Hearing of a disaster in your homeland is hard. Watching helplessly on television while your countrymen are suffering is excruciating. This is how I feel when watching news of the earthquake in Pakistan. This is how I felt on 11 September when the World Trade Towers crumbled to the ground while I was serving in Pakistan.
I was a missionary kid from Pakistan and returned there as a missionary, where I worked in the southern Punjab for eighteen years. I’ve spent more than half of my life in Pakistan. However, if you are a tall, blonde, single woman, you’re never quite Pakistani—no matter how familiar you are with the language and culture. And you are never quite American when you return “home.” This is how Third Culture Kids often feel.
Yet when tragedies happen to either of my countries, I feel them deeply. The Pakistanis have a fitting word for compassion in Urdu: humdardi. Hum means “we” and dard means “pain.” When you are in “we-pain” there’s no easy cure for it. You have to let yourself feel it. This is what Jesus felt when he saw the crowds. They were like sheep without a shepherd. It’s how he felt when he mourned over the stubbornness of Jerusalem.
You are also compelled to help—whatever is needed, no matter how difficult it may be. This usually involves sacrifice, like it did with Jesus. This time, it seems I may be able to go to back to Pakistan and sit with women who have lost homes, children, husbands, sisters or brothers. Some may have lost an arm or a leg. They may cry while I hold their hand and listen. This is what Job’s friends did for seven days before they spoke. Lord willing, I will be able to share some of the comfort I’ve received from the Spirit. I hope to have the opportunity to pray with them and for them, in Jesus’ name. It may not seem heroic, but it’s what I can do right now. This is what’s needed right now.
Most of these dear folks are Muslims, with a deeply rooted belief in Allah. They may be thinking: “Why did this happen to us? Our life is tough enough as it is, but we dare not complain against Allah. It is his will. These things are supposed to happen to punish wicked people, like Americans who are so immoral. We are trying our best; we were even keeping the fast of Ramadan. The bottom line is you have to accept it. It’s how things are. It’s how Allah is.”
Some may be thinking they need to repent from something sinful.
I have heard my Pakistani Muslim friends express some of these reactions. Other reactions they would never express, especially to me.
As followers of Christ, this is our opportunity to share his love in different and practical ways. We can encourage our churches to give financially and we can give ourselves. We can pray for for those suffering. If you’re in Pakistan, you can gather donations and money to either distribute yourself or send with another. You can volunteer in a local medical hospital, listen, pray and offer hugs. You can also cook or feed the hungry. You can share the good news as the Lord leads.
We must not allow this time to pass. We must not stand by and do nothing. We must do something because we call ourselves by the name of Jesus, who ordered us to “love your enemies and do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). When I lived in Pakistan, there were many times that I read headlines and graffiti stating hatred of the West. For a variety of reasons, the United States has been their Public Enemy #1 for years.
I plead with you to let yourself feel the “we-pain” and then let Jesus turn it into a love that leads to action. Let us all show these lost sheep that the way to true life is love in action. This is the Jesus way.