News for the Church, 8/6/21

Good morning, Church!

What a beautiful summer day we’re having today. I had given up hoping that we might have one more burst of summer weather before fall sets in, so I am joyfully soaking up this week’s heat! 

Here’s the news this week:

News on Humaira

Humaira, the brave, young woman coming to Clarkson this fall from Afghanistan, left Kabul this week and flew into Islamabad, Pakistan, to await an interview with the US Embassy for her visa. She is currently staying in an inexpensive guest house. It is a relief that she was able to leave. The violence and turmoil in Afghanistan increase daily as the US wraps up its pullout from the country. Humaira and a Clarkson student from Pakistan are in contact with one another to discuss personal safety and housing in Islamabad.

Humaira filed her visa application last month and requested an interview with the embassy in Pakistan (at the time the embassy in Kabul was closed due to COVID). The embassy received the application and scheduled her for an interview on September 14. The trouble with that is Clarkson starts their semester at the end of August and it leaves Humaira in Islamabad for another six weeks. Humaira sent off a request for an emergency interview but that was denied. That said, Humaira’s supporters here in the North Country have had ongoing contact with Senator Gillibrand’s office about Humaira’s situation and they have offered assistance. Last week they sent a letter to the embassy in Pakistan stating their interest in Humaira’s case and requested an emergency interview for her. At this point, we are waiting to hear the embassy’s response. 

Humaira’s thoughts about life in Afghanistan – “I think if the Taliban come to power, there would be no chance for girls to continue their education. In regions that are under the control of the Taliban now, they have told people to not send their kids to school. However, in those areas everyone is just trying to save their life and their family by hiding or escaping so education is not a priority for them right now. Also, I have heard in the news that no women are allowed to go to work anymore in the areas under the control of the Taliban. So, it is clear that once they come to power, girls will not be able to continue their education as it is against the Taliban beliefs. And that is a big concern.” 

Please be praying for her and her situation, as she awaits her visa interview. And please be praying for the myriad of other Afghanis attempting to flee their country in the coming months. 

Please also be praying for Juster Gichovi, Lydia Stauffer, Connor Newcombe, and our other local college students, as they prepare for another potentially topsy-turvy year at school. They, along with our younger learners and our teachers continue to face serious challenges as they prepare for the upcoming school year.

Friends, the concerns we’re facing right now with the Delta variant of the Covid virus are concerning for all of us. Just when we felt like perhaps we could breathe a little easier, things are getting concerning again. I know that fear and worry tug on our hearts and our minds, but let us not give into their power. It is possible to hold onto joy, and peace, and meaning/purpose in our lives, even with storm clouds surrounding us. 

In the book of Nehemiah, the people have just been through major trauma– they have lived in exile in Babylon for 70 years and have recently made the harrowing journey through the wilderness back to their homeland of Jerusalem, which lies in rubble. They are tired, depressed, anxious, and sorrowful, and they bring this energy to their worship. Nehemiah, their leader, sees the countenance of their hearts and instructs them to “get up!” To shake off the darkness that holds them captive. 

He says, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

–Nehemiah 8:9-10

It reminds me of a poem by Jack Gilbert called A Brief for the Defense.

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. 

With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine.

The Bengal tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well. 
The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future, 

smiling and laughing while somebody in the village is very sick.
There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta, 
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. 

To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.

To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

May we remember this day that the joy of the Lord is our strength, and may we risk delight and accept our gladness… even in the ruthless furnace of this world! 

Laughing with the poor women at the fountain,
Pastor Katrina