Stories from Afghanistan: Shaved Heads and Sacrificial Love

This week, Thomas Davis is continuing his Stories from Afghanistan series, and we're happy to be able to share his stories with you here too. You can find more from Thomas on his blog.


Bald Heads on a Chilly Kabul Morning

On day three of my 15-day seminar, some of the Turkish and Afghan teachers greeted me with a major surprise. Kabul in January can be quite cold, and there was quite a bit of snow on the ground outside as we gathered at 8:00am in a chilly classroom for the start of our day's work.

Before I could get the instruction underway, several of the teachers gathered around me, still wearing their stocking caps. One of them, a dear Afghan gentleman in his 40s, exclaimed, “Teacher, teacher, we have a surprise for you!” (The teachers insisted on addressing me as “teacher” as a cultural sign of respect, despite that fact that we are all about the same age.)

As I inquired about the surprise, about six of the male teachers ripped off their caps to reveal cleanly shaven bald heads. As the classroom roared with laughter, the newly bald teachers explained that they took razors to their heads as an act of solidarity and respect for me and my shiny head. They succeeded, as I was indeed honored!

Here's a class photo, taken about ten days after the teachers had shaved their heads:

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Turkish Educators Loving Sacrificially

In the Afghan-Turk NGO, a good percentage of the teachers are Turks. They are young professionals, mostly in their 30s and 40s, with spouses and children. No doubt, each of these families could have stayed in Turkey to earn more income and to live with a greater sense of normalcy and security. Instead, however, they have chosen to do the hard thing—to live and serve in a war-torn country where life can be extra challenging, where they are foreigners, and where their children sometimes suffer.

For example, one teacher new to Afghanistan lamented that there are no parks in which his kids can play, and he said this makes him “feel sad for my children.” Other teachers noted that relatives in Turkey said things like, “you’ll get shot if you go there” and pled with them to choose a more sensible and safe place to live and work. (These stories of suffering children and of the protests of relatives back home reminded me, in every way, of my own experiences as an American Christian with a young family living and serving in another part of the world.)

So, in light of the obstacles and risks, why do these Turkish Muslim educators choose to ply their trade in Afghanistan? After many hours getting to know some of these teachers and hearing their hearts, the answer is clear to me. More than anything, they want to honor God with their lives, and they believe that the best way to do that is by laying down their lives to help others—in this case thousands of Afghan children who are receiving quality education and who are learning core values rooted in basic human rights.