Hidden in the Reeds

Jeff Serio, International Director

Our journey began by walking through fields of towering water reeds in northern Serbia, near the Hungarian border. The EI team consisted of six male students from Charis Bible College, a German videographer, a Serbian pastor, and me. We were led by a Muslim refugee we had met just minutes before.

The reeds were so dense and high they hid the narrow path that led us to our destination. When we arrived it was a scene I will never forget. Hidden within the reeds on a minuscule clearing of dirt, was a makeshift tent. This tent consisted of straw, along with pieces of vinyl and plastic pulled from the trash. Thrown on top of a limb from a nearby tree, it was a place of refuge, a tent. For 5 Muslim men, it was home.

One of the men, Ramiz, the only one who spoke English, told me their story. Their journey began in northern Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border. They were recruited to fight with the Taliban, but refused to join their rebel forces. In the eyes of the Taliban they were traitors. Remain in the village and be killed, run and you have a chance to live.

As I talked with Ramiz, my father’s heart got the best of me. I asked him his age, and I was shocked to learn that he is only 17. I asked him if his parents knew his whereabouts. He said that he only had a mother, and that she did not know where he was or even if he was alive. He lifted up his shirt in the bitter cold to show me a scar on his chest, a result of surgery to implant a pacemaker. His breathing was heavy and forced in the cold air, revealing lung issues to go with his heart disease. His flimsy coat and ratty gloves caused him to shiver excessively in the freezing cold.

I gave him my winter gloves and cash, hopeful it was enough for several days of food. Other members of our team also gave away gloves, hand warming packets and cash. The Serbian winter can be unrelenting.  Survival in the elements is a day-to-day proposition.

Their hope and prayer is to somehow cross the border at night, seeking asylum in the European Union. In the freezing cold, with nothing to eat and no money, they wait, they endure. Perhaps someone will come and smuggle them across the border.  Even the faintest of hopes enables a man to persevere.

Our Serbian pastor friend Andras has been ministering to the needs of these and many other Muslims near the border for months. Andras cannot get them across the border legally. His heart is to show them love in a tangible way by giving them bread and water in the name of Jesus (Isa). Even though our team of English and German speakers could not communicate with all but one of the men, we were greatly impacted by our time with them.

Before we left we spoke to them about Christ’s love. They consider Jesus to be a prophet; we told them that He is much more.  We ended our time with them in prayer, asking the Lord to be their savior, their helper and their deliverer. And then, after many hugs, we said good-bye.

As we walked away we left a piece of our heart among the reeds. Please pray with us for the survival and the salvation of the Muslim men, hiding in the reeds.