Update from Southeast Asia

“It was the most exciting day of my life,” said schoolmaster Hussein’s daughter, Tahira.  “Mr. Parvi handed each of us new books and I didn’t dare to open them, they were so beautiful.  I’d never had my own books before.” -From Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time, by Greg Mortenson

Kristen and I returned to America a year and a half ago now.  Sitting in our comfortable home in Richmond, Virginia, it is sometimes hard to remember the poverty and need that we experienced every day when we lived in Southeast Asia.  Sometimes, I need to read other people’s stories just to be reminded of the world that we lived in not so long ago.

A few weeks ago I picked up this book, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.  It is set in Pakistan, but it brings back vivid memories of our time overseas when I read it.  Mortenson was an accomplished mountain climber who lost his way on a dangerous descent down K-2 and ended up in an impoverished village in remote Pakistan.  Close to death, he spent several weeks there being nursed back to health by the people of a desolate mountain village.  Overwhelmed with gratitude, Mortenson promises the people of the village that he will come back some day and give them the thing they desire most: a school for their children.  Almost overnight, Mortenson’s life becomes devoted to keeping this promise.  The book describes the desperate poverty that so many children in developing nations live in today.  And it reports on the way education can instill hope in a person, dignity to a people, and promote peace in Muslim communities.

Two kinds of people…

You can use the saying, “there are two kinds of people in this world…” for anything.  Those who like thin crust pizza and those who don’t.  Those who watch American Idol (guilty) and those who don’t.  It’s usually meant to be a ridiculous observation, and we know that.  People are too complex.  Humanity is too large.  There are few examples where you can actually say with accuracy or conviction, “there are two kinds of people in this world…”  The quote at the very top of this page points to one of the few issues so pivotal in life that we could accurately and honestly employ the “two kinds of people” saying:

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have access to education, and those who do not.

Can you think of one other variable that would affect your everyday life so profoundly?  Imagine for a moment that you could not read a book, or a newspaper, or a sign on the road, or a Bible.  How would your life change?  Your job?  Your family?  Your interests?  Even your worldview. Without an education, our lives would be completely unrecognizable.  Education is the rudder on the ship of life.  We are where we are almost entirely because of it.

The Nasib

I am currently working on a language development project among a people who have very limited access to education.  In fact, their language does not even have a written form yet.  No literature, not even an alphabet.  The area where they live is a sensitive location, so I can’t use their real name.  I have decided to call them the Nasib (pronounced “Nah-seeb”)people.  In the country where we lived, Nasib means “fate,” “destiny,” or “luck.” If you know their history, you might think that giving them the name “lucky” was meant to be ironic.  Their region has been plagued with violence, oppression, poverty, and organized religious militant groups for decades.  And just a few years ago about 200,000 of the Nasib people were killed in the tsunami of December 26, 2004.  On the surface, “fate, destiny, and luck” would sound like a mockery of their history.

But, of course, we see a much bigger story being played out than what lies on the surface.  And that is why I’m calling them the “Nasib.”  The fated… the destined… the lucky.  Through their long suffering and the tragedy of the tsunami, the Lord is calling to the Nasib people to know Him.  For decades, Nasib land- which is over 99% Muslim- has been completely closed off to all foreigners.  But the tsunami, as deadly as it was, opened the way for a new hope for the Nasib people.  Because of the tsunami, an army of aid volunteers- of which, I was one- was permitted into the area for the first time in over 3 decades.  For the first time, the Nasib had daily contact with the people they had long considered to be enemies; people like me- an American and a follower of Jesus.

Much good has happened since the tsunami.  People who used to be considered enemies are now considered friends because of compassionate aid and relief efforts.  Peace treaties have been signed between opposing militias.  And I am privileged to be part of a good work as well: to increase literacy rates and access to education in Nasib land.

The Nasib language is unwritten; it has no official alphabet.  No alphabet means no literature.  No literature means low literacy.  Low literacy means little access to education.  I am helping to research and analyze the Nasib language in order to help them develop an alphabet.  As we construct a well-planned alphabet, the Nasib people will have the foundation that they need for literacy, literature, education, and eventually… a Bible in their own language.

Literacy… Education: Your gift to the Nasib people

They need our help.  All of us.  The Nasib can’t make drastic improvements to their literacy rates and education on their own.  They need the help of people who already have all the benefits of a good education.  That is you and me.  The Nasib people cannot pay people like me to help them. Our salary is paid entirely by people like you who decide that you want to bless people in developing nations by supporting our work.  Please consider contributing to the work we are doing; giving the Nasib people access and opportunity for education.

Budget

We are currently lacking about $2400 per month in contributions.  Please allow us to continue our work by helping us meet our budget.  Let us make haste in blessing the Nasib.

Peace and Blessing,

Jay & Kristen