‘How am I going to explain this to my wife?’comment (0)
December 13, 2012
The first time Doug Page (see story, page 8) set foot in the remote Central Asian town where he was sent to serve Christ, a single question echoed through his mind: “How on earth am I going to explain this to my wife?”
The Southern Baptist doctor scanned the dozens of small, sand-colored boxes that littered the surrounding hills. The boxes were people’s homes — mud homes. And very soon Page and his wife would be living in one.
“I remember getting off the little plane on a little dirt airstrip and being met by some locals in a pickup truck and driven up a hill. No paved roads, just one hole in the ground after another … weaving our way around donkeys and goats and sheep … and thinking, ‘Wow, this is a pretty rough place.’ I felt I could probably survive here, maybe live in a sleeping bag in a hole somewhere,” he said with a laugh. “But I wanted her to be comfortable and happy and be able to minister and live.”
“Her” is the love of his life, Alice, his wife of nearly 30 years. They started dating during his freshman year in college, and though Alice swore she’d never marry a doctor or a preacher, she found herself with both.
Page was glad he’d come alone for this first introduction to the couple’s new home. It was a far cry from the simple but comfortable lifestyle they enjoyed back home in Mississippi. But despite his initial shock, Page said there was a “certain wildness” about this part of Central Asia that drew him in.
The town lies in a shallow valley locked deep within the country’s rugged interior. Like most of their neighbors, the Pages live in a simple mud house, which the couple has outfitted with a Western toilet, shower and kitchen sink. These “luxuries” aren’t available during the region’s glacial winters, however, as nighttime temperatures dip below minus 20 F and threaten to burst pipes. Electricity is spotty, available for only a few hours each night.
Staying warm is especially difficult. Kerosene heaters provide a little respite from the cold, but some nights are so bitter sheets of ice form on the walls inside the Pages’ home. “I put toothpaste and shampoo bottles in our bathroom and they just turned to ice. … I didn’t know toothpaste could freeze,” Page said with a laugh.
The couple has learned to stockpile food, fuel and firewood; they also constantly sweep snow from the home’s mud roof to avoid leaks or collapse. Even driving is a chore. Besides the challenge of navigating icy roads, the SUV’s brakes freeze; a blowtorch is used to thaw them each morning. Survival techniques came by watching their neighbors. Alice learned to dry apples and tomatoes on the roof in the sun and preserve onions and potatoes by burying them in the yard. Doug stored up barrels of kerosene and salted slabs of beef.
Despite difficulties, the Pages have maintained a positive attitude. But the cold weather and poor infrastructure are only half the challenge. Security is always on his mind.
Sunlight glints off coils of silver razor wire snaking its way around the mud walls of the Pages’ home. The protective barrier is a constant reminder of the risks Doug and Alice face simply by being here — to say nothing of sharing the gospel. Deportation, prison, kidnapping and murder are very real threats for Christian workers in Central Asia and even more so for the nationals with whom they partner. Bars cover the Pages’ windows and a guard stands watch at their home 24/7.
It’s not foolishness or arrogance, he said. Just a genuine trust in God’s calling on their lives and the understanding that obedience to the Great Commission doesn’t come with any guarantee of personal safety — or without sacrifice and pain.
Page’s commitment to follow Christ goes beyond simple obedience. It’s about a sense of urgency — and love. “We honestly feel that we are not sacrificing much; that God has given us so much that we’re thankful for. And that we’re obligated, compelled because of our love for Him,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Names have been changed for security reasons. (IMB)