"Regardless of Race, Creed, Color, Situation, Circumstance or Environment"
Adventures in Ministering: Pakistan & Afghanistan 2002
by Terilee Wunderman
The year 2001 brought the events of September 11th, and with those events came upheaval and intensified challenges for many areas of our planet. On Christmas Eve 2001, a night the angels touch the earth, John Morton shared with us that he had received a message, “an inner calling to go to Pakistan.” Two minister friends, Holly Engleman and David Morton, were preparing for their own ministry delivering wheelchairs and much-needed supplies throughout Pakistan and, inshallah (God willing), into Afghanistan. John chose to join them as they represented Wheels for Humanity, a charitable organization that has brought wheelchairs to people in Mongolia, Nicaragua and Viet Nam as well as other places where they are needed. They also represented the Heartfelt Foundation, Good Works Foundation, the Institute for Individual and World Peace, and all of us who held and sent the Light for their mission.
“I’m doing it for something inside my soul and inside my heart,” John said. “Something very much on purpose with who I am…To do some good. There’s a lot of good that can be done there and my heart called me to go.” And he added, “I’m expecting to have a wonderful, magnificent experience however it comes about.”
“I don’t need your worry. I don’t need your fear,” John told us, “So if you have some of that, do something with it but don’t send it to me.” We got the message. In communities all over the world, we rallied together by sending the Light and seeding for Holly, David and John, their ministry, and the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. One community formed a “battery” of light support where each light-bearer took turns holding a Light intention for one hour at a time throughout the mission.
“It was a very rich fulfilling experience that I knew and understood immediately that I should share,” John said. While traveling, he emailed updates to the eNew Day Herald reflecting on his experiences and enlightening and reassuring his spiritual family back home. “The blessing comes when you accept, enjoy, and appreciate all conditions as somehow part of the great perfection for you on your path of awareness toward God,” John wrote in The Blessings Already Are. By living those words and then passing on their joy and learning to us, John, Holly and David found and shared an abundance of blessings above and beyond anyone’s expectations.
PIMA, the Pakistani Islamic Medical Association, a volunteer organization of physicians and medical personnel devoted to helping those in need, hosted the three ministers. The PIMA volunteers “are thankful that we are presenting an America presence that is here to help and willing to entrust our welfare into their hands,” John wrote. “It is an honor and blessing to be with them as they are a powerful force for the greater good.” John wrote about one doctor who woke up at 4:00 am on a Saturday, drove several hours, performed 70 cataract operations until late in the evening only to return on Sunday to do more. “The PIMA organization is intent on making sure we know first hand and with our own eyes and compassion the needs that are here and the current well-established efforts that are in place but sorely short of what is called for to assist.”
From the moment they arrived in Pakistan, “We were really taken care of immediately and taught a part of their custom, to welcome their guests,” John said. All of John, Holly and David’s accommodations and all of their expenses were provided for. “Every step of the way there was always somebody to greet us, not just one person, but typically many people.” The PIMA hosts took them on tours of over fifteen medical facilities, refugee camps with some 2500 families in them, and to dinners with physicians and local political leaders. Many of these excursions provided the trio with breath-taking glimpses of the terrain and not just because of the beauty of the surroundings. Rough, winding roads and fast, daring drivers led David to call one car ride “an E ticket,” referring to the most thrilling rides at Disneyland.
As the only female traveling with the PIMA group, Holly had the opportunity to visit with women who, because of their customs, were reticent to interact with the men. Though they could not communicate with words, the women connected with warm smiles, friendly waves even when Holly could not see their faces through their veils, and through Holly’s loving touch. “We have a lot of misconceptions about the women,” Holly said. “There are differences, but the women are happy in their traditions.”
About the children, Holly explained, “Most of them have never even seen toys.” She wooed hesitant little ones with chocolate kisses, encouraging them to accept donations of their first stuffed animals. “I saw children with no shoes playing in the dirt. And they were laughing,” she said. “I closed my eyes and their laughter was like children anywhere in the world.”
As the group drove through Pakistan, the severe drought in the area was obvious. “The land itself really could use some Light,” John said. Families have left their homes for refugee camps because the land can no longer support farms and crops. In many villages, most of the men have been killed leaving the women with little means of support. Some families eat animal feed because they cannot afford rice, meat or other food. In great need are volunteers to help the women learn marketable skills and donations tailored to meet the specific needs of the people. For example, much of the area does not have a system for garbage disposal, so donations of disposable diapers sit unused. “I know we will be back,” Holly said. “This was just the beginning.”
After days of inhaling dust from the dry land, one night, while the group was driving at 8800 feet above sea level, it began to snow. At the lower elevations it was raining for the first time in three years. John said, “I thought, well, that could be a coincidence or maybe it’s just one more way the Light is saying, Hello! We’re here!”
With their caring hosts guiding them, John, Holly and David visited Chaman, Pakistan, a city just over the border from Afghanistan. They stayed at the PIMA headquarters along with about fifty relief workers from several international agencies, including people from Norway, Malaysia and South Africa. “It’s very inspiring to be here,” John wrote, “as the human needs are tremendous and the willingness to serve those needs is more than whatever it takes.” And John added, “We are very aware of the Light and prayers coming our way to share with all…We are having lots of laughs, as joy is abundant when the heart is being shared so freely.”
While meeting with this group, Dr. Hafeez-ur-Rahman, President of PIMA and General Secretary of PIMA and the PIMA Relief fund, acknowledged gratefully Wheels for Humanity and referred to our ministers as “the brother David Morton, the brother John Morton, and our sister Holly,” Dr. Hafeez addressed everyone, “…when we are sitting here with the single goal, single objective to serve the mankind, our hearts are close and we love each other. We are just like brothers and sisters…irrespective of faith, irrespective of religion, we came here to work, to serve the humanity…Wherever there is a person, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, whether black or white, whether in your country or far away from you, you have to go there and relieve his miseries,” he said. “I am actually sent by my Allah…If he believes in Allah, if he believes in the Prophet and all the Prophets who are sent by Allah, then he cannot sleep if his neighbor is hungry in the night. If we are sleeping and our neighbors are hungry, then we are not truthful to Allah…I am a believer of the fact that a person who cannot thank his fellow mankind, fellow human beings, he cannot make justice to thank Allah, his creator. So my thanks to my fellow human beings who came here to serve Allah…to my brothers and sisters who came from different parts of the world, and really I salute them. And may Allah accept your endeavors and your efforts. And may Allah give you more strength to work for this noble cause.”
John, Holly, David with their guides then headed for the Afghan border and, with surprising ease, made it through. They noticed “the local fellas packin’ their Kalashnikov rifles,” John wrote, and “young children squatting roadside with their hands cupped and extended to beg for alms.” As they moved closer to Kandahar, they noticed many indications of recent bombings including rubble, severely damaged concrete bridges, burned out vehicles and structures, and craters in the road. At the Kandahar hospital facility, with armed guards standing nearby, John’s satellite phone worked for the first time during the trip. He reached John-Roger at 1:00am his time in Mandeville Canyon, and together they planted a Light Column. “And we ask God Almighty to send down his Angels of Light,” John said as he repeated John-Roger’s words, “and bring forward that loving spirit of joyful thankfulness that we all know so well.”
As the three ministers were about to tour the hospital, they learned that “Taliban fighters were holed up in the building next door, refusing to surrender. The PIMA hosts “were concerned for our safety so we were quickly escorted to what they considered was a safe haven...David, Holly and myself waited out front and soon were having fun with our Kalashnikov-carrying friends who look indistinguishable from their Taliban foes,” John wrote. “When our PIMA escorts came out from their tour to find us fraternizing and taking photos with the Kalashnikov guys, they were somewhat flabbergasted. I suppose it was a bit like seeing the lions and the lambs lying down together.”
The next day, when Holly and David attempted to deliver wheelchairs to the hospital, they learned they would not be able to. A military action had occurred inside the hospital after all. Even so, David wrote, “Our experience of Kandahar was much different on our second visit…the energy of the Light Column was palpable and a definite lift on many levels.”
To further serve their brothers and sisters, the PIMA doctors invited John, Holly and David into their homes to meet their families, dine with them, and even stay overnight. David shared, “I cannot describe in words the effect the hospitality has had on me personally…I’ve just been totally touched by the loving and humanity extended to us on the whole trip…a genuine blessing.”
For most of the trip, nine trailer-sized containers of wheelchairs, blankets and other supplies had been held up by authorities causing John to miss the opportunity to assist in the actual distribution. Holly and David were able to stay on. One PIMA doctor “was very impressed by the way that we worked,” Holly wrote, “and said that we made him aware of all the disabled that are in refugee camps, a fact that PIMA had not realized before.” She added that the distribution “was magical as always,” and remembered the tears of one woman, a survivor of a landmine, as she was carried and placed in her first wheelchair.
As John made his solo return to the U.S., a local Karachi PIMA doctor insisted that John “would be even more comfortable and served by staying in his family home.” John agreed and ended up staying the night with Dr. Saiyed Ehsanullah, also known as Dr. Freddie for his love of the 60’s musical group, Freddie and the Dreamers. John described Saiyed as “a cross between Mahatma Gandhi and Henny Youngman” because he “is constantly brimming with humor, anecdotes, and editorial and philosophical discourse.” Inside Saiyed’s home, John chatted with his family, ate local dishes prepared especially for him, and spent the night in Saiyed’s grandsons’ bedroom. He learned that Saiyed has been committed to never refusing a patient because they could not afford to pay. “Helping others was his passion,” John wrote. “He told me that his greatest desire is that when he goes to the hereafter, that Allah, His Prophet, and Saiyed’s father will look upon the talents and means that were given to him during his life in this world and respond, ‘You have served well.’ May we all have such a response upon our passing from this world to the hereafter.”
On his way back to the U.S. John wrote, “Having re-emerged into the familiar customs and comforts commonly referred to as the western world, I have a sense that indeed I have been to distant lands with strange appearances and ways of living. Yet I know that the value in any set of circumstances transcends the particular challenges or pleasantries that are encountered. And so I have been deeply enriched by what I have seen, felt, considered and especially by those who we have met who are deeply committed to serve their people and, even moreso, their guests.”
“Part of what moved me was the way we were taken care of,” John said. The “greater caring that was going on was a product of what I would call Light action…That was my experience while we were there.” And he added, “Overall I had a lot of fun. I’d like to emphasize that part of it because I know people would not necessarily associate going to Afghanistan at this time as a whole lot of fun. But I really had a lot of fun and enjoyed myself thoroughly.”
“I clearly have an experience of brothers and sisters in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” John said. “So I have that kind of connection in my heart, and I’m glad that I can share that with you. That there is something really good going on there.”
“What I’ve experienced in the last week or so is everything that could go right is going right. And there are some people who are deeply caring and have been deeply caring for many years. And they just wanted someone from another part of the world, particularly our part of the world, to see what they were doing and realize that they couldn’t have been possibly doing it just in the past few weeks or months…They’ve been setting that up for years…and they wanted us to see. So I think what I represented to them was some kind of messenger.”
In delivering messages of acceptance, loving, caring, and sharing, our ministering angels met more ministering angels delivering messages of kindness, compassion and generosity. They found kindred spirits devoted to serving humanity under one God, Allah. And throughout the world, angel brothers and sisters sent messages of love and light for all the good being done. In so doing, we joyfully discovered that, indeed, the blessings already are.
Salaima Aleikum (God Bless You All) Allah Ku Shukara (Thanks Be To God)
Baruch Bashan (The Blessings Already Are)