Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dangerous Situations - Graft and Corruption

The Afghan Adventure Continues

It’s been awhile since I’ve written in my blog.   I will try to catch up on some of the happenings.
So I will tell you a couple of my Afghan stories.

Story 1… A couple of weeks ago I made a visit to one of my job sites in Char Bulak where we are building a police outpost in a small remote village.  It is an area that where the Taliban is very active.  The Army Corp of Engineers will not visit the site and only send their Afghan employees. Actually in the last month I’ve made two visits to the site.  During the first visit about four weeks ago I went with Don, my American Electrical Engineer, to inspect the site and review some electrical installation problems. 

While driving to the job site we were forced off the main road due to road construction and had to take a one lane dirt side road that went through very small villages in the middle of no-where – here we were two Americans driving with one guard through a Taliban active area.  During the drive we saw men that our driver identified as Taliban.  The guard put a live round in his AK-47 and made sure it was ready to use.  To be honest Don and I were very nervous about our drive to the site.  We arrived at the site with no problem. Now came the real nervous part, driving out… We knew that the Taliban knew that we were on site, and they knew we had to drive out.  During the drive out we had two incidents with the Taliban one was a car that came upon us very quickly out of no-where stayed behind us for a while and then veered of f the road and stopped, shortly after that a motorcycle rider again came out of no-where behind us and passed us slowly watch us and eyeing us…. He had strapped to his shoulder an AK-47, he passed us and stopped… we proceeded to drive, guards gun at the ready and we drove past him… I believe that they were just trying to put a scare to us letting us know they knew we were there.

Okay, now back to my next visit a couple of weeks ago, the main office called me and asked me to go to Char Bulak to take care of a problem they were having. I called and checked and the road was clear and I knew I could go visit using the newly paved road.  This time I took 2 guards and went to the site.  No problems either going or coming. 
The next day there was a bombing in the village center killing 6 police men.  A message was delivered to our on-site security that next time they will get the American. (Me) I will not be going back to Char Bulak.

I do believe, no I know that the Lord has been watching over me.  In my blessing before I came I was told that if I listened to the promptings of the Lord I would return home safely.  I have prayed to have the Gifts of the Spirit necessary to be able to be safe.  I am grateful for the Prayers of my children and friends, for I believe in the power of prayer and know that when I have been weak that those prayers have carried me.

Story 2…… Today… We are in the process of completing the project I’ve been living at Camp Shaheen. Tuesday the Army Corp of Engineers had their final walk and on Saturday we were going to have a Ceremony to turn over the site to the Afghanistan Army.  Today I went to meet with the different Afghanistan Commanders to invite them to the Turn over Ceremony where we were going to have a flag raising, where we take down the American Flag and raise the Afghanistan Flag giving them official control of the site and then we were going have an traditional Afghan lunch.  On my visit with the first official when I was talking about the Flag Ceremony I mentioned that they would need to bring an Afghan flag so that we could raise it… He stated to me, through my translator, NO… you need to supply the flag for us… I stated that we didn’t have an Afghan Flag and that needed  to be provided by the Afghan Army and again he demanded that we provide it… I stood up and stated that the US was providing a 10 million facility to them and that they needed to provide their own flag... again he said NO you provide and I said okay... there will be no Flag Ceremony and I left….. 

Later in the day we met with the Afghan Commander in charge of the total base at his guest house. In that meeting were three other Afghan Commanders over various other divisions under Commander Nahim.  During the meeting one of the other Commanders over the Engineering Division demanded that I leave him two of our conexs (living quarters) for his use, I thought he was kidding and laugher and suggested we arm wrestle for it, making a joke, I looked at him and he was very serious, I said NEY (no) we needed them at other job sites, he then asked for 2 cars stating that another contractor had given him 2 cars again I said no… (all of this through my translator) then he asked for cash, I got up and stated we would not be having a Ceremony and thank them for meeting with us and I left them. 

As I left I called Mailk (My Company’s VP) to let him know what happened and what I had done.  He told me that I did the right thing and that the Company would not be a part of a bribe.  He told me he was going to call Azaimi our Company’s President to make sure we didn’t have any further problems.  He stated Azaimi knew someone in the Government that would take care of this. 

I them went and had a meeting with the Army regarding a request of a bribe and was told they were aware of this problem with this Commander and that they would follow up with it once we were off site to insure my safety.

Later that day I was told that the Commander over the Engineering Division was being called to Kabul by the Minister of Defense to be either reassigned or terminated. Who knew that my action today would have such an end result. 

This evening I received a message through my PM that Commander Nahim (the head Commander) did not approve of the other mans actions and that we would have no problem in closing out this project and removing our living quarters and materials. 

I had heard of the graft and corruption in Afghanistan, but to witness it and to see it … to live it and be a part of it like I was just was so emotional for me. I had to make a stand. My men were surprised that I got so upset. That I made such a big deal of it. But I could not and would never be a part of something like that.   I have found out that what I saw was just a tip of the iceberg. It is just the way of life for all Afghan people here.  If they want something they have to pay someone for it.  It is a normal way of life and it goes all the way to the top. 

Can you imagine how much of our money being sent from the USA to rebuild Afghanistan is being diverted into the Afghans private pockets.

 Again while we (Americans) do not have a perfect system it is nothing like this.  Again I truly appreciate and Love being an American.

Just another part of my Afghanistan Adventure.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day



I was looking for some special thoughts to share with my mother and came upon some very special thoughts for Mother’s Day.  I felt moved to share them with my single friends who are Mothers and have and are going through many trying times – those of you who feel they don’t like Mothers day – I wanted to share some of those thoughts with you – to help you realize how special you are – how much I and so many others appreciate you, recognize the trials you have been through, the sacrifices you’ve made and are continuing to make.  For me it doesn’t go un-noticed. You are an example to many.  Your trials are unique.

For my married friends that have not gone through the trials of divorce, first feel blessed because it can happen to anyone and then please take a moment to look around you on Sunday and give a special hello and gift of Love to those mother’s, who by no choice of their own, have found themselves in this unfortunate situation of being a divorced mother on Mother’s Day.  Most of them have now found themselves to be the breadwinner and the mother with very little relief, understanding and or support.  Please understand this, for most of them today is a difficult day.  Your special hello which is a gift of love will be appreciated. 

Now, some special thoughts about ALL mothers :

 “As a mother you have been given divine instincts to help you sense your child’s special talents and unique capacities,” says Elder Scott. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles adds, “To mothers who are raising their children without a father in the home, I promise you that as you speak of Jesus Christ, you will feel the power of heaven blessing you.”

"The noblest calling in the world is that of mother. True motherhood is the most beautiful of all arts, the greatest of all professions. She who can paint a masterpiece or who can write a book that will influence millions deserves the plaudits and admiration of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters whose immortal souls will be exerting an influence throughout the ages long after painting shall have faded, and books and statues shall have been destroyed, deserves the highest honor that man can give."
~ David O. McKay

(I really enjoyed this next one because it is so simple but it really shows what is so special about being a Mother…. Love so deep they Sacrifice anything and everything.)

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.

God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.  ~Jewish Proverb

Now that... my kids are grown, I understand how much work and love it takes to raise and to keep a family together.  The example of your strength, devotion, and patience is now rippling through the generations.  Thank you!

On Mother's Day I have written a poem for you.  In the interest of poetic economy and truth, I have succeeded in concentrating my deepest feelings and beliefs into two perfectly crafted lines:  You're my mother, I would have no other! 

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.  ~Washington Irving

“There is no role in life more essential and more eternal than that of motherhood,” says Elder M. Russell Ballard “A mother’s nurturing love arouses in children, from their earliest days on earth, an awakening of the memories of love and goodness they experienced in their pre-mortal existence,” he declares.  “Because our mothers love us, we learn, or more accurately remember, that God also loves us.”

President Joseph F. Smith said: “It is not for you to be led by the women of the world; it is for you to lead the … women of the world, in everything that is praise-worthy, everything that is God-like, everything that is uplifting and … purifying to the children of men”
There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman. 

Mother's Day...
a time for warm thoughts
and fond memories,
for expressing
the feelings and words
that often go unspoken,
for letting
those special people
in our lives know
that they are loved
and appreciated -

Thank you to all Mother’s out there on this special day… We love you and appreciate you with all our hearts, today and every day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pictures from Afghanistan

Visit Home in February

Driving with my beautiful daughter Madison
Me going with my kids (Kendell and Garrett) Beauty and the Beast - fun times

Proud Father
Dinner with Garrett and his beautiful wife Julie and Kendell with her wonderful husband Casey - more good times

Dinner at the Utah Myler's home with my sister DeDe and her beautiful daughters
Whitney and Dennis.... who know...?
My Uncle and Aunt... love them both... really great people

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Can being sick really be a blessing....?

First of all I'm feeling better. Not at 100% but moving in that direction.

Some interesting news. On my new project The Khoulm Road Project, I think I've sent you some pictures and a few comments about meeting the Village Elders and stuff... I was excited to be involved and felt safe.... well I guess you never know what can happen.... I got a call from the office yesterday asking me, no telling me not to go to the site again.... they had received a tip that I was specifically targeted.... that I was know to be in the area and that they were out to get me. Then I received an email from the client today warning me that there was a credible threat of abduction or assassination...aimed at me specifically. I mean how unreal is that. I'm trying to build a road, bring 3 wells to villages that need the water... it is there lifeline for survival and someone is actually targeting me. And I was walking into the villages shaking their hands meeting with the village leaders, walking up in the mountains looking at material sources. I do believe that Someone must have been looking out for me. I will not be going back to that site. But the interesting thing is that I never felt threaten or in danger.

What an interesting world we live in and what an experience I'm having.

(wrote this the next day)

I had a thought. This "attempt" has been on my mind, I didn't think it mattered to me but I couldn't sleep last night. The thought I had was, Mon I went to the site and was going to go back either Tuesday or Wednesday to meet with the Mayor regarding the material sites, size and condition of an asphalt plant we might buy, site visit to the road and village, and rental of the home office. So lots of different people knew I was coming back. Now the bad thing is that as I was thinking last night, in my daily prayers I had stopped asking if it was okay to go or for the gift of the Spirit that was promised in my Blessings to be with me, I had become so comfortable that I was going on automatic doing my job thinking I had paved the road with the people by being open and friendly so everything was okay.... I had stopped including the Lord in that decision.... So if you remember Monday night I felt like I was hit by a truck... I was very sick, hit me suddenly, I think that the Lord took things in his own hands and blessed me again keeping me safe. I don't think I've ever looked at a sickness as a blessing but under the circumstances what else can one think.if I was well I would have probably have gone on both of those days and who knows what would have happened. No I think I know what would have happened. The Lord did save my life.

Now I can wonder why? Or have another example of the power of God and that He is real and does exist.

Another lesson learned.

It is unbelievable to me how many different experiences I have had in my short time here.

My appreciation for all things have increased.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Muslim story of Christmas.....

I have been asked by many what do the Muslim’s think about Christmas or of Christ… this article I read I think best describes what the Muslim’s believe that I have met so far believe… it has been a common belief that has allowed me to start from and using that common belief have some very open discussions about Christ.

Just the other day I was driving back from Khulm to Mazar with an Engineer and he asked me about my belief in Christ and asked me about being a Mormon.. then he wanted to know if I had gone on a mission and if I was forced to go… It was a very open and interesting discussion we discussed the five basic tenets of being a Muslim and I told him that I easily was following 3 to 4 of them and gave him examples of how I (Mormons) followed those same beliefs… he then made me an honorary Muslim… I think it was a compliment….

Please read this story and think about how similar we all really are. For one thing for sure it strengthens my Testimony in Christ… He did live, He is real and can be a part of all our life’s if we just open our heart up to receiving Him in our life’s.

The Muslim story of Christmas

She was alone, as she was wont to do, worshiping in the eastern section of the temple. Suddenly, she was startled by a strange presence: a man with whom she was not familiar. “I seek refuge from thee with the Most Gracious,” she said, “(Approach me not) if you are conscious of Him!” He sought to calm her by saying, “I am but a messenger of your Lord, (who says,) `I shall bestow upon thee the gift of a son endowed with purity.’”

This startled her most of all. She replied, in shock: “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me? - for, never have I been an unchaste woman!” The presence replied: “Thus it is; (but) your Lord says, `This is easy for Me; and (thou shalt have a son,) so that We might make him a symbol unto humanity and an act of grace from Us. And it was a thing decreed (by God).”

And so she conceived the child, withdrawing to a far-off place. And when the pangs of childbirth overtook her, she was driven to sit under the trunk of palm tree, and she exclaimed in anguish: “Oh, would that I had died before this, and had become a thing forgotten, utterly forgotten!” Yet, she had the child, and she then came back to her people carrying him, who were clearly shocked.

They exclaimed, “Thou hast indeed done an amazing thing!” They continued: “O Sister of Aaron,” an honorific title for this heretofore pious woman, “Your father was not a wicked man, nor was thy mother an unchaste woman!” She pointed to her newborn child, whereupon they said: “How can we talk to one who (as yet) is a little boy in the cradle?”

The child then said:

Behold, I am a servant of God. He has vouchsafed unto me revelation and made me a prophet, and made me blessed wherever I may be; and He has enjoined upon me prayer and charity as long as I live, and (has endowed me with) piety towards my mother; and He has not made me haughty or bereft of grace. Hence, peace was upon me on the day when I was born, and (will be upon me) on the day of my death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life (again)!

This story, that of the birth of Christ, was culled, not from my copy of the Bible, but rather from the nineteenth chapter of the Koran. It is the second mention, in fact, of this story, the first being in the third chapter. This should come as no surprise, really, for Jesus (and his mother) are very prominent in Muslim belief and reverence.

The Koran is full of passages about Jesus and Mary. The Muslim holy book describes Jesus as being “honored in the world and the hereafter, and one of the intimates of God” (3:45). Christ is also “in the ranks of the righteous” (6:85), described as “a word from God which He send down to Mary (and) and a spirit from Him” (4:171). The Koran even says that Jesus Christ “was strengthened with the Holy Spirit” (2:253, 5:110), although classical exegesis notes that “Holy Spirit” means either divine inspiration or the Angel Gabriel. Jesus, in fact, is mentioned more by name in the Koran than the Prophet Muhammad himself.

That’s why it perplexes me to hear some Christians talk about Muslims “not having Jesus.” We have Jesus all over our faith and belief, we just don’t believe he is the son of God or part of a triune deity. Muslims maintain that Christ was a prophet. It is a major difference in belief, to be sure, but it is not something over which Christians and Muslims should have any enmity or animosity.

Yes, some Muslims claim that Christians and Jews are “enemies,” but I pay no heed to such rabble. It is the product of a criminal, twisted mind, and the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not subscribe to such beliefs. And sadly, there are some Christians who say the same about Muslims and Islam: that we are “enemies,” not to be trusted or accepted into the fabric of society, and our faith is “evil.” Such voices, in both communities, must be ignored and marginalized.

No, Muslims may not adorn their houses with lights during this season, but it does not mean that Jesus does not light their hearts with love and reverence. Muslims may not take Christmas Day off as a religious holiday, but that does not mean that Jesus means nothing to them at all. Yes, it may be that the only businesses open on Christmas Day may be the Muslim-owned ones, but that does not mean that Jesus is not near and dear to those business owners’ hearts.

This common love for Jesus - and all the prophets of God - should be the force to bring American Muslims and Christians together. As we all think about Jesus this holiday season, it is my hope and prayer that the forces of hatred and division are no longer paid heed, and Americans of all faiths and creeds come together in peace. I know that it would be what Jesus would want for us; I know that it is what God wants as well.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Christmas in Afghanistan....

Christmas Day in Afghanistan

Wanted to share my Christmas in Afghanistan. first it's a normal workday. There is no Christmas recognition here so no celebration of any kind. Today I had to make a site visit to our new road project in Khulm, we were trying to find a good source for the road base material. We are going to make our own quarry and mine and crush our own material. We found a good source and now I can meet with the Mayor and other government officials and make arrangements to use the land. It's an interesting project with lots of complex parts to it that all need to come together. I will be going to Khulm for the next couple of day getting everything moving.

After we were done and on our way back I suggested we stop for lunch and have some kabobs ... I told them it was going to be my Christmas dinner and they said since your family isn't with you we will be your family... I said I would like that.. They laughed..

So we all went to a late lunch... Sat and had kabobs, chicken, lamb liver and a very tender beef rib... All very tasty.... Not your normal Christmas dinner but nothing has been what you and I would call normal on this adventure.....

At lunch I asked them to ask my driver to stop at the Blue Masque so that I could give to the poor... I had had a thought come to me ... That it was Christmas and I should share what I could with those less fortunate, so I got some afghan money and we stopped... I told my armed guard to stay in the car, to intimidating, and just asked someone else to escort me while I walked the sidewalk to give to some of the older men who were sitting next to the gate, begging for I started handing out the money I was swarmed with about I would guess about 20 to 30 people shoving each other and me trying to get to me and the money, with more coming, I was completely surrounded and had lost my escort but two police had joined me and were trying to keep the people back and me safe.... I only wanted to give the money to the older men... It was fairly scary... But I really wanted to try to help someone ... Give my own gift of love to those in need... I was able to complete what I came there to do and was then was rushed back to the car by the police and my escort who had rejoined me which was quickly surrounded with people knocking on the window asking for money.. As we pulled out we were chased by the people still begging and wanting money... It was sad and somewhat scary....All I had wanted to do was to try and help someone.. Give my own gift of love to those in need....

As I left I was overwhelmed with how great the need is and how many so many of our brothers have so emotions over took me and I had to control my tears... As I drove away again the words of the song came to my mind about giving ... And the scripture about when you give to the least of them that you are giving actually to the Lord... What greater gift could I give to my Savior on this his Birthday but to reach out in a small way.....

The rest of my day was a normal Sunday, went to the base for dinner and then to church for Sacrament service and a discussion about the birth of the Savior and ways to serve him.

It was a different day but as I think about it may be in a good way, I wasn't focused on actual gifts and opening of gifts and things, but instead on being open to the Spirit and being among non believers and sharing with them why Christmas was so special to me and one even who knew I was Mormon and asked how that was different... So a teaching moment..

Oh, I missed my family, my dear children and visiting of friends, I even missed the hustle and rushing around to get ready for Christmas but I experienced something different ...

So it was a day of simple things, a hike in the hills in the middle of nowhere, service and sharing... Prayer and pondering with Christmas music in the background ....

Maybe it was a good Christmas after all....