GULSHAN / It was the day before I would be paying the debt of my first brick yard family. Gulshan, with her daughters, Saba and Samra, were making 400-500 bricks a day, trapped in debt bondage. Gulshan had labored hard, eleven years, as good as widowed by her husband, who had fled the brick yard. I was pondering how much we’ve been given on ‘our’ side of the world, as I drove along. For the first time on this familiar stretch of lawless highway 70, in north St. Louis, I found myself going with the ‘flow’ of traffic”, well over the 55 mph limit. Out of the corner of my left eye, there came erratic motions in the left lane, a man pounding on his steering wheel, and hollering, seemingly angry because he was boxed in and couldn’t pass. The family in the van was unaware of the temper tantrum, being had in a car, mere inches from their bumper. At 75 american miles an hour, our eyes met and I shrugged at him in a gesture, of “WHAT”S THE MATTER?” He pointed his finger, back and forth, hard at the van, pounding with his hand, mouthing his torment to me, that they would not move out of his way. I flashed back to the brick yard families. They have no road ragers. The lucky ones have cheap motorbikes and bicycles, rickshaws, and the wealthier in the cities do have cars. Those in bondage labor, do however have cruel Brick Masters. And yet their lives have meaning, they must. I flashed back to my world, the angered young man, realizing I was boxing him in. I braked, and slowed down so he could swing around the family’s van, into my lane and speed his hasty life on. He angrily gunned his engine, and a large black puff of smoke spewed from his shining bright black car. It was Sunday morning, on my way to church, and here I was, sinning, gleeful that he had just blown his motor. I muttered “I’m sorry” to the Lord, and thought back to Gulshan, and the brick yard furnaces of Pakistan, that spew a puff of the amount of smoke of a blown engine, in a split second.

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Some Pakistan (minority) families have a debt of as little as $400.00 and some three times that much. But either way, they remain in ‘debt bondage’ for years, and decades. There are many reasons why they fell into or were forced into this debt. In Pakistan, the minimum wage is $3.20 a day. It does not go well for humanitarians in Pakistan. Money must be borrowed for midwives, medicine, and electricity. So there is a debt that never ends. I am planning on visiting Pakistan mid August, 2020, and purchasing the freedom of the remaining families in a certain Brickyard. The Brick Master is OK with this, and is going to leave the industry. There will be another brick yard and another. However, we are praying that the heart of a nation is changed, even as God is softening the heart of this one particular Brick Master. Before we move onto the next brickyard, we are going to be putting in place the ability for the freed families to make a living. We have begun doing this. $100 a month sustains a family, including rent and food. $150 was just sent for the Sohail family to start a fruit stand business. A majority of the families are lower caste Muslim or Christian and are hard pressed to get decent jobs, especially during this time of Covid, when factories are closed.

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7 thoughts on ““A Puff of Smoke”

    1. Ryan, thank you and thank you for giving to it. I’ve recently spoken with Mark Christianson and her told me of his reconnection with your father. I look forward to connecting with Bruce again someday hopefully soon.


  1. Hi Phil,

    Thank you for doing what you are doing to help the enslaved in Pakistan, you’re a good example to all of us.

    I hope that we can get together in the not to distant future. My best to you and your family.

    Bruce Stronk


    1. Bruce, Man o man o brother and old boy hood friend. And a father of sons. Ryan was huge encouragement and then Mark, and to hear from Mark that’s he’s reconnected with you. I’ve got double reason to make it out to Cali. I’m going back to Pakistan over Christmas, to hopefully free two brickyards this time. The Christian minority bonded laborers must still make bricks on Christmas. So it’s going to be serendipity to do this. I’m believing it’s going to send double the ‘signal’.


    2. Hey Bruce, it might be a little longer, but a Merferd freedom banner will be headed your way. Let’s talk sometime. My number is 314-568-8367 / I think of how good, that later in our lives we are hooking up. Is Mark not an an instigator sent from God? Of everyone in the world we three were boy hood friends. What happened in junior high or high school… I can’t even recall why we didn’t stay good friends. I was able to connect with chuck miller 20 years ago. He had broken both legs on a military jump, but remained standing. It was a ceremony. The main thing to me is as we get closer to being old rivers ( John Prine) I feel us flowing toward one awesome tributary into an ocean together.


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