Late last year, through a long variety of circumstances, we came to know of some refugees from a communist country in Africa. This group of men had been arrested during a church service - that was their crime. The next 7 or so years they were imprisoned in different military prisons. At one point they spent several years in shipping containers in the desert of this hot country. They were only let out to relieve themselves twice a day. They were tied up, tortured and beaten. Then the were moved to a solitary confinement prison work camp. They were only let out of their underground cells to do hard labor during harvest time. Remember their crime was attending a worship service.
Finally they were able to orchestrate an escape attempt during their labor time in the fields. They ran through thorns, encountered a leopard, were separated from each other and each met individuals who did what they could to help them escape to a neighboring country. It was there that they were helped by Voice of the Martyrs to come to Kenya. And from there they were brought to Kijabe for care after their years in captivity. Rhett was asked to see them and address their health issues and from there our very special friendship started.
They joined us in our home for a meal. What do you serve people who have been in prison for the last 7 years? I was a little nervous. I bombed on the meal. I went bland on the food thinking anything spicy might be too much for them and it turns out their native food is quite spicy and my potato soup wasn't much of a hit. Cupcakes for dessert? Too sweet. They also ate them with a fork which I thought was cute! Anyway, we sat around our dining room table honored and humbled to have these persecuted Christians in our presence. They were mere weeks from their escape ordeal. They were emaciated and had a look in their eyes like photos I've seen from concentration camp victims. Physically the needed time to heal from their past and emotionally as well.
One feeling I had as we talked with them was that they seemed to have forgotten how to smile. They looked around nervously and seemed awkward when it came to smiling. Then at one point it was time for my kids to go to bed and asked them to go say good night to our guests. Claire walked in and gave a corporate "Good Night" but Ford started around the table with a "Good Night" and a hug and and kiss for each person. It was as if time stood still and my little 3 year old blonde angel gave the first loving touch and affection to these men that they had received in years. And something amazing happened. Smiles and tears. I felt as though God was giving them a little love through Ford right there and telling them it was OK.
We are thankful for our friendship with these special guys. We have continued to keep in touch with them and Rhett has seen them on a couple occasions since our first meeting. All of you who have supported us financially have also been a part of this story. We were able to pay for all of their medical and dental bills as well as their substantial bill for counseling at a center in Nairobi who helps refugees deal with the horrors of their past. We found it an honor to help our brothers in Christ and we wanted to make sure you knew what part you played in helping them too.
That has been one of the most amazing and fulfilling part of being here. We are able to truly see and know the needs first hand and have the privilege of helping and showing compassion to those around us. Thank you for your support that makes this possible. Please continue to pray for our friends. They have a long road to travel. They can never return to their country. They struggle with the thoughts of what might have happened to their families in response to their escape. But they have joy in Christ and have faith that inspires.