I’m saddened by the terrible new coming out of Afghanistan these days as the country falls to the Taliban. Hearing the news takes me back to when I met a man from Afghanistan long before there was turmoil in that country.
In the summer between my junior and senior years of high school (early 1970s), I worked as a waitress in a restaurant on the Ute Reservation. It was hard work, but I met a lot of interesting people. One day, seated in my section were several men, three of which were obviously foreigners. One of them spoke relatively good English and provided interpretations for the other two. When I asked where they were from, the man told me Afghanistan. The interpreter told me his name was Selah (I’m guessing on spelling but it was pronounced Sah-LAY). His group was in town visiting irrigation projects and learning how to administer them. The technology and management strategies would be useful for his country. He was probably in his late-20s or early 30s. He wasn’t that tall and wore no head covering. He was just a regular looking guy with a big smile on his face. He seemed fascinated by everything he saw.
He seemed very eager to ask me all kinds of questions about American life. Several times I had to walk away because I had other tables to tend to, but he stayed there until I had another free minute. While this might seem creepy to some, I was intrigued. I’d never met anyone like him before. When his companions dragged him away, he asked if I’d come back that evening so we could talk more. I said no because I had to go to church on Wednesday evenings. He asked if could come with me, and I said yes.
Imagine how my dad felt when I told him we needed to leave early for church so we could go by the motel to pick up a man from Afghanistan and take him to church. He thought I was nuts, but I’d given my word we’d do this. So off we went. Selah jumped in the car and talked the whole way there, asking about different things, general things about American life.
I sat with Saleh during the service and afterwards, he had even more questions about our religion and our service. Dad finally came and told him it was time to leave. He hardly stopped talking all the way back to the hotel. There we told him goodbye, and I never saw him again.
My experience with Selah was one of those crazy things I get myself into sometimes that have an impact on me. I may have been foolish by encouraging his questions. Who knows. His religion was never a topic brought up so I don’t even know that. Maybe I was crazy for taking him to church with me, but for a brief moment, he saw Christian life like few other of his countrymen did.
In 1979, Russia invaded Afghanistan, and I wondered if Selah was there. Was he okay? Did he fight the Russians? Had he immigrated to another country? There is no way of knowing. When the US went into the country, was he still there? Whose side might he be on? Since he knew English so well, maybe he was one of the interpreters for our troops.
I will never know what became of him, but I can’t help but wonder. I imagine him as the friendly person he was when we met. I think of him as someone helping the troops, and I hope if he was, he finds a way to get out before the Taliban takes over.
Pray for peace.
Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Romans 14:19