Decision making.

1. We like being here (enough, anyway).

2. The work I am starting with Hagar is really needed.

3. Julie likes her work.

4. The kids are happy.

5. We are at significant risk of serious harm.

It is quite difficult to reconcile these things. If any one of these five statements were not the case, it would simplify matters. As it is, discussing staying here leads us to conversations eerily like those we had in mid 2001, when the Taliban restrictions on living were becoming unbearable. How many limitations of our lifestyles can handle in order to stay here (in order to stay safe)? There is a point where the security restrictions become too costly. But as we are just at the beginning of a period of enforced, tighter security, it is hard to assess whether it will prove too much. What do we lose when we no longer walk places? What happens to us when we have to start scanning the streets for weapons? Are we beginning on the insidious descent of viewing Afghans as all potential threats?

Proximity, frequency, severity. These three elements are how I assess security changes and threats. Proximinty we have been able to control to some degree, by not going to those areas where the attacks were most frequent and most severe. But now the attacks have come to us. Severity we have little control over. Frequency we also cannot control. And it remains to be seen how frequent these severe, close attacks are. Is one attack a year too many? One attack a month? What about such an attack every six months?

How do you make such decisions? We have friends who are probably like us in their processing: they try to assess trends, measure their own feelings against those trends, and decide to stay or leave. They have decided to go.

Other friends have said they will stay until, ‘God tells them to go’. That is not really our model; I have not understood God to be personally monitoring my security, or that I am to delegate it to the Supreme Creator and Author of Love and Life, Yet We Address him as God (SCALLYWAG). However, their model gives them a quiet confidence, and their way of looking at things -and who am I to say it is not valid?


Thank you to everyone who has phoned, emailed and made comments in the last days. We appreciate the concern. And we thank you for reassuring us that to return to Australia is no failure.


Why can’t we just stay here and finish what we started for once?


7 thoughts on “Decision making.

  1. Hi Phil,

    Just wanted to send you some encouragement and hold you in the Light, as we crazy Quakers say, whatever your decision.

    I don’t want to get dismal or anything, but your presence there reminds me of Tom Fox, a Quaker who really lived for others and who ended up giving his life. His blog is still available on the web:

    I guess what I’m saying is that there is real danger and that I don’t think God sends unequivocal “messages” to people. But I don’t think God would fault you either if you chose your safety and that of your family over the good that you would like to stay and do.

    Peace and hope.

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  3. Let me be the messenger from God, if you need it… it’s time for you to go.

    Let me tell you my background a bit, so you can see how it came to be I’m posting here. I’ve worked for MSF in Liberia, Chad, Congo and Ethiopia. I was evacuated from Chad after the city I was living in was attacked. We were never targeted (as, make no mistake: YOU ARE), but we found ourselves in danger anyway, and we left. I have a personal relationship with God, but I am not involved in organized religion. I believe that very rarely, I am called by God to do something in particular. This is one of those times.

    I stumbled across your site a few days ago, I don’t even remember how. I’ve been thinking about you and your family and when I read on BBC about the Germans, I immediately went to see if you’d posted. I can see you are going through the right process, and I really hope you can come to a decision you’re happy with. I personally want you to leave, and if you need a message from God to help you, please consider this it. I’m a stranger that came from nowhere to watch and worry about you and your family, and I’m asking you to get out now.

    I have very strong personal opinions about when to stay and go, but my opinions don’t matter, yours do. Make the right call, but please don’t stay for any reason but the very best. What we aid workers have to give our colleagues is our humanity, our technical advice, our love, our laughter. Giving your life to them doesn’t help them: they need you alive to fight for them another day, another way, in another place.

    Good luck, and take care.


  4. Thankyou Jeff. I might try to email you personally when I get a chance. An expanding work program and a rapidly deteriorating security standard are a bad combination.
    I really appreciate your thoughts.

  5. Hi Phil, I am an Australian aid worker in Pakistan. I read your blog regularly because I find that you often encapsulate the way I am feeling – after yet another bomb blast, after friends decide to leave, when my parents cancelled their planned visit due to the deteriorating security situation, when the UN evacuated all the kids. I also saw the news reports – “Gunmen kill three in Kabul” – and came straight here to check you were ok. I get the sense there are a community of us out here in the blogosphere who are thinking of you. I hope you feel it too.

    Thanks for writing how I feel.

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  7. I know you have the childrens welfare at heart but I wonder how long they can endure the restrictive conditions they are living under without it affecting their wellbeing and outlook on life.

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