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Change from the Inside Out

by Scott Banks

It was the kind of question that passes easily between two new Christian friends at college. “What kind of worship music do you like?” But when Dilip Joseph ’96 heard the answer to his question, he hoped his friend couldn’t see his face.

“Dilip—you realize I’m Muslim, right?”

Joseph wasn’t surprised to meet a Muslim. Rather, he was shocked that his Ghanaian friend—pious, righteous, down to earth—so powerfully embodied such qualities without being Christian.

Inspired to Fully Understand

A decade later, Joseph finds himself serving in Afghanistan as a medical advisor for four clinics on behalf of a Colorado-based nonprofit, Morning Star Development. He remembers this college moment as a spark that inspired him to better understand the Islamic world.

As an APU graduate and the son of missionaries, Joseph always felt a predilection for serving God in the field, but it took a tragic event, and his father’s heroic response to it, to confirm his resolve.

In 1995, as he neared his final year as an undergraduate, his mother died in a car accident. His father had been preparing to start a mission in the family’s native India among unreached people in a tribal area. He followed through despite his grief. “Nothing was going to deter him,” Joseph said. “I see now the way this affected me. To see my mom killed . . . and then to see my dad make a stand for his calling.”

A Lasting Impact

His father’s example of deep faith and commitment encourages Joseph daily and has inspired him to return to Afghanistan for four trips, despite the dangers, knowing that the relationships he builds there have an eternal impact.

On his third trip, he drove with his organization’s Afghan project director to visit one of their rural medical clinics. The director spotted a local tribal leader overseeing farm work in a field. No clinic would be possible without the support of such elders, so the director stopped to visit. Soon the elder was riding with them, and he began to harangue Joseph about the failures of the American occupation.

They reached the bottom of a hill and began climbing on foot to the house of a second elder. As the tribal leader led the way up the winding dirt pathway, he extolled the superiority of the Russian occupation. He continued lobbing barbed comments about Americans, and with each provocative statement, he turned to gauge Joseph’s reaction. “I felt his hostility,” Joseph said, “And I could tell he didn’t want to listen to my view, so I remained quiet.” Throughout the day, Joseph refused to take the bait, staying calm and respectful despite the antagonism.

Heart of Gold

When they drove the cantankerous Afghan back to the farm where they had found him, he had unexpected words for Joseph. “I’m sorry if I’ve hurt you or caused offense,” the Afghan said, shaking hands. “You have a heart of gold.”

It’s that gentle spirit and understanding that drives Joseph’s work with local professionals as he helps them discover and better manage their own resources. For example, when an Afghan with equal medical training was assigned to him as a translator, Joseph saw an opportunity to empower him. After helping Joseph conduct a seminar for fellow health workers, the translator realized the obvious. “You know,” he said, “I think I can do this.” Now he runs his own medical seminars.

Before Joseph began, only a handful of such seminars existed. This year, 49 seminars covered topics including communicable disease, psychiatry, and leadership. Of these, Joseph taught only 18—the rest were taught by Afghans.

Divine Transformation

Just as he recognized the piety of his friend in college, he seeks the positives in Afghanistan. For him, to associate terrorism with Afghanistan is to recognize only a small part of the whole. “I was trained as a scientist to concentrate on tiny molecules,” he said, but now he tries to see the big picture. “Now I ask myself, ‘What does God see?’”

In his work with local professionals, Joseph strives to build the personal relationships he believes hold the key to his true goal. “People are striving in so many ways—medically, militarily, politically—but Muslims and Christians both believe that the real transformation must be internal. And we agree that only God can accomplish that.”

To learn more about Joseph’s work, visit www.msdev.org.

Scott Banks is a freelance writer living in Claremont, California. sbanks@speakeasy.net

“I was trained as a scientist to concentrate on tiny molecules. . . “Now I ask myself, ‘What does God see?’”

Originally published in the Winter '10 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).