lot since landing in Kabul over a week ago. It ached at the school. It ached in Barak Aub. It ached at Camp Eggers. And I know the biggest ache is still to come; when we load up to leave on Tuesday.