From Here to Timbuktu

Yes, Timbuktu is a real place.  Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know that.  It’s far away from us in the country of Mali, inland from West Africa.  Far away from us  in miles, certainly, but even farther away in our geographically challenged American minds.

Recently, a lawyer representing the people of Timbuktu at the International Criminal Court described the destruction Islamic extremists had poured out on Mali’s historical mausoleums. (Yes, this was back in June and July of 2012, but stay with me and you’ll see the relevance.) There in the desert, those interlopers desecrated and destroyed the graves of both the Africans’ ancestors and their saints.

The lawyer insisted the destruction had left the locals overcome with crippling feelings of shame.  I know, I know!  It seems an odd charge to me, too. The pick ax–wielding Al Mahdi rebels had purposely, methodically reduced the simple mud-brick mausoleum tombs to piles of dusty rubble. On top of all that, the lawyer added, the destruction totally crippled tourism.  There went the grieving  people’s income.

Muslim radical Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi pleaded guilty to leading that massive destruction.  Actually, he did more than simply plead guilty.  He went on to express remorse for his part in the purposeful obliteration.  Then he proceeded to urge Muslims around the world to refrain from ever again  resorting to  such acts.

Sounds great.  But really, does  it comfort us?  There are still way too many extremists out there, and they come in all colors, all nationalities, all religions–and in no religion at all.

Comfort and peace come from God alone.  Without Him, there is none to be found:  not from here to Timbuktu.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

Khalil Gibran



About kaystrom

Kay Marshall Strom, who am I? Well, I’m a traveler, a railer against social injustice, a passionate citizen of the world. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I’m a 21st century abolitionist who speaks out against slavery of all kinds. I am a beach walker and a gardener and the off-key singer of songs. I’m a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. Most people, though, know me as a writer and a speaker. So here is a bit more about that part of my life: Of my 43 published books, eight have been book club selections, seventeen have been translated into foreign languages, and two have been optioned for movies. My writing credits include numerous magazine articles, books for children, short stories, television scripts and two prize-winning screenplays. Along with my husband Dan, I also have produced a series of booklets for writers. My writing has appeared in a number of volumes including three versions of the NIV Devotional Bible and the devotional book My Heart, Christ’s Home, Through the Year. I love to write, and I love to share about topics close to my heart. I speak at seminars, retreats, writer’s conferences, and special events throughout the country. And because I do enjoy travel, I even speak on cruise ships! More and more my writing and speaking are drawing me to countries and cultures around the world. Because I don’t see how a writer can really reflect another people and land without spending time there, I’ve been trekking through India, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Sudan, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt, tape recorder and camera in hand, to gather stories from the world-wide family of God and to speak on their behalf. I’ve traveled to the hard places of the world to tell “the rest of the story” of our donor dollars at work. Thanks to my “virtual friendship” with 17th century John Newton, slave ship captain turned preacher, I traveled through Ireland with the preview team of the movie Amazing Grace (John wrote the hymn). I recently spoke in Japan and South Korea, and my husband Dan and I taught writing classes in India. And, oh, how thankful I am for every bit of it! I went to West Africa to work on a non-fiction book, but when I toured an old slave fortress off the coast and saw a tiny set of baby manacles bolted to the wall, I was struck dumb. All I could think was: “How could good, God-fearing people ever get to the place where they think that is okay?” From that horror came a story question, and from that question, my foray into fiction: The Grace in Africa trilogy. My seven trips to India led to the Blessings in India fiction trilogy. Come join me as I travel and rail against injustice. Join me as I walk along the beach, or work in the garden, or warble a tune. Be my friend. Maybe you will choose to also be a 21st century abolitionist.
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