The September 11th attacks on U.S. soil awakened me to the terrors Afghan women and girls were suffering at the hands of the Taliban. On my knees in tears, I prayed, “God, is there anything I can do?”
That prayer launched me, the most unlikely of women—a blue-eyed, blonde divorcé with a bad sense of direction, and more than a few anxieties—onto the wildest ride of my life.
A preposterous dream had seized my heart: to alleviate poverty by creating jobs for Afghan women.
In my quest to launch a business venture in Afghanistan—a war zone and the deadliest country on earth to be a woman—I traveled back and forth from the U.S., juggling my full-time job with my labor of love. Over several years, I faced a myriad of setbacks and heartbreaks, and outright betrayal.
But, in response to some outrageous prayers, I also experienced the jaw-dropping power of the God of the Impossible.
In Afghanistan, I was ushered into the lives of all kinds of women and girls: ambitious students, returning refugees, residents of a secret shelter, forgotten prisoners, child brides, women facing the threat of honor killings, and heroes who had faced down the Taliban. As they opened an intimate window into their lives—their suffering, their dreams, and their conundrums—they unraveled my own.
When two young women I came to love found themselves in deep trouble, I prayed as if their lives depended on it, and rallied friends to do the same.
Shahla had escaped an Iranian brothel where she was held as a sex slave. She was shredding her arms when I first met her at a secret women’s shelter in Afghanistan. Now, as a tainted woman, she was a societal pariah with no hope of ever having a family of her own.
Roxana, a former refugee who had recently returned from a twelve-year exile, had a promising future until her newly arranged marriage threatened not only to end in divorce, but in her own death. God’s breathtaking answers to both of their seemingly hopeless situations proved nothing short of miraculous.
In a two-part leap of faith, I quit my job, sold my condo, and said goodbye to loved ones. Standing on the precipice of a move to Afghanistan, I faced another crisis of faith. What I ached to do may have looked to others like a nosedive into a snake pit, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I was born to do it.