Jeff's Afghan Diary: Good Friday Thoughts and a Prayer
April 6, 2007
Today is the day traditionally celebrated by most Christians as Good Friday, the day we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus. For the past several years, I have made it a day of personal fasting, remembering the sacrifice Jesus made.
Today it will be more difficult, because I am going on a patrol mission with some of my teammates and the ABP. We are climbing a mountain to do an area reconnaissance.
Normally, this would be a difficult enough task, but fasting deprives the body of energy. I will drink water, but will not eat unless I feel it is necessary for the welfare of the team. I pray for strength.
We hiked out about 3 miles, then set out up a rock-strewn slope, going up, up, up. The body armor we wear adds about 70 pounds to our frame. There are many times my breathing becomes labored - I’m not used to the higher elevation.
Halfway up, one of our teammates asks me to carry the radio, which he has carried in a backpack. He has tired from the load, and I am happy to help share the burden. It weighs about 25 pounds. We have to make frequent stops to rest and take water, which we have carried. One of the Afghans with us has not carried enough water, and I offer him one of mine. I have carried plenty to spare, knowing I would need it.
The view from the top is spectacular. We have climbed 800 feet, winding and twisting our way. We have passed a herd of goats and a goatherder - it’s amazing how these people thrive in these mountains. The Afghan soldiers, unburdened by our body armor, race ahead, and often have to wait for us to catch up.
The Quran often speaks of how God has made Himself known to mankind through nature. The mountains are amazing - I think of my Earth Science class, and ponder how these mountains were likely made by tremendous forces of tectonic plates of the Earth moving against each other, thrusting giant slabs up into the sky. I note the sandstone, and think how this area had once been underwater, with millenium of sediment piling up, the weight of eons crushing the debris into stone. It’s an amazing geologic history to imagine, adding to one’s awe of the creative Force behind it all.
My teammates are surprised to learn how old I am, and how well I am keeping up with them. I am surprised by my own energy - it is an answer to my prayers.
At the end of the day, we return back to the FOB. I am exhausted, totally drained. I think of Jesus’ death, and feel my discomfort pale in significance. I am grateful to God for Jesus’ sacrifice. I remember how St. Paul compared his sacrifices to Jesus’, and partially understand what Paul meant. I hope that my small gesture of self-denial will help create a better world, one that Jesus died for.
After sundown, I ate dinner. The day’s experience has inspired me to continue to strive to give my best in God’s service.
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.