Then Jamil took in pinpoint pupils. Quickly, he searched faces around him. Yes, that slow, easy breathing. The slumped relaxation even while fingers never stopped knotting those endless threads. All these workers were under influence of opium, even the children. Along the walls lay babies wrapped in patus. Not just small ones, but well up into walking age. Every one so limply asleep, Jamil had to lean close to assure himself they breathed. Here was a face of Afghanistan Jamil had never known in his own earlier, privileged life. Now in each dreaming, vacant face, Jamil saw his own mother and sister. If they still lived, could it be they might find themselves in just such horrific circumstances?

To Jamil’s concern, his host shrugged. “It is difficult labor. They cannot work well and long without the opium. The women cannot work either if their babies demand attention.”

“But these women and children are now addicts. These infants as well. Perhaps they will not die from it, but they will not grow as strong nor as intelligent. And they will always need the opium even when they are not weaving.”

“They do not need intelligence to weave. Nor to bear children. And they will always be weaving. Tell me, do your words from Isa speak of carpets?”

“Not specifically,” Jamil admitted. “But Isa was a healer. He taught kindness to women and children as well as men. If the work is too tiring without opium, there are ways to make it less so. Better air and light so their eyes and breathing are not troubled. To take turns with the small ones so they are cared for and the women too have a rest.”

“Those things do not produce as many carpets,” Jamil’s host answered flatly. “We will not hear more.”

And that was that. There’d been a hasty conference of village leaders. His host had at least sent for Jamil’s pack while the men gathered around the well with stones in hand. Now, as the mob headed back to the village, Jamil slackened his steps further. He hadn’t felt so disheartened since beginning his new quest. Arriving at this village, finding welcome at the well, these past days of healing and reading, Jamil had felt he was truly following Isa Masih’s footsteps.

Now here too it seemed Jamil’s path emulated the prophet. Hadn’t Isa’s own neighbors driven him out of town? Hadn’t he instructed his own disciples about those who rejected his words? They were not to resist or plead, but to shake the dust from their feet as witness against that town’s unbelief.

But Jamil did not want to shake this village’s dust from his feet. Despite those hurled stones, he couldn’t forget their earlier kindliness and hospitality. If they could only come to see Isa Masih as Jamil had. To understand how following his ways could transform their lives and community.

Jamil found himself wanting this as fervently as he’d once wanted revenge and retribution. Had Isa’s heart wept over those who’d refused him as Jamil’s heart wept now?

The noise of an engine approaching rapidly from behind whirled Jamil around. A small motorcycle was racing up the mountain trail. Jamil ducked behind a boulder, but he was too late. As the motorcycle drew abreast, it stopped. Jamil heard footsteps as the rider dismounted. “Salaam aleykum. I come in peace.”

The boulder offered no further retreat, so Jamil stepped warily into the open. “Wa aleykum u salaam. And upon you also be peace.”

The rider dwarfed his motorcycle, strongly built under his patu, standing head and shoulders above Jamil’s slim medium build. Like most in these parts, his speech and coloring were Pashtun. He was also no older than Jamil’s own twenty-seven years. “You are the healer named Jamil who has been staying in the village back there? They told me he had come this way.”