|Date||1 January, 2010|
We first met K, an Afghan man in his early thirties with a gentle smile and a tired look, about three years ago. We lost track of him until a few weeks ago when he suddenly turned up at church. He told us his story: both he and his friend A had become frustrated at the lack of progress in their asylum applications and had fled to Austria. Here they were befriended by evangelists and led to Jesus. Instead of finding asylum they were under even more restrictions in Austria, and ignoring their pastor’s advice they returned back to England.
Determined to come clean and tell the truth, they explained to the authorities they had lied previously and, telling the truth, awaited whatever judgement the Home Office would give. Indeed, they were immediately put in a detention centre and told they would most likely be sent back to Afghanistan. There they read scripture, worshipped in the chapel and witnessed to their Muslim inmates – which prompted a hostile response. Other Afghans said “If we are sent back to Afghanistan on the same, flight, we will kill you before we land at the airport.” This was no idle threat: during a riot in their wing, thirty angry Afghans tried to break into his room and kill him. Even efforts by their solicitors to get them bail before they were attacked again failed until one evening K was told ‘Here are your papers, you are free to go.’ K didn’t want to leave without his friend A, but found himself out on the street with his clothes and a bus ticket! As K talked to us, it was clear his heart was still with his friend A and he asked us to get involved. The next miracle was a crucial moment in the story. A was told one morning to gather his belongings as he was to be deported immediately to Afghanistan. As he boarded the bus, he realised he was going with all the other Afghans who had promised to kill him: he spent the short journey in urgent prayer for his life. As they stopped outside the airplane on the tarmac, each detainee filed past with their prison guards: A was the last to get off. A hand touched his shoulder, it was the last prison guard. “Your prayers have been answered, A. We haven’t got enough staff to go with you so you have to come back with us.” A was the only person in the whole busload to return that day. A few days later, A was released in the same inexplicable way as his friend K. When they were reunited they immediately came to church and now we have Bible studies each week. As we read, the Bible together they are clearly hungry for God and digest the Word of God with an enthusiasm that shows they know what grace is and how close they came to losing their lives for Christ.