Last year Gladys Geiser shared with Bearing Witness the story of her husband, Alfred Geiser, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. This July marks the fourth anniversary of his death.
I met Al in Bangladesh. We both were there with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and later on we were married and moved to Ohio.
Before Bangladesh, Al had done his alternative service in Korea, then he worked in Pakistan with MCC for two years.
So he’s had a lot of years of experience in overseas countries, and he’s always enjoyed that work and found it very easy to adapt and fit in with the people of the country that he was living in.
Giving back to God
After we were married, we lived in Ohio for a long time. Al’s business in Kidron did well, and he and I both felt that God had really blessed him and that he needed to give back again to God some more years of service.
So we decided that we would again go overseas to work. This time our work took us to Afghanistan in 2000. Al’s work was mostly with helping to produce hydroelectricity for villages that didn’t have any electricity, so villagers could have lights in their homes and do things easier.
At first we were working with a non-governmental organization. Then later on, one of the Afghan men Al had met in his work started up his own business. Al partnered with him to help him get his business going, and they built a workshop. He brought in all the big pieces of equipment that they need for making the turbines and the pipes and all the bits and pieces that go with putting in a hydroelectric site.
Al and his partner were very good at this kind of work, and the two of them just really understood each other well. They had about 13 employees who worked for them, and all seemed to be going quite well.
Then in 2008 while he and his partner were at a funeral service for a relative of one of their employees, the two of them were kidnapped. Al spent 56 days up in the mountains not knowing what was going to happen or how long he would be there. Many days he was tied up there and left alone for the day.
He spent a lot of time with his prayer beads that he had with him. He had prayer beads just like the Afghans had, but he was using his prayer beads to say the Lord’s Prayer. The syllables of the prayer worked out very nicely with the beads as he followed along.
One of his captors asked him one day about why he was praying. Didn’t he know that his life was in the captor’s hands? Al just looked at him and said, “Yes, but in whose hands are your life?”
He was told if he would just say the words, he could convert to Islam and they would let him go. But he said, no, he couldn’t do that. And wouldn’t do that.
During this time, I was in back home in our home in Ohio. Our church prayed, got together every day of those 56 days, to pray for him, for his release. To pray that he would make it through this time. And then after 56 days, he was rescued and came back home to Ohio again.
Return to Afghanistan
But it wasn’t long until he decided that God didn’t save him just to be back in a safe place in Ohio. His partner, who also had been kidnapped and later released, didn’t have a choice about just leaving the country and going somewhere safer to live. And Al didn’t feel that it was right for him to do that. He very strongly felt that God was calling him to go back. And so he did.
After six months, he left to go back to work in Afghanistan. I didn’t go with him at the time, because I just didn’t feel comfortable doing that yet. So he went and worked there for several months, and then he would come back to Ohio. And then he would go back again. We did that for two years.
The work seemed to be going well. There was lots of work and many big projects. They needed his help and expertise. Then in 2010, I went back with him.
He had been living with this Afghan family while he was there. They loved him and cared for him and accepted him as a member of the family. When I also went back, we lived together with them in their house. We ate our meals together and spent time with them. They were a very good family.
When people would ask Al why he was there, he would share the story of the Good Samaritan. The Afghan culture is one that tells a lot of stories. And although we can’t go there and explicitly preach, we can tell stories. And so he would talk about himself and explain to them the story of the Good Samaritan, who came to help.
“We do know that God was with him through all this time”
In 2012—in July, exactly three years ago now—he went with his partner and an employee to a village to install a part for a project. It wasn’t real far away, but they decided to stay overnight and come back again to Kabul the next morning.
The next morning, however, on their way back to Kabul, their car was stopped and all three of the people in the car were shot and killed. The news arrived in Kabul just a few hours later.
We don’t understand why it happened. And maybe that’s not the important part. But we do understand and we do know that God was with him through all this time.
Maybe someday we will know something good that came out of this. And maybe we will never know. But in it all, I have been very much encouraged by Al’s faithfulness to go, even in the face of danger. And God’s presence with us through all of this time.
Al loved adventure, so this was a very natural place for him to go. He was always the one who liked to go to different places, learn to know the people, and learn their language. And he too looked very Afghan. If you saw him in a picture with other Afghans, you wouldn’t know which one was him. He fit right in.
And so I think his life is a legacy that we can leave with our family, our church family, and with others who will go to serve not knowing how it will all end up. To know that God is with you. And if God calls you, that’s the place to go.
And I wanted to share this story to honor him for what he did and to show that God is with us, even when it’s difficult. Maybe especially when it’s difficult, when we can’t do it on our own. God is there.