One of the highlights of my time in Istanbul took place tonight at a dinner table. I had the privilege of sharing a meal with Joel and Margaret Delhart in the home of mutual friends. Joel grew up in Central Asia and continues to live there today. In the summer of 1991 he and a veterinarian, Dr. William Lewis, were working in a remote region of Afghanistan, serving the Hazara people by implementing a vaccination program for their farm animals. On Saturday, July 6, they were abducted by a Mujahideen commander and held for ransom. On January 4, 1992, exactly 18 years ago, Joel was released. Dr. Lewis had been released 3 months earlier after becoming critically ill.
The quiet, humble confidence in God that Joel exudes is recounted in a book that he and a co-worker who was the lead negotiator for his release co-wrote, entitled, The Upper Hand: God’s Sovereignty in Afghan Captivity. I was given a copy of the book tonight and look forward to reading the details of the story that I heard over dinner.
Seven years ago, the Deharts also survived a grenade attack on their church during a worship service in Islamabad. Both of them were injured in the attack and live with the resulting challenges of those injuries.
They are passing through Istanbul on their way back to Central Asia to continue serving the people they love by teaching English. Being with them was a reminder of the reality of suffering and sacrifice that many or our brothers and sisters face around the world today. It was also a reminder to pray for those who choose to live in hard places for the sake of the gospel.