Gulshan is being informed about her coming freedom, by my Pakistani pastor friend’s wife, Rihanna

I continued down south on 55 with the windows open, “JOY FM’ radio streamin’, acceleration, and wide open road, exhilaration. I was Swooshing down a highway, on Sunday morning, hardly anyone here, and feeling fortunate. Minority Christians, in the Pakistan Brickyards don’t get their Sunday Sabbath off. They still must make bricks, hundreds of thousands of bricks, from the dusty dawn to dirty dusk. The only relaxation they have the entire week, apart from sleep, when they’re ready to drop anyway, is Friday afternoon, the Muslim Brick Master’s own holy day. I shut off the Christian pop.

I’m driving south out of The city, into the country of Jefferson county, to an artsy small church on a holy hill with a little seminary; the reason Tree (Theresa) and I had moved to Hillsboro Missouri, from Chicago land in 1988. I never did finish seminary. I bartered with the trailer court landlord, removing dead trees from over trailers for our pad rent. God had ‘called’ me back to trees. I’m pretty sure it was Him. It didn’t make any sense though. At least my wife got the name in a dream; “living Tree”. I had thought I was to be saving men. Now, almost three decades later, I’ve just saved a woman and her two little girls. They won’t grow old in that brick yard. They will get to go to school.

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue”, I said. “ They’re just words”, he said.

I am called down to look at their Sweet Gum trees and I’m going to catch church first. I stop for fuel, and sounds are assaulting me, as I stepped out of my pick up. I can tell it’s a sick song, blasting from another pick up. First the road-rager in north St Louis, and now this air-rager in the country. All I could think about was American privilege. Red, white, black and blue, fast and furious American privilege. “What’s the name of the band”, I shouted. “A bullet for my Valentine”, he loudly answered. “Life and death is in the power of the tongue”, I said. “They’re just words”, he said.

Fifteen minutes later I was standing in church, mouthing a worship song; “Redeemer, Deliverer, God sets the captives free.” Just words, I thought…until I get to Pakistan. Right then I decided I wouldn’t just free Gulshan, I’d free them all; Thirteen families, ten Christian, and three lower caste Muslim. I have will have to knock out more than my normal amount of tree jobs, between now and then. I could sell the second truck and chipper. Church service ended, and I walked out to look at the trees.

Gulshan and girls wave good – bus to the other brick yard families. Notice her few possessions. Also noticed her left foot, it had been fractured from a falling brick. Nevertheless she was still expected to continue working.

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