Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back from Pakistan


I've spent the past few days in Pakistan, in my imagination, as I've been reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

Of all the places in the world to hang out, Pakistan wouldn't be on my list. I've even been to India - and while I was there I remember hearing things about Pakistan that were scary. And here this guy Greg Mortenson, an American mountain climber, ends up making it his second home.

The book details how Mortenson promises some kindly and poor mountain village folks that he will help them build a school for their kids. And then keeps his promise. No small task considering the travel, fundraising, and politics involved for an American to zoom in and start big construction projects.

Weirdest for me was that though Mortenson has a Christian background, I understand from the book that he doesn't embrace a particular faith himself. And throughout the book, as he serves and loves the poor and suffering, I kept wondering not just whether a strong follower of Jesus would do what Mortenson did, but whether one could. Oftentimes, doors were open to Mortenson specifically because he wasn't a Christian. And he didn't back away when the opportunities arose for him to learn to pray with Muslims, washing ritually and bowing to Mecca.

This book, though fascinating, isn't exactly an action-packed thriller, yet I didn't notice what page I was on until into the 300s. I wanted to follow Greg Mortenson around, adventure after adventure, and get a closer look at his heart. I am thankful to him and to David Oliver Relin for writing the story. Certainly, my views of Muslims, terrorists, and that whole area of our planet have been altered for the better. I was elated to read the Afterword where I learned that Three Cups of Tea "has been a freshman, honors, or campus-wide required reading selection in over eighty universities and hundreds of schools. It is also required reading for senior U.S. military commanders, Pentagon officers in counter-insurgency training, and Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan...." Hallelujah! And in some way, it benefited this Western United States suburban housewife as well.
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