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Jeff's Afghan Diary: A Good Meal; God Reigns
May 16, 2007

           Today was a busy day here at Doa China.  The squadron commander for the air cavalry unit which has one of their platoons here came in by helicopter, and almost everyone from our FOB went out on a mission with him and his staff.  That is, everyone but me and two other Soldiers - we stayed back, minding the store.  I didn’t mind too much - I let another Soldier go who wanted to, so I stayed behind with the ABP Soldiers and had tea.  We talked about America, about where Americans came from, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Americans from European descent, and Americans from the Middle East.  We talked about freedom of religion, and the Afghan Soldiers agreed it was a good thing.  I felt the few Soldiers I talked to genuinely want more freedoms than their society has now.

      When the US troops came back, I decided I would cook dinner for everyone as my treat.  There were some frozen steaks in the freezer, so I collected a bit of wood for a fire to cook over.  Cooking is fun for me when I don’t have to do it all the time.  Over here, the menus are pretty much all the same, since there are only 12 meals to choose from.  We hadn’t had steaks in Doa China for weeks, so I thought it was about time to do something about it.

      The steaks turned out great.  I had another Sergeant who wanted to help, so the two of us cooked up steak, rice pilaf and carrots.  I made the pilaf using chicken base in the water for the rice, and then added butter flavoring after the rice was cooked.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal a lot.  That’s the best part of being a cook - watching people enjoy your creation.  It’s the simple joys that make life worthwhile sometimes, and being able to give someone some of those simple joys is a real blast.  It was great, watching the guys sit back and relax with a good meal after a day in the heat running a mission.

      The heat is becoming intense here, and the lack of air conditioning in our HMMWWVs is noticeable, to say the least.  Being inside resembles being in an oven.  We can’t roll the windows down, because the windows are bulletproof, and we never know when we may need that protection.  These days, most work is done either early in the morning or later in the day.  All-day missions really run the Soldiers dry - dehydration is a problem to watch.  I became dehydrated one day, traveling from Waza Khwa to Doa China.  It was hot and dry, and I was in the gun turret.  I didn’t feel overheated, but when we got to Doa China, all I wanted to do was lay down.  I didn’t eat dinner that night, because I wasn’t hungry.  I just drank water, then laid down and went to sleep.  The next morning, I was thirsty still.  I realized I hadn’t been drinking enough fluids the day before.  It’s a common problem, and can affect anyone here.

      After dinner was over, I went outside and looked up at the stars.  Back home, we can only see a few stars at night, due to the ambient light from the city.  Here, there is no city anywhere near us, so the stars are easy to see.  For those who live in a rural environment, this may be a common sight, but it still amazes me when I get a chance to look.

      Tonight, looking at the stars, I thought of how the ancient people looked up at these same stars, and tried to explain them.  The Greeks invented ways to make their mythology fit the heavens, naming stars and constellations after their gods and heroes.  I thought about what I might have thought about the stars if I had never learned astronomy - it’s hard not to think of stars as huge gaseous balls of fire, billions of miles away.  To the ancients, they were mysterious flashlights in the sky, unexplainable except by myth.  I stood there, thinking about the ancient Jews and their story of Abraham and God’s promise.  I thought of how the ancients used the stars for navigation, and how much closer to the natural world they lived.

      Americans, from all over the globe, live disconnected from most of nature.  We have fertilizer and water systems to guarantee crop yields unheard of in third world countries, and we harvest our crops with machines.  We live in cities where usually weather does not threaten our existence, except in rare instances.  We have mastered our environment, and no longer live in awe of it - we have no fear, but we also have no sense of wonder.

      In this remote area, I don’t necessarily feel closer to God, but I do feel closer to His creation.  There is a wild beauty in the austerity of the mountains and desert.  There is a sense of solitude and retreat in the quiet of a land without people, without electronic media, without traffic, with the song of the stars singing throughout the universe.  It carries its own message, a message of what is real and enduring, a message which is repeated in every major religion:  God reigns.  Nothing else really matters.  He created this world from myriads ago, and He will be here with it long after we are gone.

-- Jeff Courter

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
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, 2005).
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.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.