23 May 2013

Books about hard places # 1

I've just finished reading a couple of great books about life in hard places - Pakistan, Afghanistan and North Korea. 

The first one was Shoot Me First by Grant Lock.  Grant and his wife Janna spent 24 years working with a mission organisation close to my heart in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  They came to the task as successful cattle breeders in South Australia but spent their years overseas supporting micro-hydroelectric schemes, teaching English as a second language, overseeing a massive eye-care programme and caring for all who crossed their paths. 

Shoot Me First is masterfully written.  In spots it's laugh out loud funny.  Right in the opening pages Lock describes trying to register his family with the Pakistani government on their arrival.  The man he is dealing with doesn't seem to think Lock is a sufficiently suitable surname.  Too short.  Too pedestrian.

His intense gaze is making me uncomfortable.  I thought I'd articulated it clearly, but I'll try again.  "Lock," I repeat slowly.
He still looks disdainfully puzzled.  Suddenly a light of descriptive genius flashes in my brain.  I rotate my hand as though I'm turning a key.  "Lock!  You know!  Lock, as in door."
His face changes.  He gives a satisfied sigh, as though his lips have just sampled the rich blend of spices in a superior mutton karahi.  "Ah yes, that is a good name, Sahib.  That is to be a very good name."  Under Matthew's watchful gaze he completes the entry with meticulous care.  Then he looks up and addresses me warmly. "Welcome to Pakistan, Mr Lokazindore."

(From chapter two of Shoot Me First.)

But if some parts had me laughing, other parts were read through tears.  These are truly hard places in which to live.  The Locks lived and worked amongst the ordinary people of Pakistan and Afghanistan and it was tough.  Grant and Janna Lock showed amazing, AMAZING compassion, care and love for those in their contact.

Shoot Me First reads like extracts from the journals of their years away.  But it is so much more than a collection of stories from their time overseas.  Through their tales Lock seeks to educate.  What is it really like in these countries that are so torn, stretched and oppressed by political, social and religious tensions, especially for the poor and the outcast?  Grant Lock explains, illustrates, teaches and cuts through all sorts of myths - and as it turns out, we in the west don't always come out as right. It is hard to garner an accurate picture of "normal" life in these countries.  But I am confident to accept Lock's testimony given they spent a of quarter of a century living in amongst and serving the ordinary people of Pakistan and Afghanistan - and I am glad to have a clearer and even handed view of these nations which now enables me to pray better for those I know who currently work there.

A Christian biography?  Well, yes.  But in a very understated way.  There is no doubt that Grant and Janna are people of deep and abiding faith and trust in God.  But throughout the book their faith is mostly implied rather than stated.  I assume they have taken a low key approach for security reasons, given that some of their programmes are still up and running.  But it works for us too, making this a great book to share with friends and neighbours, showing faith in action without going overboard.

This is a wonderful book.  Really wonderful.  So worth a read to learn about life in these hard places and to be inspired and moved by this compassionate and faithful couple.

And here is the Shoot Me First website.


Deb said...

Well you've certainly made me want to grab a copy! I wonder if we could do it for a book club at church. Do you think it'd work?

Meredith said...

It would be a great book club read I think. It's easy enough to read and very entertaining while educating. You could have some great discussions about missions, dealing with poverty, ministering to other people groups, why the book isn't more overtly Christian and faith in action.