Wednesday, it’s time for another chapter from the life of Nancy.
THE CAGE FIGHT
“If your joy does not return within three months, something will need to change.” Bill Tartar, the president of our agency, and his wife, Mae, spoke to me in love. It was the spring of 1985, and the Tartars had traveled to see all the workers in Pakistan. Hidden away in this remote Islamic town, they had discovered the real reason for their journey.
Serving Christ here in west Pakistan with legendary nurse, Earlene Voss, had been my dream. In the fall of 1984, after completing Urdu language study, I joined her and threw myself into the work and people of this small city.
From morning till evening, we labored. Earlene served the population through her medical and tuition programs. Meanwhile, I taught eleven Bible classes a week in Urdu to women and children. We had a half-day off per week to recuperate.
By Christmas of that year, I was exhausted and struggling. Life had begun to feel like a cage fight with multiple opponents.
Culturally, I was naive. “Why did you tell that to so-and-so? Now she’ll tell the whole neighborhood.” I didn’t know the rules.
“Oh, no, it’s not uncommon for women to put glass in their husband’s food to kill them.” No one was innocent.
“Stop screaming when you play basketball with the girls. Men on the street are complaining.” Everything was sexualized.
My spiritual immaturities bubbled to the surface: anxieties, fears, undealt-with-sin, deficiencies in theology. In the cage, Satan weaponized them against me.
I wielded God’s weapons of prayer and the Word but often faltered at the new combat level. I was lonely for a friend my age who understood me and accepted me as I was. Someone I could relax with.
Under all the stress, my sleep became disturbed. Earlene prescribed low doses of valium to help me sleep, but I felt guilty taking the drug, so it was unhelpful.
In March of 1985, through tears that flowed freely throughout the days, I wondered if I was losing my mind. Then I remembered that people who are insane don’t think they are, and I comforted myself in this thought.
As I pondered the three-month deadline for joy given by the Tartars, it loomed ahead like a prison sentence. The escape fantasy I had often seen in my mind kicked into gear.
Early the morning after the Tartars had left, I slipped into the clinic where Earlene was working. “I’m going to see the Tartars” I announced
Wrapped in my chador (sheet-sized covering) with my head lowered, I scurried down the dusty street to the bus stop. Past shops of men ogling. Past the mosque that broadcasted anti-American sermons. Past donkey carts and women in burkas aside open sewers. I boarded a bus and left.
A three-hour bus ride to the north, the Tartars called for an end to the fight, “You have earned six months of leave. Why not take it?”
God had slid the lock off the outside of the cage, and I was free to go. In His time, and not a minute sooner, He had lovingly marked me for the rest of my life. I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4 NIV)
Epilogue. Nancy recovered and went back to serve many more years in Pakistan.