Inspirational Stories from Nine Years in Afghanistan
“To us, Afghanistan was a nation of tea drinkers and farmers—and some other people who liked to walk around with semi-automatic rifles…however, we did not feel like we were living in a nation at war. After living there for a while, Afghanistan even became ‘everyday-ish.'” (Chapter 22)
Mission work comes in all shapes and sizes. Some missionaries cross cultural bounds openly, announcing their intentions and wearing the badge of “missionary” with honor. Others cross “under the radar”, tent-making and relationship-building in love and for the sake of the Gospel. The Meyers family falls into this second category, and in this book, Melissa—wife, mother, and nurse—shares snippets of their time on the terribly misunderstood field of Afghanistan.
More in the vein of memoir than biography, Beneath the Ancient Dust recounts specific events, feelings, cultural idiosyncrasies and taboos from life in Afghanistan, yet Meyers presents them in more a thematic than a chronological order. Like cuttings of fabric, she then stitches each piece together into a quilt as varied and unique as any your mom ever made. It’s an insightful ride, as we learn through foreign eyes what it means to be welcomed into that oft-misunderstood culture. We watch how the seasons change the apricot tree in their courtyard, how the neighborhood children enjoyed their welcoming attitude. We even get to peek behind the veiled hearts of women who are daily impacted by some of the most misogynistic ideals in the modern world.
I liken Meyer’s style to that of Corrie Tenboom, for she is able to take any memory of her time in Minnesota or Afghanistan and turn it into a spiritual lesson that actually matters. This makes her stories devotional, not merely informative, which is why it’s all right that she includes discussion questions for each chapter at the end of her book. She wisely avoids Yes/No questions, instead helping readers dig deeper into their own hearts and experiences to find common ground and material for building each other up.
I really enjoyed the book and its style, and I would recommend it for chats between friends over tea. The chapters are relatively short, the discussion questions are few, and each would make for a nice afternoon of armchair exploration and edification. I’ll close with a few quotes I highlighted from my reading.
“Journeying takes us outside our everyday lives, and awakens our souls.” (Melissa Meyers, Beneath the Ancient Dust, Chapter 1)
“My mundane existence changes to being extraordinary when I seek Him—and when I align my life with God’s, my routine is broken. My freedom can move me from observing inmates, to praying for them, to one day visiting them. My work can become my ministry when I befriend those around me, and my commute can become a time to pray for world issues. If I shut off the television, my computer, and my smart phone, and engage in people’s lives nearest me, all around me vivid color and purpose spring up. When I embrace the liberty extended to me by God’s grace, he gives me the courage to do what I never thought possible, in the small and the big things of life. I stop letting my circumstances stagnate me, and I listen to God’s gentle voice nudging me to become involved in issues that He cares about.” (Melissa Meyers, Beneath the Ancient Dust, Chapter 10)
“The gift of poverty is being able to relish the simple things in life.” (Melissa Meyers, Beneath the Ancient Dust, Chapter 11)
“We may believe that we have gotten where we are by our own hard work and ingenuity, but much of our own success is due to the opportunities present from the school systems, economy, and health services that exist for us.” (Melissa Meyers, Beneath the Ancient Dust, Chapter 17)
“What kind of injustices does God want you to be a part of in this world? As you draw close to him, he will show you his heart. He will open to you a world that is hurting and one he wants us to love and to work for change. However, to be able to make a difference we must learn to hear God’s voice, by spending time with Him. One way to this is over a cup of tea.” (Melissa Meyers, Beneath the Ancient Dust, Chapter 18)