I’m in layover in Abu Dhabi, before I land in Pakistan Christmas morning, to free some slaves with help from some friends. A buddy of mine who details cars called me up a few weeks ago to let me know he’d be available with his pick up truck if I could use a working hand over the winter doing tree trimming. “It’s not like I even need to work”, Barry explained, “my girlfriend works, and she’s ok with me taking a break in January and February. It’s just that, as a man I feel I need to work. If I don’t work I feel less of a man.”
I know the feeling. I’ve known the feeling for too long. It’s in our manly macho make up to work, to a pressure fault and then pass that pressure on. We take it as a blessing or we can take work as a curse. A man or woman in business in America is their own worst task master. I know because I was one. None of us in the USA can rightfully look at work as a curse. The poorest among us lives better than the rest of the world. And yet we are in a different kind of bondage, to ourselves.
The men and women in the brickyards of Pakistan, the fathers of their subjugated families, bonded laborers, bound to a lifetime of long days, slave days, don’t get to come home with good gifts for their family. They only get to walk a slow sore stroll together to their 15 by 15’ hole in the brick yard wall. And then they will use the little energy they have left to make a meal over a dried cow dung fire of roti bread without oil, potatoes and a few old vegetables.
The Indentured servant father fears one thing only, that he will pass on before his debt is paid, and that his wife and children will grow old in the hell hole of a brick kiln without him. He has worked hard, day in and day out. He’s always hoping that God will deliver them, and they eventually DO get their freedom, in heaven, risen from the brick yards graves, leaving their grown sons, forced to carry on the unjust debt, now having been increased, for their father’s burial, for the rest of their lives as well.
The fathers of the brickyards will never ever get social security. The women in Pakistan don’t get very much of anything whether they are in bondage in a brick yard, or in bondage in a male dominated country such as Pakistan, where a certain religion treats themselves as an upper class, and the minority one as the lowest caste, and the women, lower still.
As stated before, the sons born in the brickyards, now fathers themselves of children also born there, take on their father’s unjust debt and work until they also leave their family this side of life before eternity. Their widows must then borrow from the brick master for the burial. One by one, sons, daughters, wives, grandfathers and mothers, are buried in the patch of earth cordoned off for families to bury their generations, in the clay ground they spent their existence working with bare hands; except for the few we get to free.
The only hope for a daughter, is that a man outside of the brick yard marries her. But single available guys aren’t exactly sauntering through the 18,000 kilns of Pakistan looking for the gift of a wife.
One of the most amazing things I saw when I visited several brick kilns was faithful hard work, fast work, steady exhaustive work that the men and their wives and their children perform. There is absolutely no incentive to work as hard as they do. Their debts only increase, even with the hundreds of thousands of dollars they procure for their brick masters. It’s something that I cannot wrap my own brick hard head around.
In my decades of building a successful tree trimming, tree preserving, tree removing business, I was able to attain repeat customers. I paid my employees Christmas bonuses. I could take breaks and drink sports drinks when fatigued. I am able to have fresh fruit in summer, and drink hot coffee in winter. I have layers of clothes, and gloves, and a warm home to lay down to rest. I was a able to build a name and reputation. There is a proverb that says a good name is better than riches.
But a man who spent the same 45 years I’ve spent in trees, in a brick yard has nothing to the end of his days to show for himself. And what kind of trade to pass on to his son or others? Making a thousand bricks a day by hand for one or two dollars, enough for the family to share a meal, the size of what a single American among us consumes. They have no movie to relax in front of, nothing fun as a family that they can go out and do. The word vacation or birthday isn’t in their understanding. Each family does have a large very rickety old fan that they sit in front until they pass out on the one or two beds that they share. I once asked the brick master why a certain family’s debt had increased 10 times over 30 years of bonded labor. Part of their increase was electricity. For the fan I asked? Yea he said.
As for the few old men we’ve been able to free, MY age or older, their belongings fit on a small donkey cart. My possessions fit in the several rooms of the house and work vehicles I own. When I pass away I’ll have an inheritance to pass on to my children. The fathers and mothers of the brick yard have two sets of garments, a hand woven bed, a blanket, three pots, a pan and the wheel barrel and grub axe they had to buy to perform the business of the brick kiln and the family’s slavery.
I was able to pay into my Social Security. And now I’m able to be semi-retired, and collect a decent check every month, so that at age 65 I don’t have to work as hard as I once did. My wife knew something I didn’t when she told me to wait. Because until I reach 66 there’s a ceiling to how much I’m allowed to make. My conscience lets me go to bed, because everything that I’m making over this pay ceiling has been going to free families. So now my reason for working is different. I AM laboring as hard as I once did as a younger man, still no where near as the 65 year old man in the brick yard.
My once made in America working man mind is messed up. The only incentive I have now to work until Good and sore is to free fathers and mothers and children from their own aching thankless useless existence in the brick kiln favorites of Pakistan.
I have asked several couples locked in decades of never being allowed to pay off a one hundred or two hundred dollar loan, what keeps them going. “Hope in God” was all they’d say, as if there was a routine answer. But in their routine, it was the only answer.
I’m in layover, in tree-less luxurious, multi millionaire, Abu Dhabi. When I up and land on Christmas morning in Lahore, my hosts, the James family will take me to one of the brick yards they minister to. And there, I must make a choice, as I will in several different brick yards, what family to free. And then I will have to look at the longing eyes of the rest that will be left.
But this time I will be speaking to the souls of the brick masters, one on one, man to man, me, the master in heaven and he. And I expect the Holy Spirit who searches the minds and hearts of poor and rich, brick masters and men to be the mediator.
On January 1, when I speak to several thousand precious brick yard people, who have off on Friday afternoons, the only day they have off, the Islamic brick masters personal holy day off, I will preach about the Creator of the universe, who chose to be born in a stable, in a cattle trough, in a room resembling theirs. And to the fathers, I will loudly let them know; that they are not less of a man.