Greece 2014 Vision Tour 12th to 21st November 2014
One Afghan woman’s journey written by a friend who served a short time in Athens…
There were 65 of us crammed in a relatively small boat. We were headed to Italy from Turkey with our smugglers. A storm approached with high winds and rain, which then descended on us mercilessly causing our boat to rock violently. The waves were desperately trying to capsize our vessel. We hadn’t eaten or drunk water for three days. Women and children were crying and getting sick. I myself came close to losing consciousness. Two of my children were in another part of the boat and I couldn’t get to them. People began praying different surahs from the Quran and repeating the creed over and over. The shouts of “We’re going to die! We’re going to die!” were interspersed with the prayers of the refugees. I, too, said a few of those prayers in my utter franticness of wondering if we were going to drown. We were in a hold on the boat that had a few windows.
One Afghan woman’s journey (continued)
The air was pungent with body odour, dampness and fear. If we opened the windows the water flooded in, but keeping them shut was making it difficult to breathe. Suddenly our boat took a sharp nosedive. Everything and everyone was sliding one direction. This was it. We were going down! Just then flashes of conversations I had had with my sister in Australia who is a Christian and a brother in Germany who is a Christian, and scenes from a film about Jesus I had seen in Iran came to my mind. I breathed out a prayer to Jesus, to whom I had never prayed before, and told him that if he allowed me and my children to live I would go to a church the first thing upon reaching land. Immediately and unbelievably so the boat righted itself in a miraculous way and the storm eased. People rejoiced that God had heard their prayers, but I knew Jesus had answered my prayer! Incredibly there happened to be at that time a Greek boat much bigger than ours, which came close to us and threw a few bottles of water into our boat. Fights broke out with people clawing to get one to assuage their thirst. Then men from the big boat lashed our boat to theirs and brought us safely to shore. They must have called ahead because on the beach where we landed there were rows and rows of water bottles and cups waiting for us! Then we were taken to a camp area where we were given food, shelter and dry clothes.
Let me tell you that if those Greeks had been Muslims they never would have saved us in the first place and secondly they never would have supplied us with water, food and clothing.
Though we were headed to Italy, we ended up in Greece. As I had promised God the first thing I did was ask where a church was and went as soon as I could. It was a Greek church and there was a wedding going on. I went in and sat and watched! Nobody said anything to me but it was interesting to see the church building. The next week I went to another church and just sat in the back and watched. I didn’t understand anything they were saying. I went to a third church not understanding a stitch but strangely I had a peace come upon my heart just being in those churches. I realized something was happening inside me but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Then I heard about a place where an organization in an 8-story building that feeds Afghans so I went there. I heard a talk about Jesus translated into my own language. It was from them that I took a Bible and began to read it. Rumor had it that there were other places that served food and offered laundry services. I went to all of them and at each one I heard them talking about Jesus, always through translation but at least I understood!
I compared the Bible to what I knew my religion to say. The Bible said things like, “love your neighbor, turn your cheek when struck to give the other side, forgive your enemies”. My religion said things like an eye for an eye and kill the infidel. I never read anywhere of love and forgiveness like in the Bible. Enemies in Afghanistan had killed my husband. All I ever heard from the two major sects in my religion was that each other were infidels. I witnessed a man get shot in the chest and die because he was from the other sect. Another woman was shot and died right in front of me because of her particular sect. I saw men whose limbs were blown off bleeding profusely in bomb blasts over sectarian clashes. How can I get these images out of my mind? I was only 15 years old then and those images come back to my mind sometimes two or three times a day.
But I noticed the difference in the people who were working at these various places where I would go to listen to the Bible lessons. They were not a proud people, always humble and ready to help without alternate motives. I liked them; I was beginning to like their way of thinking. Then 4 months ago I decided I wanted to believe in this Jesus. Truly he has answered many of my prayers. Life is still difficult but I’m thankful. I have peace. I think maybe God allowed me to be diverted to Greece so I could hear about the Christian faith and believe!
When my sister in Australia had first told me on the phone she believed in Jesus I was horrified and I cried for her that she had lost the way. Then my brother in Germany told me he had become a follower of Jesus. Another brother in Sweden also had put his faith in Jesus. What was happening to my own family? Then my own eyes were opened and I realized it was Jesus who had saved me from drowning and had saved me eternally. Other members of my family in Iran and another brother in France are very antagonistic to Christianity and upset with those of us who have changed our faith and have trusted Jesus. Gratefully I have been able to send my 3 children to Sweden ahead of me and I am here alone but Lord willing I’ll be joining them in a month.
From the storm on the sea to the peace in my heart, I am truly thankful! Praise God.
As a follow up, this woman joined her family in Sweden last month. Before leaving, she gave her testimony at church and I had the privilege of baptizing her. It was a powerful moment as she emerged from the water with tears and prayer. She left Greece with a burden and conviction to share with others about this new life with hope, peace, love, forgiveness and all that is found in Christ!