On Wednesday, I reviewed a wonderful book, Farewell Four Waters. Today, I offer you one better–an interview with the author! Friends, meet Kate McCord!
In your book, Farewell Four Waters, you explain that the story is not exactly and exclusively your own, but rather a composite of true stories that together create a very entertaining, yet truthful novel. That said, your own love for the Afghan people comes through clearly in the character of Marie. Where did that passion come from? Why Afghanistan as opposed to another country, another people, a different culture?
I was first introduced to Afghanistan on the Risk board. That’s an old board game. Later, I read Kipling and developed a whole set up perceptions and mis-perceptions about the country. In ’79, the Russians invaded and I paid a little attention. But it wasn’t until 2000 that I really started to get to know Afghanistan and the people who call that country home. In November, 2000 I picked up a book about Afghanistan at an airport in Europe. By the time I landed in the States, I was fascinated. Over the winter of 2000-2001, I read everything I could find about the country. The Taliban were in control and the stories were heartbreaking. I began praying for the people. Still, Afghans were just stories and pictures, but in 2004, I met Afghans face to face, drank their tea and shared their laughter and tears. That’s when everything changed for me. Now, I know so many precious Afghans. I’ve celebrated their births, engagements and weddings. I’ve sat beside the dying and in houses of mourning. I’ve shared life and along the way, fell in love.
Marie has many opportunities to share her Christian faith in the story. I love how she does it, unashamedly saying, “I belong to the Honorable Jesus Messiah”. Her declaration of faith always seemed to be well received. Did you ever have difficulty being honest about your faith? How did you learn to be a witness for Christ in such a hostile culture?
At first, I didn’t know what to say or how. I really struggled with that. I asked others what they said, I prayed and I tried out approaches with my Afghan friends. I looked for what made sense and was welcome. Along the way, I stumbled a lot, but Afghans are gracious and a gentle, “I’m sorry, forgive me if I offended” helped us all. Often, Afghans said those very words to me when they thought they’d spoken too harshly. I found that most Afghans believe in God and respect Jesus. Almost everyone already assumed I was a Christian, so it was really a matter of explaining that I’m not just a cultural Christian, but a Christ-follower. Afghans loved it that I knew my Book, prayed and tried to live a holy life. Many still wanted me to convert to Islam, but they respected my faith and practice. Mostly, people who were hostile to me hated my foreignness and my independence as a woman, not my faith. If anything, my faith helped me.
How did you go about learning the language? Did you study Dari before you went to Afghanistan or did you learn it in country?
I studied some Farsi before I want to Afghanistan. That’s the language of Iran. I also had some recordings in Dari that I practiced with, but mostly I learned the language from my Afghan neighbors and coworkers. I also had language tutors, made recordings and reviewed them in my room. I tried to commit a couple of hours a day, just to language learning and used every aspect of my life as the context. It was exhausting, but it paid off. I not only learned language, but I developed some wonderful friendships and I learned how to live there. I still miss speaking in Dari. It’s a such a beautiful, rich, poetic language.
I understand that you live in the United States currently. Do you want to return to Afghanistan ever—either as an aid worker or in any other capacity? Do you stay in touch with friends there?
I would love to return to Afghanistan! I miss my friends terribly. Email and the phone just aren’t enough. Still, I doubt I’ll go. I don’t want to do anything to put my Afghan and foreign friends in danger.
What do you think is the best way Christians who read your book can pray for or personally minister to the Muslims they know?
I think the first is in our own hearts. We need to see Muslims as God sees them; with His love and compassion. From that understanding, we can pray for God to reveal His love and truth to those we know personally and those we see or hear about. It’s God’s love that really changes people. When we’re able to see Muslims as precious individuals, we can to look for ways to express God’s love to them through our own lives. That could be as simple as a smile and a friendly hello or something deeper like a conversation and an invitation to tea. If we’re already in relationship with people, we can deepen our understanding of who they are. That comes through asking open-ending questions and genuinely listening as they share their lives with us. Along the way, we can be real about our own faith; who is God to us? How have we experienced Him? Why is He significant to us? When we invite others to be real with us and are real ourselves, heart-level conversations happen.
Oh friends, I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Will you join me in praying for Afghanistan, for the people there to know the height and depth of the love of Christ? Let’s also pray for Kate McCord. Father, fill her with joy and peace, passion and purpose as she serves you exactly where she is right now.