Thoughts from Tarin Kowt

By CDR Charles J. Anderson, Chaplain 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit/Task Force Linebacker

tarin-kowt1Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, is a remote area, accessible only by helicopter, SUV, or military tactical vehicle. Our outing here was very good. We were away from our camp outside of Tarin Kowt about 5 hours, from morning to midday, and it was hot.

Tarin Kowt’s people are pitifully destitute. Everything is in shambles. The clinic is in deplorable condition, but it is a place to receive patients. The building has no electrical power or running water—all infrastructure large and small has crumbled.

Talking With the Children

The children are darling and shy, but they compete desperately for handouts. After I gained situational awareness within the clinic compound, I knelt in a shady area and the children began to approach me, a towering giant. They became less intimidated when I removed my boonie cover and they saw my short grey hair. Grey hair receives respect from Afghans.

Then, I removed my dark glasses so they could see my eyes. Some Afghans wear eyeglasses, but it is rare. I mimed not being able to see the children without my glasses, and then I donned them and expressed delight at seeing the children. They giggled in response.

I showed the children my earplugs, flashlight, multi-tool, canteen, and first aid kit. I thought about pulling out my whistle and blowing it, but figured they would want to blow it, too. So, I kept it hidden.

The children pointed to my nametape, so I taught some of them to say “ANDERSON,” and pointed to myself. They pointed to my oak leaf cluster insignia, so I touched the leaves of the nearby tree and said, “leaves.” They pointed to the cross on my flak/ballistic vest and made the sign of the cross with their fingers, so I pointed to myself, patted my heart and pointed heavenward, saying, “I love Allah.”

Then I pointed to the children, patted my heart and pointed heavenward, while asking, “Do you love Allah?” They nodded, but I do not think they understand the concept of a loving God.

Joe, Ann-Margaret, and Iris

One little boy I named “Joe” was not shy. He seemed to like that I called him Joe. One girl I called “Ann-Margaret” because she reminded me of that beautiful, saucy actress as she chewed bubble gum and blew bubbles.

Another girl I named “Iris” because of her beautiful pale eyes. The girls seem to like wearing the color green. Some of the Afghans, it seems especially females, are rather fair with pale eyes. The women from puberty to menopause cover themselves, including their faces, with blue pleated burkas or other dark full-body covering.

High Child Mortality Rates

Most women have many children; {meanwhile] Afghanistan’s mortality rate among children from birth to 4 years of age is 25 percent. Girls and old women leave their faces in plain view while covering their heads. Boys and unmarried young men wear small ornate caps; married men add a turban to their headgear.

Mullahs (community religious scholars) usually wear white turbans. Everyone squats on the ground or floor; if they take a bench or another chair, they will squat upon it.

Poignant Needs

Three medical cases were particularly poignant. A toddler had a huge abscessed left eye and a cataract on her right eye. The docs sent her to a hospital, and said her left eye was, likely, beyond salvaging.

A small boy who had had a closed head trauma several months ago was semi-comatose and skeletal. The docs said there was nothing they could do for him. I laid my hands on him and prayed for him. One man carried his young burka-clad wife into the clinic because she was too weak to walk due to a neurological condition.

The Plight of Girls

The hands of “Ann-Margaret,” and some other children and women, were  stained a rust red. I was told this indicated a male baby in the household. Male children are doted upon, whereas girls have to grovel for anything they can get.

We tossed field ration bread and candy to the children and they pounced upon it like wolves. Earlier I had tried to hand goodies to the children and was overwhelmed by a throng of competing kids. Again, the girls seemed most desperate for anything material and for the intangible, our attention.

We Americans have it all: the gospel and wealth. Afghans have none of that. They are largely devoid of the gospel, a fact that grinds inwardly upon anyone whose heart is entwined with the heart of the Savior.

What You Can Do

Pray for Afghanistan’s broken, spiritually lost people who are in desperate need of their heavenly Father’s love.

Chaplain Chuck Anderson retired from the U.S. Navy Chaplaincy in 2008. He serves in the Southwestern District as a Regional Ministry Coordinator for The Alliance. He lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Get Involved...


We cannot “Live the Call Together” unless prayer is central to all we do.
Pray with us »


Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »


Help build Christ’s Church by supporting the ministry and workers of The Alliance.
Give today »