Searching for bits of joy.

We arrived back in Kabul 6 months ago, almost to the day.

10 days before we left Australia, the Nuristan Eye Camp team were killed. We got here in time for the burials of Tom and Dan.Since then, back in my home town, my father has been been hospitalised numerous times, twice via ambulance, once having technically died enroute. My sister’s baby died at 1 day old. There have been suicide bombs:1 km up the road, several across town and the list of places we can visit has gotten even shorter. We were kicked out of our home with 10 days notice in the middle of winter and had to find a new place, where I spent the first week dealing with leaking flooding toilets, leaking roofs, building a kitchen, fixing drains and oh, yes, the leaking toilets. I have been away more than a month visiting different projects around the country. I have been  sick repeatedly with chest infections, as has our older daughter: we get the results of the chest x-ray today. Our younger daughter is yet to sleep through the night. We’ve had to deal with other issues, some of which must remain confidential.

I think that is why we are tired, and I am irritable, and stressed. I am less patient with my kids at times like this, and I don’t like it. I don’t want them to suffer my stress. Julie says we need to find more joy here, and she is right. You can’t survive here on determination only; you become cynicalembitteredawfultobearound. I know, I have been there. So, we are now looking actively for more joy. I think I spotted some down the back of the couch, along with some sultanas and a few lego pieces. I’ll tell you if I find any more.

Why am I writing all this?

I think those who care about us enough to read this blog deserve to know how we are doing. I don’t want to sugar coat this experience. But let me emphasize this: Yes, we are hard pressed, but we are not crushed; we may be perplexed, but we are not in despair; persecuted perhaps, but not abandoned; sometimes struck down, but not destroyed.

I know this. We pretty much knew what we were signing on for, and it is ok. So in reading this, if you are a person of prayer, then pray. For us, for this nation. If it is hard for us, it is terribly much more so for Afghans. Raise this place to God. If you don’t consider yourself a person of prayer – pray anyway. This endeavour is beyond individuals, aid agencies, groups, donors, armies and nations, we know this. It is beyond us, but it is still in our hands, somehow.


This photo is here because it reminds me of my kids’ capacity for joy.


15 thoughts on “Searching for bits of joy.

  1. May I be the first to comment – sometimes one has to say enough is enough.
    I imagine you need to be fully fit to endure the conditions you are living under and it must be hard to feel joyous when unwell in addition to receiving news of family problems here.
    I hope your next posting is more cheerful.

  2. Wish I could offer something tangible, Pam’s comments are worth considering, but only you and your wife know where you should be.
    I genuinely hope and pray for real joy in your lives

    • Thanks Geoff. I guess partly my struggle is that the joy we do experience here is not the kind we find at home in Australia. It is different – I don’t know, deeper? harder to access? more complex? coloured with pain? Sometimes it doesn’t look like joy even. We do feel we are in the right place, and that is generally enough.

  3. Hey mate,

    Rough times… The bit of joy down the back of the couch sounds like a Leunig cartoon.
    If I can find an appropriate one I’ll send it.

    More in an email shortly. Love to all, Kezza

  4. Received an MSF enewsletter today outlining some of the current problems being faced with the Afghan people and the difficulties of receiving Aid from abroad. Seems as if many seeking medical assistance are considered to be ‘traitors’ by different sides of the Afghan fence. Even for a local to know a foreigner can be the cause of problems for some families. One of your past blogs addressed this. Thankyou for sharing some of these things with us, your current needs will be a focus of targeted prayer. Thank God for your wonderful help meet, Julie, a proverbs 31 woman!

  5. So sorry to hear. The only part I can relate to is the sleep deprivation part – and that feels relentless and frustrating for me. I wonder if you are still running your expat children’s fun times, and whether you need anything more? didn’t manage to get organised last time, but happy to package some things together now if that is helpful. Otherwise, we send love and prayers across the sea to you. Kath, TIm and Wilson.

    • hi Kath
      Thanks for the message and encouragement. I am still running Kabul Rangers – it is about the only recreation all our kids get. It is great, and thanks for the offer too – a few people gave me a bit of money towards ropes, compasses, balls, etc, and we got send ping-pongs and Twister. I found a place that makes badges for the kids to sew on their Rangers scarfs. It is really nice. We are doing ok on resources at present, but I will keep you in mind. Phil.

  6. Members of St Thomas Church Brampton Chesterfield England are praying for you all via their prayer email.

    God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

  7. We had a bit of a melt down today because I put my wife’s white skirt in with the coloured stuff and now its a bit of an off-colour white and she cant wear it to a school parent get together tonight! You put a bit of perspective on living the Christian life – I will be praying for you

    • Ha. Yeah, mixing the whites and the coloureds is a pretty hostile action and could be interpreted provocatively. Wars have been fought over less.
      Thanks for the humour in here. Phil.

  8. Hi Phil,

    We’ve not met but I’ve heard of you through TEAR etc. Just wanted to encourage you and let you know I’m praying. I have a huge amount of respect for what you are doing over there.

    God Bless mate,

    Dave Berlach

  9. Hi Phil
    I’ve found you because of the prayer email that gets sent to us at St Thomas’ Church in Chesterfield, UK, as the result of a request by Robin Dawson; and I’ve spent some time reading your wonderfully insightful blog.
    What an amazing thing it is that you do out there.
    I will be praying for you and your family. May God bless you in ways you can’t even imagine, and may little bits of joy be found in quantity.
    With love in Christ

  10. Not much to say other than it sounds as if the last 6 months really tanked for you and your family. I hope you find some joy soon – you all deserve it. I am not sure playing Twister while grumpy will help – but it may keep you warm.

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