As soldiers we are prohibited from proselyting. Conversion to Christianity, actually to any other religion, for a Muslim, is punishable by death. Hence the prohibition. However that doesn’t mean that the gospel isn’t being taught here in Afghanistan.
Last night at dinner I was told the following story. OK, before I actually begin the story, I need to give you some background details. The majority of the KBR workers who work in the chow hall, cut our hair, massage our backs, make our Blizzards, pour our coffee, are from the neighboring “stan” countries to the north; Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kjergistan, etc. They’re all part of the former Soviet Union. We do have civilian contractors here as well. One of the civilians is a member, he speaks Russian and has more interaction with the KBR workers. He’s the one who told me this story.
Last fall he came into contact with one of the massage therapists – it’s not what you’re thinking. As they were talking he mentioned that he had lived all over the world and that he spoke Russian. She asked him what had taken him to so many places. He said initially it was his LDS mission and then his work for the government. That lead to a discussion about the church. He described her as one of the most “golden” contacts he had ever met. He invited one of our soldiers from Utah to help him in answering her questions. Our soldier was concerned about being in violation of General Order 1 so took a back seat position but was available to answer questions. When he was home on leave at Christmas, he told his family about her and they felt inspired to purchase a Russian Book of Mormon and write their testimonies in it. He brought it back with him and gave it to Brother Zander to give to her.
Brother Zander initially gave her a video that briefly described the basic tenets of the gospel. When she came back after watching it, she wanted to know where she could get a copy of the Book of Mormon, who could she pay her tithing to, and when could she get baptized. He was able to give her our soldier’s Book of Mormon. Brother Zander had translated the families testimony into Russian. She began to read and Brother Zander and another began to teach her the discussions. Since she is not Afghani but Tajik there wasn’t the fear of converting that a Muslim would have. Brother Zander had previously called Church headquarters and received permission to teach her. Brother Zander said that she was soaking up the message that was being shared with her and wanted to be baptized. So it was arranged that she would be baptized at home. She asked Brother Zander to come to her town to perform the ordinance.
After she returned home she was again taught the discussions, this time by the Sister missionaries. She continued to show her excitement and enthusiasm for the gospel and quickly got through the discussions a second time. The date was set and Brother Zander made his way north.
At dinner he showed me pictures from his trip – he had just barely gotten back. She lives in a very beautiful part of her country but comes from a very poor family. She and three others of her family live in an unheated, no running water shack, barely big enough for four people. It looks like it could tip over with the slightest push. It’s part of her families farm. Her parents live in the main house and while it was bigger than the “shack” not by much. It’s no wonder that she has left her country to find work.
Brother Zander said that they had to go quite a ways out of town to the river where the ordinance was performed. I forgot to ask him if it was because of any negative backlash that would follow the baptism or if it was simply because there was no other place to perform the ordinance. In any event, she was baptized in the river. Just like in the early days of the church in the states.
She’s coming back to Afghanistan to work only this time she will be at the Airport where there’s more of an international coalition presence vs. a strong American presence. I hope she does well.
The gospel is being spread here in Afghanistan. While it’s not being preached directly to the Afghans, through our example and our interaction, they are feeling something of what we have. We as members of the Church are sharing our testimonies with our fellow soldiers as well as those we live and work with. Book of Mormons are being given away. And as is now evident, people are being baptized as a direct result of our presence here.
The Spirit of the Lord is being poured out upon this land!