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Secular Sainthood: One Man's Road to Saving Humanity Through Education
on June 30, 2007
Do you like to read heroic tales of overcoming daunting odds to achieve great things? Do you believe that we are past the age of heroes? If you answered yes to either question, you need to read Three Cups of Tea immediately!
Here's the overview of this book. Greg Mortenson was a determined mountain climber on his way back from challenging K2, one of the world's highest and most dangerous peaks in the Himalayas, when he lost his way. He was exhausted from just having helped in the all-but-impossible rescue of one of his fellow climbers. As a result of the second of his mistakes in leaving the so-called trail, Mortenson found himself needing help in a Balti village in Pakistan that he had never heard of, Korphe. The villagers nursed him back to health, and Mortenson began listening to their grievances against the Pakistan government which supported an on-going conflict with India over Kashmir, but did not provide a school for their children. The grateful Mortenson promised to build them a school.
Many people make such promises, but few fulfill them. Mortenson headed back to California and raised the $12,000 he estimated it would take to build the school. With the money in hand, he flew back to Pakistan and started buying supplies. Arriving at the village, his new Balti friends reminded him that there was no bridge to transport the supplies to the village. Mortenson headed back to raise the money for the bridge.
After many more trials, the school was built and a teacher installed. Mortenson had found his life work. He wanted to provide schools for all of the Pakistani children who didn't get an education, especially the girls, who were more likely to stay in their villages and improve living conditions. Everything was difficult. Pakistanis didn't trust him. Muslims thought it was all a plot to convert children to Christianity. Some wanted bribes. People in the United States were generally opposed to helping Muslims unless they had been climbers in that part of the Himalayas. Mortenson got hate mail. But he persevered.
Eventually, his vision expanded to helping with water projects and to providing scholarships for higher education for those who graduated from the schools he built.
Conditions in Afghanistan also called out to him, and he established a similar program there.
But his slim efforts were being overwhelmed by madrassas funded with Saudi money that were often used to recruit and train terrorists. His life changed forever when in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan Parade Magazine wrote an article about his efforts to secure a lasting peace in the region by supporting moderate Muslims with educational aid.
This book is powerfully coauthored by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I seldom recall reading such an excellent story about serving humanity in a selfless secular way that isn't tied to a religious vocation.
The book's title refers to a story that Mortenson learned from those who wanted him to slow down and stop acting like an American: The local people wanted to ally with him, and he was trying to run everything. Results improved when he stepped back and became an ally instead of an authoritarian leader.
Here's the basis of the reference: Haji Ali, his first Balti friend, told Mortenson that he had to respect Balti ways. "The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger." "The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest." "The third time you share tea, you are family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything, even die."
May God bless the authors, their families, and those who work with Mr. Mortenson to expand the light of education to those who wish to see with it.