The gospel is powerfully illustrated in the lives of believers who persevere -- the mother who prays for decades until her child is saved; the pastor who loves his people through vicious rumors, petty bickering and congregational strife; the missionary who devotes a lifetime to sacrificial service.
John Weaver, relief worker in Afghanistan, personifies perseverance. And he is arguably the year's best picture of the love of God. Weaver was distributing food and building houses for the homeless in Afghanistan in September 2001, when news came of attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
As other Americans were rushed out of Afghanistan, Weaver chose to stay. It was already a war-torn land, and he had been there only one year. And he knew he would be needed even more desperately. As a teenager, the Virginia native had met Christ at a 1984 Billy Graham crusade. In college, he developed a compassion for the needy, a compassion that eventually focused specifically on the people of Afghanistan.
Inside Afghanistan (W Publishing Group, 2002) is Weaver's record of the 1990s, years he spent in preparation for work in Afghanistan, and of the year following September 11, 2001. He builds historical and cultural context in a writing style that is easy to read -- at once entertaining, informative and convicting. His gripping account also discloses a depth and maturity of faith and a genuine joy in what he does as a staff member of Shelter for Life International.
Weaver writes with humility and humor regarding his work: "People who wonder why I'm in Afghanistan often ask about a sense of calling on my life. ... I can honestly respond, 'Well, I didn't hear a voice or see some writing on the wall -- in fact, what I saw was no writing at all where there should have been, and that was my call.' In ways I am still discovering, God has given me the privilege to serve Him by filling in blank spaces in people's lives."
What others see as primitive living conditions or lonely isolation, Weaver sees as "adventure and purposeful living." Combine that mind-set with his desire to serve God by serving people, and he's right at home in war-ravaged lands, living with the displaced, digging latrines, meting out wheat to the hungry.
Weaver tells readers all about dangers he has faced, fears he has conquered, new believers he has discipled and Muslim friends he has made. He exemplifies the principle of friendship evangelism, and it is evident that his selfless life is having an impact for Christ. Yes, numerous cliches come to mind -- "You may be the only Jesus some ever see" or "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." But Weaver sees himself simply as a man doing his job.
"Defeat of the Taliban certainly did not instantly end Afghanistan's woes," he writes. "Early in the spring of 2002, another disaster struck northern Afghanistan. Massive earthquakes rocked the provinces of Badakhshan and Baghlan." It was to that area that he returned after a short time with family in the States.
"In an area of nearly ninety thousand people, I sometimes feel overwhelmed as the only American or outsider," he adds. "...[I can't] help but wonder, Maybe I am here 'for such a time as this' to be a peacemaker. What a priceless privilege to join God in this role of rebuilding and reconciliation."
Weaver is field team leader for Shelter Now International (USA)/Shelter For Life in N.E. Afghanistan. His goal is to provide relief and development projects/programs that please God -- to model love, excellence and service and improve the quality of life of the Afghans in Badakhshan/Takhar Provinces.
Translated, that means he goes gladly about his daily tasks feeding the hungry, serving the needy, befriending the friendless, teaching the unschooled. John Weaver stays -- to show them Jesus.