Through a set of unplanned circumstances my family had the privilege of meeting Cyd Mizell this past Christmas and sharing it with her here in Turkey. Until a few days ago Cyd was just a normal person doing her work in the desperately needy country of Afghanistan with women who greatly appreciated her involvement in their lives. But last Saturday gunmen, still unknown, stopped her Afghan driver Muhammed, taking him and her as hostages. Within hours the story of her abduction hit the front page of papers internationally as officials try to understand what happened and why, and more importantly, how to rescue her and her driver.
Hearing of Cyd’s abduction has personally shocked us, having just met her a few weeks ago in much different circumstances. She was on a relaxing break from her work in Afghanistan. We too had taken a break from our routine in Istanbul and spent a few days near the Aegean Sea with some friends who operate a small tourism business there. Through our tourist business friends, we had the privilege of spending Christmas Eve and Day with her. We were impressed by her willingness to go into one of the most dangerous, unstable places on the earth out of her love for other people. She told about how she had learned the language, made inroads among tribal people, and seen the aid program develop and become productive, providing skills and opportunity to women, mostly illiterate, who for years have been deprived of opportunities. While we talked and drank tea, the subject came up of personal safety. Yes, she knew there were risks, but this youthful 49-year old single lady was willing to take them. Yes, she had faith, yes, she had courage, and yes, she was willing to put it into action.
We listened and smiled as she described the difficulties she faced sometimes of trying to identify with the local customs and cultures. Take for example the burqa, the full body covering that she regularly wore, even in the baking hot Afghan summers. With us, here in Turkey, she dressed as a normal, modest Westerner would dress. But out of respect and a desire to really build bridges of trust with the Afghan people, she wore the burqa, uncomfortable and unfamiliar as it surely was, it was part of her daily attire. Through that simple gesture of solidarity with the Afghan women, she had entered their world and gained a new understanding of them.
We have a Christmas Eve picture of Cyd and our friends just sitting around the living room, laughing, smiling, sharing a few peaceful moments of connection, a quiet oasis. Though we didn’t know the crisis she would face upon her return to Khandahar, we all knew that the restful Christmas moments were precious in light of the hardships she would face back in the biting dust of southern Afghanistan. Cyd had worked in an office in the U.S. before going to Afghanistan three years ago. She would probably not want to be called a hero, just an ordinary person moved by a vision of extraordinary love that could change the world, even in a place like Afghanistan. In her quiet determination, she was fully resolved to return to Afghanistan with fresh desire to serve the people there, whatever awaited her.
After a fabulous Christmas Day feast we shared dessert and coffee together. Though we didn’t want to get too heavy in our conversation, the subject of Afghanistan came up with Cyd. She voiced her genuine concerns for the well-being of the country. It was obvious this was a person who had spiritual waters running deeply inside and that she wanted what would be best for her adopted homeland.
Now, as local and foreign authorities are trying to locate Cyd and her driver Muhammed-the father of five children, is there anything the rest of us can do to help Cyd and the Afghan people she loved enough to risk being there? I would venture to guess that she would appreciate our prayers.