What thoughts come to your mind when you hear the country name, ‘Afghanistan’? I still think of the Taliban in a barren desert with guns in training to become terrorists. I tried to erase that image with the thought that missions must continue in that country, but I was truly humbled as I was reading a letter from a missionary who has traveled over 60 times to Afghanistan since 2003 and, for over 13 years, ministering to the country’s starved and poor. I realized that unless you’ve been there you really can’t see the situation and unless you’ve encountered it you will never understand. This is what was written in the Christmas letter from the missionary: “I never even dreamed that my life would be used this way. As I traveled to Afghanistan for the last 13 years, I saw the beauty of this country and things that other could not see; people with warm hearts, diligently working to survive and to overcome their adversity."
When Christmas time comes, I am reminded of a movie I saw a long time ago called “Home Alone”. It is a movie about a family going on a family vacation but, unexpectedly, a young boy is left behind, home alone. This movie contains humorous stories as well as heart-warming episodes of the little boy’s experience of being home alone. In the movie is a character, middle-aged man with a scary face wearing dark coat and a beanie. However, he comes to realize that even this scary man was lonely being cut off from his family. The man’s heart, which initially would not open, opened up to this little boy and with encouragement, eventually, contacts his family.
This scary man, seeking forgiveness and being able to spend a warm Christmas with his family, in reality was a lonely, warm-hearted grandfather who missed his grand children. Perhaps some of you may not even remember that part of the story in the movie. However, do you see an overlap in the image of the big smile on this scary man’s face after being united with his family, and the warmth of the Afghan people that the missionary saw?
As the missionary diligently traveled to a “Do Not Travel” country in desolate environment where we thought only advocated terrorist activities, he began to see things that we could not see. Nervously traveling for the last 60 times into a constant danger, after he gave and gave some more, served and served some more, he saw the “warmth” of the people. Perhaps, as the heart of the scary faced man melted, the hardened heart of these people can also be melted by a touch of love. Christmas is a season of love where God came to us to soften our hardened hearts. With the love of God, who came to seek us, contact and visit those that you have given up on. Even if they will not see you, an unexpected gift will still await you.
Rev. Bryan Kim is the lead pastor of Bethel Korean Church, located in Irvine, CA.