I spent four days in Kabul when I was seventeen.

I spent days in a lot of places when I was sixteen and seventeen – 32 countries in fact – but that’s another story. This story is one small piece of that larger story.

We, my mom, dad, sister, our Swiss friend, Jacqueline, and I stayed in the home of Tom and Libby Little in downtown Kabul. Tom was an eye doctor who, with his wife and three small children, had moved to Kabul that year. They had been planning to stay just two years, but had now decided to stay there for the rest of their lives.

Somewhere, I hope, in my parents’ garage, is a box containing hundreds of Kodak slides from our journeys that year. Somewhere among them are photos of Kabul. When I find them, I intend to digitize them. Then I’ll update this blog and post them here. In the meantime, here’s a blog I found that talks about Kabul in the late seventies and beyond. This might give you an idea of what it was like. I wish I could show you pictures. If you Google images for Chicken Street in Kabul, you’ll get an idea of the colorful crazy mix that this place still is.

What I remember about those few days in the summer of 1977 was how happy Tom and Libby seemed to be. They had just started this work, and were falling in love with Afghanistan. I remember Libby taking my mom and me down Chicken Street, in Kabul to go shopping. The colors, the smells, the dead animals hanging in the butcher shops, the flies, the women in bright jewel toned shiny flowing burkes that hid their entire face and body, the hawkers, Libby haggling with the shop keepers for everything from butter to scarves, the American tie-dyed long-haired hippies shopping for pot and opium on their way to Nepal on the Kathmandu Trail in search for enlightenment, the men sitting in front of their shops smoking their hookahs, the dust, the music, the crowds, the energy. There were American missionaries who went to Kabul specifically to minister to the American hippy enlightenment seekers. Tom and Libby may have started out this way, I don’t know. But they fell in love with the Afghanis and that’s where they stayed. They warned us in the strictest terms not to mention Jesus, or share our faith with any Afghani. It could be a death sentence for the Afghani and could get Tom & Libby arrested and expelled from the country.

I remember the children who gathered around Tom and Libby’s home waiting for us to emerge so they could smile sweetly, tug on our skirts, and hold out their hands. I remember giving them pieces of bread from a loaf that Tom and Libby gave us.

I remember wondering at the thought that Tom and Libby were going to make this place their home. That they weren’t here for some short-term mission. They had fallen in love with these beautiful people and were moving to Afghanistan, permanently.

We kept up with them for some years through their newsletter, and my dad corresponded with Tom for a while. I wish I had been more self (and others) aware at that time and had stayed in touch with them myself. We heard about them continuing to stay through civil war, the Russian invasion, political uprisings, overthrows, bombings, massacres, the Taliban, and on and on and on…. to bring optical and medical care to the Afghan people.

They had a deep and profound faith in God and exercised that faith by loving the people of Afghanistan. And they were loved in return. In an interview with NPR in 2003, Tom explains why they stayed, even through very dangerous times. He said that he and Libby identified so much with the Afghanis that leaving when it was dangerous, running home to the U.S. where it was safe, seemed cowardly and shameful, when their Afghani friends and patients could not leave.

Three weeks ago, while returning from an arduous trek into some remote mountain villages, Tom and nine members of the medical team he led were executed by the Taliban.

We all believe in something, and that belief governs our actions – whether we are aware of it or not. The Taliban accused Tom of proselytizing, which of course was untrue. Tom didn’t have to tell people about the God he worshiped. He showed them – through his courageous love. The militants who murdered Tom and the rest of his team were also sending a message about the god they worship.

I grieve for Libby and for their daughters. And I grieve for the people of Afghanistan who are being held hostage by this brutal inhuman band of murderers and tyrants, and who have lost a beloved friend who did nothing but give sight to the blind.

Thirty-three years ago they were young and I was younger. I was just beginning traveling down my own road to enlightenment. They had already found theirs giving and loving the people in Afghanistan.


17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cachy on August 28, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Hi F, so sorry to hear about your friends, so hard to understand how people doing good die like this while others committing all these atrocities live…..King David felt the same and had a good talk to God about this….I supposed this is where we get on our knees and ask God for justice in the world and for what our part is….Tom and Libby knew clearly……may God give us ears to hear what our call is during this time. I know I’m hearing lots on prayer, BEING who He made us to be and listening to our call….thank you for sharing your memories of this wonderful family….cachy


    • Posted by fawngilmorekraut on September 8, 2010 at 7:47 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Cachy. I think the key is BEING, as you said. We’re so busy trying to figure out what to DO. Just BE – authentic and true, in integrity with your deepest values. If you worship a God of love, then LOVE. And let LOVE do its own work.


  2. Oh Fawn, I’m so sorry. I did hear about this tragedy on a national morning news program, but I had no idea you knew him. May God continue to comfort you and Tom’s family and friends as only He can. Hugs, Debra


  3. Posted by Jean Jobs on August 28, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    hi Fawn,
    i didn’t realize you knew Tom. My dear friend there Susan, was roommates with Cheryl Beckett who was also murdered on that team. I got to spend some time with Cheryl when I was there in June. The news of their death was very close to home. Hurting with you, love Jean


  4. Posted by Joseph Stone on August 28, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Very heart-breaking and profoundly uplifting at the same time. Your well-written post hit my heart. I now have a small connection to the families affected by this senseless act of the Taliban. Thank you, Fawn. –Joseph


    • Posted by fawngilmorekraut on August 28, 2010 at 5:14 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Joseph. We’re all connected to it. The world is smaller than we think.


  5. Very well said!
    Your devoted father–


  6. Posted by kim on August 29, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    See? Perfect.
    Am just finishing “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, have you read it?


    • Posted by fawngilmorekraut on August 29, 2010 at 7:01 pm

      Thanks for the nudge, dear Kimmie. You’re the best! Have not read “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. Read “Kite Runner” and loved it. The first part of the book is about the same time that we were in Afghanistan. Still free – as long as you were Muslim and male – but free compared to all that followed. The only “invasion” at that time were western hippies seeking pot and enlightenment. Your book is on my list.


  7. Posted by Wallace's Love Slave on August 31, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Wonderful words, Fawn!


  8. Posted by J R Young on September 8, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks for this Fawn; you’ve got to read “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” you can borrow my copy, if you want.


    • Posted by fawngilmorekraut on September 8, 2010 at 8:47 pm

      Thanks JR. So glad you joined in! OK, OK, I’ll read “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” If you would like to loan it to me, I’d be honored to read your copy. Otherwise, I’ll pick one up on my own.


  9. Posted by Auntie Em on October 4, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Although you sent this in August, I just read it. Thanks for sharing. I was, sort-of prepared for the sad ending. I certainly feel the sadness that comes with such horror. Do you think his wife and children will try to return to the U.S.?
    I have read “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, as well as the Kite Flyer, which I believe is by the same author.
    Both were very good!

    I miss you.

    Hope you & Steve enjoyed your 10th anniversary (am I correct?)
    always, much love


    • Posted by fawngilmorekraut on October 20, 2010 at 9:07 pm

      Hi Em,
      Last I heard his wife Libby, who was visiting one of their daughters in the U.S. when Tom was killed, is returning to Kabul. His other daughter, as far as I know is still there working with NGOs.

      My friend J.R. loaned me “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. Steve and I are reading it together right now and can’t put it down. Yes. It’s the same author as “Kite Runner.” Excellent book. I hope he keeps writing. It gives such an in depth look into the Afghan culture and history while weaving a riveting story. Should be required reading in the U.S.!


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