In the Land of Blue Burqas, with Kate McCordFinding God in the Hard Places
Leslie Basham: How does your American mindset on suffering affect your view of God? Here’s Kate McCord.
Kate McCord: We Americans, we kind of believe that if we’re being good and we’re doing it all right, God’s going to bless us. Then when things turn bad, we say, “Where are You?” So much of my journey in Afghanistan was in the hard places. To experience God’s presence pretty consistently in the hard places was such a growing and learning experience for me.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, November 2.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, I’m so thankful to have had the acquaintance to meet Kate McCord, having read her book recently, In the Land of Blue Burqas, speaking of the land of Afghanistan.
Kate, what a privilege now to meet you and to sense the greatness of the life of Christ in you, your heart for Him, your love for His Word, your love for the Afghan people, for those in the Islamic faith, but I think you just love people. God’s put that love in you, but it wasn’t always that way.
I want to take just a moment to let you share your personal testimony. You didn’t grow up in a believing family. Give us a nutshell version of how you came to personal faith in Christ.
Kate: Sure. I’d love to do that. I love it that you say I love people and then ask me to share my testimony. I remember very clearly being an angry, young adult. I didn’t have a very good upbringing—a lot of hard times growing up. My mother was a single mom. My father left when I was very young. And then she remarried, and that wasn’t a good situation.
So really, a lot of hard times growing up. I arrived into adulthood with my fists clenched and ready to fight my way through life. I think that God was patient and watching and drawing and wooing me to Him until . . . and I say finally . . . I thought it was finally at the time. I was twenty-five when I really heard the gospel for the first time.
I was actually visiting my grandparents and went to Christmas Eve service. I think about that every year when I get prayer requests for Christmas Eve services. I think, “There’s going to be a young Kate walking in the door on your Christmas Eve service, and she’s going to hear, or a young man, he’s going to hear the gospel that night.”
I was only there because of my grandparents, and so I heard the gospel.
Nancy: And didn’t you have a coworker who challenged you to read the Bible?
Kate: I did. That was actually a week after that. He challenged me to read the Bible. I was in Southern California, and he tried to share The Four Spiritual Laws, and how great Christianity was. I was a pretty rabid feminist, so I told him off. I might have cussed him out. I was a very angry young woman.
He said, “Well, don’t believe me. Go read the Book.” And I thought, “Well, I’m pretty smart, and I’ve read a lot of stuff, so why not. I’ll go read it.”
Nancy: Because you’d been into other philosophy and religion?
Kate: I had, yes. I considered myself an existentialist, and so I’d read quite a bit. I didn’t even have a Bible. I went and found a Bible someone had left in my house with all their childhood belongings—it was in storage. It was an old King James.
I weighed my life in the balance, and I committed my life to Christ when I was twenty-five, and He just radically transformed me since then. I mean, my life even today, next to who I was at twenty-five isn’t really recognizable. It’s just absolutely transformed my life. I wouldn’t trade the hard times or the good times for anything in the world. I think there’s such a richness in knowing God and walking through our lives with God that is worth everything.
Nancy: And an evidence of the grace of God in you is the desire for others to have what you have come to know in Jesus Christ, to see God’s kingdom expanded beyond your own life into this world.
Kate: Absolutely, and even as a young follower of Christ, I wanted everybody I know to know God, and so I witnesses to everyone. Most of my family told me to shut up and go away, but I think as a young person it was more like, “Hey, I found something good. Why don’t you come and find this good thing, too? There’s just nothing like it.”
Nancy: Your book, In a Land of Blue Burqas, talks about your years of serving as a humanitarian aid worker in Afghanistan and getting into the homes, into the taxis, into the marketplace, just talking with, getting to know women and men as well.
It’s interesting . . . there’d be some who would say that all we need to do as followers of Christ in those hard places is to do good works, and you certainly have done many helpful things for that war-ravaged, oppressed, economic-warped part of the world, but you’ve also found it’s important to talk about Christ, to have conversations, and you’ve been real open about that.
In fact, I heard somebody on another program ask you how long before you meet somebody there that you start talking about Jesus. What did you tell them?
Kate: I think probably about three minutes.
Nancy: You jump right in there.
Kate: Well, My relationship with God, who God is, is the most important thing in my life. There’s nothing that compares. Everything that we see, every place we walk, we walk with God. Why wouldn’t some aspect of my faith be a part of my conversations very quickly?
It’s not like I want to shove my faith down somebody else’s throat and make them believe the things I believe. It’s that I want to share with them our collective journeys toward wholeness, toward God, that’s so rich to me, so important to me. So yes, I want to talk about God quickly, and I want to share that. I want people I’m talking to, whether they’re Afghans or Americans, to share with me how they’re finding peace and love and joy in their lives, how they’re finding God in their lives, how they’re making sense out of a world that’s just crazy.
Nancy: And yet you know that the only way to the Father is through Christ the Son.
Kate: Absolutely, and as we’re talking to people who don’t know that, we want to find people who are open to spiritual things, who want to know God, who want to live pure lives, lives full of love and joy.
Nancy: And so as you would talk with women in their homes in Afghanistan, how would it become apparent to you that, “Here’s a woman that God is drawing, whose heart is open”?
I was just reading this week in the book of Acts, and Paul going to Philippi. He met Lydia there, and he said, “God opened her heart” to be attentive to the things Paul said. Was that your experience? Did you find some Lydias as you were having conversation?
Kate: Absolutely, in Afghanistan and in America. What I like to do is I like to very gently expose my faith, live my faith out loud. It might be through praying for someone. A woman may say, “My husband needs a job.” Often they’ll tell me that because they want me to hire their husbands when I’m in Afghanistan. I would say, “Well, can I pray for your husband, because I’m a follower of the Honorable Jesus Messiah, and God says that we should take everything we care about and pray for them. I don’t know if He’ll give your husband a job or not, but I’d like to pray for him. Is that all right?” I’ve never had an Afghan say, “No, please don’t do that.” I’ve never even had an American say, “Please don’t do that.”
I would just stop right there and say not a long prayer, no thee’s and thou’s . . . just very simply, “Lord God of the universe, Father in heaven, please provide a job for this woman’s husband—or this woman’s son—in the name of the Honorable Jesus Messiah, amen.” And the prayer’s done.
Nancy: Now, did they ever pray those kinds of spontaneous prayers?
Kate: After I modeled it we would pray.
Nancy: But it’s not part of the Islamic practice typically?
Kate: No. There’s a form of prayer where they can pray their heart, but to pray it out loud over someone else like that is not something that normally happens, but people would do that eventually.
Nancy: That’s something, by the way, that you can do in restaurants. I find often as I meet people, and if you’re just sensitive to anything that’s going on in their life that may be God-creating circumstances to make them sense their need, to just stop and say, “Would it be okay for me to pray for you right here?”
I’ve done that many times. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a person who seemed to be troubled by my doing that.
Kate: And they always appreciate it.
Kate: Even if they think I’m a little whacky, they still appreciate it. Then for those who are hungry spiritually, you watch them draw you closer, want more of that.
Often, in Afghanistan, I would pray before a meal, and the Muslim custom is to pray after a meal. The Afghan custom is to pray after a meal. And so I would pray. I would ask permission. I would say, “It’s my custom.” I would say, “The God of the universe says we should thank Him for everything He’s given us.” And they would all say, “Yes, of course.” That’s something that Muslims believe as well.
So then I would say, “Well, it’s my custom to pray before the meal and thank God for the meal. With your permission, could I do that?” And no one ever said no, and so I would pray. And when I prayed, I would pray a blessing on the household. I would just pray, “Lord God of the universe, Father in heaven, please bless this house for welcoming me, a stranger, into it. Thank You for this food that is before us. Bless our conversation and show us the right way to live. In Jesus’ name, amen.” Not long. Not full of thee’s and thou’s and really spiritual talk, but just committing that time to Christ. It would often change the whole mood of our conversation.
You asked before how would we know if someone’s really hungry for God. Well, if I pray like that and they’re hungry for God, they would usually ask me something like, “What do you think’s going to happen to you when you die?” or “Do you always pray?” or “Do you know your Scriptures?” Or a spiritual question.
Whereas, if they weren’t interested in that sort of thing, they would immediately change to the weather. Then I would know, “Oh, this person doesn’t want to talk about the things of God,” and so we wouldn’t, and then I might not spend a lot of time with them later.
Nancy: Are there some things, Kate, that you can say to people in conversation that would give them a sense of whether they’re interested in spiritual things?
Kate: Oh yes, absolutely. There are a number of things that I’ve learned to share in Afghanistan. Sometimes it’s just as simple as . . . in Afghanistan, we say, “Khoda hafiz,” which is to say, “May God protect you.” That’s how you say goodbye. And so instead of saying that, I might say something like, “May God protect you with His peace.” Or in America, instead of saying, “Hey, see ya later,” I might say something like, “Well, may God bless you with that.”
Or if someone says they’re having problems . . . For example, I was talking the other day with someone who came to fix something at my house. He was talking to me about some economic problems he was having and trying to figure that out, and I just said, “May God give you the wisdom to deal with that issue.”
Nancy: You’re bringing God into the equation. He’s there, and you’re just letting them know that.
Kate: Yes. And by doing that, by making those kinds of statements, we’re kind of testing the waters to see how someone’s going to respond.
I remember saying something in the presence of a plumber who came to my house, and he just stopped in his tracks, and he turned around, and he said, “You know, I have to depend on God every day because it’s hard to keep ahead financially in this climate.” That’s all he said, and he went and he fixed my leaks, and he left. But that man walked away encouraged, and I walked away encouraged.
Nancy: Actually, the man who built my house came to faith in Christ while we were building the house because of conversations that were started that way, and he has become an earnest follower of Christ.
Kate: Wow! Fantastic! I think so many people think, “Well, I have to have the whole story," or "I have to have all the answers before I can say hello.” I think we should just start with hello. You meet someone on the street or in the work place, and you just say, “Hello, how are you doing?”
As you’re talking to someone, you say these statements that allow them to see you’re a person of faith, and they get to decide if they pursue those conversations or not. I think that’s very gracious, a very gracious way to present ourselves in the community.
I did this in Afghanistan, and those people who were really interested in the things of God, they followed up, and they asked questions, and we went on to have lots of God conversations.
Nancy: Now, those whose hearts God is working in a deep way, and He’s drawing them to faith, putting faith in their hearts, is that something they could share openly with you? How careful do they have to be? What do they face if it were known they were converting from Islam to Christianity?
Kate: That’s such an interesting question. We have a very different way of viewing the faith journey. I think ours is a more biblically nuanced way, but I don’t know why it’s so different for us in Afghanistan. As we’re talking to people, I’m sharing Jesus stories with Afghans where they are. They don’t know of Jesus as anything more than a prophet at this point in the conversation, but they’re listening to His teachings.
For example, there was a situation in Afghanistan where a woman was telling me about her daughter’s mother-in-law. She was just full of bitterness and was always complaining and always mean. I talked to this woman about the pain and the anger in her heart and how that was just washing over into everyone in her life.
As I talked to this woman about that, she was more and more attentive to what was being said, and she was applying those lessons to her own life. Through that conversation, she was learning who Jesus is, what He teaches us, and following Him—changing her life to apply His teachings.
Now sometimes we call that pre-conversation discipleship, but that’s the model we have from the New Testament. Jesus spent three years teaching, and people spent three years learning from Him, and their attitudes and their lifestyles were changing as they went along.
We have an interesting story where He told a group of people a teaching about His body actually being bread, and most of the people left.
Nancy: Yes—John 6.
Kate: Yes. And He turned to the other disciples and said, “Are you going to leave, too?” And they said, “No. Who else—where else can we go?” Peter said, “You have the words to eternal life. Where else can we go?”
Jesus was just beginning to teach them about the cross. And even after the crucifixion and resurrection, they still didn’t really understand it.
So this becomes what we see as a process, a journey. What happens in Afghanistan is that men and women enter this journey. They begin to learn from Jesus. They fall in love with Him. They get to know Him. They don’t know the cross. They know we believe in the cross, but they really don’t know anything about it. They don’t know very much about the incarnation, about Jesus as God at that point.
What they know is that Jesus is beautiful, that His teachings are good, that they want to live that way. And so they begin following Jesus from the beginning, and over time, they draw closer and closer to Jesus. And many ultimately seek Him out as their Savior and commit their lives to Him as their Lord.
Now throughout that early time, they’re sharing all the things they’re learning with their family members and with their friends. They’re sharing the stories. They’re doing all of this openly, and if they’re very open, and their family members are seeing positive change, they accept the journey.
If they’re not open, or their family members are seeing negative change, their family members will not accept their faith.
Nancy: That’s similar here, really.
Kate: Exactly like it is here, right.
Nancy: As you think about your years of loving and serving the Afghan people, how has it changed your life?
Kate: Oh, it has so changed my life. When I went to Afghanistan, I had a pretty good biblical understanding. I had a pretty good understanding of who God is. We never arrive, of course, but then I went there, and everything I believed was tested and challenged. The Afghans really challenged me just by their questions to very simply articulate what it was I believed.
That caused me to go back and look at Scripture and think about the story and simplify it. It’s very hard for us as evangelical Christians to simplify. We know the Bible so well that we almost get lost in the details.
Nancy: Right. That’s why it’s good to be able to explain it to children or to people who’ve never heard it before.
Kate: Right. My first pastor said, “If you want to learn to teach Scripture or be an evangelist or pastor, you should start by teaching kindergartners about Jesus.”
What Afghans did was they challenged me to really articulate my faith. In doing so, the simplicity and the power of the gospel through the stories that revealed who God is and who we are and what He’s doing for us just blossomed within my heart. My faith has grown so much stronger. My understanding of who God is and what He’s done for us has just grown deeper into myself.
And in the hardness of Afghanistan, experiencing His presence, I think, especially in the places of suffering . . . We Americans, kind of believe that if we’re being good and we’re doing it all right, God’s going to bless us, and then when things turn bad, we say, “Where are You?” So much of my journey in Afghanistan was in the hard places. To experience God’s presence pretty consistently in the hard places was such a growing and learning experience for me, a deepening and a broadening experience—rich, just so rich.
Nancy: Now, ultimately, it got to be very hard where you were, and you had to leave.
Kate: We did.
Kate: We had to leave because I was living in a small town, and there were very few of us foreigners in that small town, and the security deteriorated. Some things happened to one of the members of our foreign community that just proved to us that we could no longer move about.
It was heartbreaking, but we had to make a pretty quick decision that we were going to evacuate. So I lost my home, my Afghan friends, my Afghan staff. When I went to shut down our projects, there were people I never got to say goodbye to, and I just so hope I’ll see them in heaven.
Nancy: You expect you will see some of them?
Kate: Oh, yes, and I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to arriving in heaven, and there’s—I won’t say their names—but there’s this one and this one and this one, and they’re all at that banquet table. I mean, what a homecoming. What a blessed homecoming for us that will be.
Nancy: Yes. How can we pray for women in the Muslim world and Afghanistan and those Muslims in our own back yard. How can we pray for them?
Kate: It’s so important for us to pray for our neighbors. God said His two greatest commandments were: “Love Him and love our neighbors.” One of the manifestations, one of the expressions of our love is to pray for the people that are around us.
I ask very simply that when Americans think about Afghanistan, if you see Afghanistan on the news, if you see a Muslim walking down the street, pray for Afghanistan, pray for the Muslim world. That’s the reminder. Pray God’s blessing. Pray God’s freedom, God’s deliverance.
The Bible says where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, and Christ came to set us free. Every time you’re reminded of Muslims, every time you hear someone . . . even if you’re listening to a rant and someone’s complaining about “those horrible people,” turn it off and pray for those precious-to-God-beautiful people who He has loved from the foundations of the earth; that they might know His freedom, the fullness of His love, the celebration of salvation in Christ Jesus.
Nancy: Well, amen, amen. There’s so much more of this kind of thinking and heart expressed in Kate’s book—Kate McCord. It’s a pseudonym, and yet her heart is authentic through and through. She’s shared this journey and what God has done in her heart and her burden for the Afghan women in her book called, In the Land of Blue Burqas.
I hope lots and lots and lots of our listeners will get a copy of this book and read it and use it as a prompt to pray, to be concerned, to engage with people who don’t know Christ, and do it in a winsome way, and to believe God for His salvation to reach into the darkest and hardest corners of the earth.
We’d like to send you a copy of Kate’s book, and we’ll be glad to do that as our way of saying “thank you” when you send a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts so that we can keep calling women to experience freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.
So give us a call at 1-800-569-5959, or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com, and let us know you’d like to make a contribution to this ministry, and then be sure to let us know that you’d like to have a copy of Kate’s book.
Kate, thank you so much. You’re a new sister. I love you. I’m so thankful for you, and I just pray God’s blessings on you as you continue being His light, shining the light of Christ into the places where He’s called you—still ministering in that part of the world in a number of different ways and as the Lord provides opportunities.
I hope our listeners will pray for you as well. The Lord knows the details. He knows exactly where you are and what you’re doing and the things that you can’t say on this program—things you can’t say publicly—but the Lord knows. I know a lot of our listeners are going to want to be lifting you up and praying for you in the days ahead.
Thank you, thank you so much for joining us.
Kate: Nancy, thank you. This has just really been fun for me. I’ve enjoyed all of our conversations. You’re a blessing.
Leslie: I hope you’ll be back with us next week on Revive Our Hearts. Later in the week, Nancy will begin the series, The Lord’s Prayer, Part 3, and we’ll also be praying for our nation, leading up to next week’s election. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.
Topics: Oppressed Women and Children