Serving in Afghanistan
March 1, 2002 - John Weaver worked with Operation Christmas Child to distribute gift-filled shoe boxes to 650 children at a Muslim school. These boxes were among more than 100,000 sent to Afghanistan.
by Tom Layton
As difficult as it is to fathom the evil and the grief associated with the terrorist attacks of September 11, one of the few Christian relief workers in Afghanistan says that he sees God working through the tragedy.
"An entire country has been liberated because of September 11," John Weaver said, referring to the way that Afghanistan has been changed by the removal of the Taliban government. "Here's an opportunity for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be spread to a country that otherwise may not have had the opportunity."
Mr. Weaver speaks with authority. Among Christian relief workers, he is believed to have been the last man in Afghanistan during the tense weeks following the terrorist attacks against the United States. Even while other agencies (secular and Christian) evacuated workers from what was likely to become a war zone, Mr. Weaver continued his work with displaced people in northern Afghanistan.
Fluent in local languages, wearing a beard and traditional attire, and surrounded by people who respected his year-old ministry, Mr. Weaver blended into the crowds in northern Afghanistan. Neither the Northern Alliance soldiers nor the American reporters recognized him for who he was: An American-born Christian who traces his salvation to a 1984 Crusade led by Ralph Bell, an associate evangelist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
When Mr. Weaver tells Afghans that their background should be no barrier to Christianity, he is speaking from his own experience. A friend in his ninth-grade biology class invited him to the 1984 Crusade in Virginia—John had no church connections, he was dabbling in alcohol, and his parents' marriage was breaking up.
He said that he remembers Ralph Bell's message based on John 3:16. "It was the first time that I had ever heard John 3:16," Mr. Weaver said. "When I heard about God's love, and especially His love for me personally in spite of all my wickedness and immorality and sinfulness, it struck me in my heart. Ralph Bell talked about how we could have forgiveness and hope and peace with God. My conclusion was, 'This is too good to refuse.'"
He continued, "I had no idea what Christianity was about. I had no idea what praying was about. I had no idea what receiving Christ was about. But Mr. Bell said that God loves us so much that He gave us His Son, and that He would give peace and eternal life to all who would come to Him by faith. That evening I went forward and prayed to accept Christ. My mom also went forward to accept Christ."
Mr. Weaver was graduated from a Bible college in Nashville, Tennessee, where he had been involved in a ministry to Muslim refugees. After training with Wycliffe Bible Translators, he studied linguistics at the University of Texas graduate school and received a master's degree from Columbia International University, in Columbia, South Carolina. Because of his mission trips to Panama, the Philippines and Uzbekistan, he had the opportunity in 2000 to go to Afghanistan to work.
Mr. Weaver said that he is optimistic about Afghanistan's spiritual future—not because of any tolerance shown by the now-dominant Northern Alliance and not because many Afghans currently view Americans as liberators. Rather, he is optimistic because he sees God at work.
Mr. Weaver has been ministering to Afghan families left homeless by Taliban attacks. The people with whom he works are Muslims, but many seem curious about Christianity and some have asked for Bibles. A few seem to have become believers in Christ, even though the threat of severe punishment prevents them from professing their faith. About a year ago a man tried to kill Mr. Weaver after discovering that Mr. Weaver is a Christian. That man now has become a friend and helper.
Mr. Weaver said that he recognized God's working in the rescue of eight missionaries, including Americans Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer. The missionaries had been imprisoned by the Taliban for spreading their faith.
"The missionaries should have been killed," Mr. Weaver said.
"The Taliban government had decreed that anyone found encouraging people to convert to Christianity would be killed. But God, for His glory, didn't allow that to happen. The missionaries now have had national exposure in being able to communicate the Gospel. A great triumph came from a great tragedy. It's amazing."
Though the fighting in Afghanistan may seem nearly finished, Mr. Weaver said that the battle has just begun. "I believe that God has a plan for Afghanistan," he said. "It's obvious to me that the Gospel will penetrate Afghanistan—people will come to faith. This is the hour for Afghanistan. God's people need to be praying and going there and finding effective ways to communicate the Gospel. Christians need to serve the Afghan people and show them what it means to follow Jesus Christ."