An Open Book
by Jeanette Windle
I was in Afghanistan researching my then-current Tyndale House Publishers project, a story that would become Veiled Freedom, a 2010 ECPA Christian Book Award and Christy Award finalist, and its sequel Freedom’s Stand, a 2011 Golden Scroll Novel of the Year and 2012 Christian Book Award finalist.
As an author specializing in international intrigue, I’m frequently asked why I write the kind of books I do. Why such controversial, even scary subjects as the international counternarcotics war, Marxist guerrillas in Latin America, terrorism and the Islamic fundamentalist threat south of our borders or in Afghanistan.
The answer is actually simple. We as writers are told to “write what we know”. I write about the world I know, a world well outside of safe American borders. I grew up the daughter of American missionaries in rural areas of Colombia that are now guerrilla hot spots. My own childhood was spent canoeing up and down the jungle rivers, flying in small propeller planes or driving the high mountain passes to boarding school in Venezuela, hiking up the Andes and into Amazon jungles.
After Bible college in yet one more country not my own, Canada, I married another missionary kid, then spent 16 years with my husband as missionaries in Bolivia, one of the world’s top-five most corrupt countries. The dubious privilege of witnessing first-hand the development of a ‘narco-state’ birthed my first international intrigue novel, CrossFire [Kregel Publications].
From Bolivia my husband and I were called to leadership with a ministry that serves in more than fifty countries on five continents. As result, I have now lived in six countries and traveled in more than thirty, including some of the planet’s more difficult corners. Those places and people, the spiritual lessons God has taught me along the journey, have spilled over to become the settings and themes of sixteen novels to date.
Why Afghanistan specifically? It wasn’t just that God had opened unexpected doors for me to visit that country in person. Like so many despite my distaste for war, I’d rejoiced in the post-9/11 overthrow of Afghanistan’s Taliban, hoping and praying the change would bring about new freedoms and peace in that region. Instead headlines a decade later reflect the rising violence, corruption, lawlessness and despair that is today’s Afghanistan. The ratifying by the West of its current constitution, establishing an Islamic republic under sharia law where praying to God according to personal conscience is a capital crime, tolled the death knell for any real hope of freedom.
And yet the many players I’d come to know personally in this drama, whether military, humanitarian, contractor, had involved themselves largely with the best of intentions. The more I came to know the region and love its people, I was left asking, “If with all the aid and arms and good intentions, freedom has not come to Afghanistan, what then is the true source of freedom? Can outsiders ever truly purchase freedom for another culture or people?”
Those questions birthed Veiled Freedom and its sequel Freedom’s Stand. Answering them was not so simple. The reality of life in today’s Afghanistan, my own experiences on the ground, had proved so much bleaker than media coverage, I battled to find any positive angle for my story.
I remember interviewing one particular female expatriate. Like myself, she was decorously draped in hair shawl and enveloping chapan overcoat despite torrid summer weather. Unmarried and still young, she’d already volunteered several years in Kabul’s revived university system. Now as a foreigner, a woman, and known Isa (Christ) follower, she’d begun to receive death threats. Not from mullahs or Taliban, but fellow professors and male students whose very livelihood and education were being funded by Western aid dollars.
I asked her thoughts about the future of Afghanistan. Did she see things as getting better? Would democracy and freedom eventually ooze out of this mess on its own as Western embassies fantasized? And what did the current deteriorating situation presage for the safety of volunteers like herself?
I will never forget the look in her eyes as she paused for a long, silent moment. Then, calmly, quietly, she answered, “It’s going to come to the shedding of blood.”
She paused again before adding just as calmly and quietly, “And I’m willing for that blood to be mine.”
In that simple statement, her courage and willingness to lay down her own life, I found the hope I’d been seeking for my story. A hope for the nation of Afghanistan and all our planet. Shortly after that interview, an entire mission team of expatriate medical volunteers did lay down their lives in the Afghan mountains at Taliban hands. Their motivation was the same that drew a young female volunteer to Kabul. A motivation secular news coverage could not grasp.
Love of the almighty Creator of the universe stepping into a troubled planet in the human form of Isa Masih, Jesus Christ, the only true Source of freedom.
Love of Christ-followers abandoning comfortable homes and lives to step into a troubled nation in some distant corner of the planet, laying down their lives in service to a people who too often do not even appreciate their sacrifice.
The sacrificial love I saw lived out by so many while in Afghanistan became the triumphant, hopeful, joyous theme threading through storyline and characters of both Veiled Freedom and Freedom’s Stand.
Award-winning novelist and missions journalist Jeanette Windle has lived in six countries and traveled in more than 30, authored 16 fiction titles, and mentors writers on five continents. Jeanette’s detailed research and writing is so realistic it has prompted government agencies to question if she received classified information.