Unexpected letter changes student’s life

Nicolle Maurer ′10
Global Christian Ministries major
Hometown: State College, Pennsylvania

In her first year at Messiah College, Nicolle Maurer ’10, a woman of color adopted as an infant and raised in State College, Pa, received a surprising letter.


Her birth brother, an Afghan refugee living in Fremont, California, was requesting a reunion—an opportunity to not only meet her eight siblings and birth mother (her birth father had died three years earlier of lung cancer) but to learn of their tremendous struggle to escape from Russian-invaded Afghanistan with little more than a few bills sewn into the hem of her birth sister’s jacket.

“Zarlasht” as her Afghani relatives knew her, was about to be reunited with a family steeped deep in tradition, suffering, and joy.

“In 1981, while Russian forces invaded Afghanistan, my birth father stitched a meager life’s savings into the hem of her jacket, packed a few small possessions, took firm hold of his five children and wife, and headed for a plane to freedom,” described a grateful Nicolle.  

Weeks later, the torn and tattered family learned what it meant to be Afghani refugees, scraping by from country to country, until finally landing in the United States. Just a few months later, the eldest of the children, 13-year-old Perveen, delivered her mother’s sixth child, Azam—a first-generation American—in the kitchen of their tiny Philadelphia apartment.

The birth of three more children over the next several years proved too much for the struggling Muslim family. So, baby number nine—Zarlasht—later known as Nicolle, was given to a Christian adoption agency. “It was terrible for my parents,” she said with great empathy. “It is very shameful to give a child up for adoption in any Muslim culture.”

Today, Nicolle enjoys a special relationship with each person in her immediate and extended family. “It’s all come full circle,” she said. “I have wonderful parents, a sister and brother in State College; and my Afghan family in California—all are doing well. It’s truly a blessing.”  

After graduation Nicolle will put her global Christian ministries major and newfound cultural heritage to work, preferably somewhere in Afghanistan, where she plans to “further His kingdom, especially among Muslims.”

“I’m fully aware of how God has taken me on a journey of discovery about my heritage, and given me the opportunity to use it for the sake of others,” said Nicolle.

Posted in 2010, About Reconciliation, Christian Ministries, Majors & Minors | 4 Comments »

Posted on September 1st, 2008

4 Responses to “Unexpected letter changes student’s life”

  1. Keith Maurer Says:

    This is such an encouraging story of God at work behind the scenes. Nicolle had planned to start the search to find her birth family after graduating fron high school. But a mission internship in Mexico and a move to Pa. left little time. God knew the desire of her heart and was at work even though she knew nothing about it. What a joyful reunion it was with her birth family.

    A very proud adoptive dad!

  2. patricia smith Says:

    I know this young woman and her wonderful family here in state college, as well as a couple members of her fremont, california family…thinking about her story never fails to bring me tears of awe and joy about the magnificent redemptive work of the hand of God. Thank you for featuring Nicolle. Patricia

  3. Jody Maurer Says:

    Nicolle was/is our long awaited first child. We wondered why it “took God so long” to answer our prayers for just the right baby, way back in 1988. We now can see that He had such a special plan for us and her, complete with her eventual “reunion” with her birth family.

  4. Evan Beets Says:



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