I am a better human being and counseling professional because of the mentoring and relational encounters I have experienced over many years. The relational encounters that have had the greatest impact include: lending pastoral care to an adult dying of cancer and his mother, visiting with an immigrant family while sharing a simple meal, sitting with a family whose members are in conflict, and befriending fellow Muslim students while studying religion in college.
Over the years, my mentors have included fellow divinity school students, patients and their families, and supervising ministers or chaplains. In addition to these wonderful teachers, I recall two additional guides and mentors who have had a profound impact on my life in the past decade. The first guide and mentor is a humble Imam and his wife who resided for a time in East Tennessee. This Imam shared a particular vision of Love in Action that transcended stark and unyielding religious dogma. As a practitioner and teacher of Islam, this man modeled for me an openness and acceptance of truth as it is known and embraced in all religious traditions. I have attempted to model my work as a chaplain, minister and counselor after his example.
The other figure I have been fortunate to learn from is a spiritual teacher and religious leader named Pir Zia Inayat Khan. Pir Zia is the grandson of Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan. The Inayat Khan's live their life inspired by a simple message of Love for all people. This message of Love is in harmony with all the world's religions including Christianity, Judaism, Latter Day Saints, Jehovah's Witness, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.
The lessons I have learned from my life's teachers, mentors, and guides came flooding back to me earlier this week as I heard about a particular meeting taking place later this month in our community of Smithville. The meeting I am referring to features Usama Dak Dok. Mr. Dak Dok preaches a message of hatred and misinformation in regard to the history and teachings of Islam. In the present political climate that dominates our community and nation, we do not need to fear or hate. What we need are opportunities to Love, to Serve and to Live in Trust and Harmony with our Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Latter Day Saints, and Atheist neighbors. More Life to You and Joy.
Rev. Mark C. Pafford
Chaplain and Minister