Oh my, I have no idea where to begin this post. Maybe last week. When I met Bashar for the first time. Bashar is a computer engineer from Syria. His wife a medical student. In 2014, as they moved from place to place, watching bombs drop on their neighborhood in eastern Syria, they decided that it would be best if he settled in Europe and then send for them. Bashar left Syria about a year ago, crossed Turkey, took the inflatable rubber boat across the Aegean Sea and got to Greece. From there, he reached Germany, where he began making a life for his family.
2 weeks ago, Bashar came to Lesvos. His wife, children (boys aged 1 and 2) and other members of his family had escaped Syria into Turkey and were making their way to the west coast to cross the sea. They were in Istanbul, they hired a smuggler to assist them across, as so many hundreds of thousands others have done, and took the 7 hour bus ride to the western shore of Turkey. They set out, they were forced back by the Turkish Army. This happened THREE MORE TIMES. Two nights ago, on Friday night, she and the other women in her group were arrested by the Turkish police and forced to pay a fee to be driven by bus to the jail in Ankar, hours and hours away from the shore. Bashar was completely distraught. There was nothing any of us could tell him to make him feel better. They were released from jail and took the bus up to Istanbul, where Bashar made other arrangements (ie. got a new smuggler). Last night he got word that they were going to the leave this morning around 7 a.m. I set my WhatsApp notification for Bashar VERY LOUD and went to bed around 2 a.m. after saying prayers for safety.
Monday morning, 0738: Bashar: They arrived to the beach. They will cross after 10 minutes. Me: Okay. Praying for safe passage!
I get up, get dressed and head out to the beach with Tamara, Wayne and Tara. I want to take a walk by myself and pray and listen to Come Close by Cageless Birds. The lyrics, “Holy Ghost, won’t you come close to me”… “I’m in need of your help, in need of your hand, in need of your love”, seemed exactly what I needed to sing this morning. I prayed that they would be brought right to us, safely.
0756 – 0759: Me: The sea is perfect for crossing. Bashar: Are you there? Me: Yes, Is she on the way? Bashar: I don’t know. Me: Well we are watching the sea. I’ll keep you posted if we see anything. Bashar: They sent a position before half hour…
0805: They are on their way…
Then no word for 40 minutes!! 0845…
At 0857, Bashar decided he couldn’t sit at the camp and wait for word. So he got in a taxi and I dropped a pin to our location so he could find us. While in route, at 0912 he sent this…
At 0931 Bashar pulls up in a taxi… he hasn’t heard anything since the 0857 pin drop and is worried. All around us boats are landing, but their’s is still too far to be any of these. Wayne has been searching with his binoculars and south of us there is a boat “floundering”… it’s turning in slow circles, apparently drifting. We see that there is a small coast guard boat on it’s way. We are hoping this is not Hanan’s boat in trouble. We don’t want to worry Bashar. I send him with Tamara up the road to the house so he can call via WhatsApp. He comes back at 0950 and tells us that her boat has engine trouble. He is very, very worried, as are we.
Wayne then tells us that the little coast guard boat has left that rubber inflatable and is heading our way (we are about 3-4 miles from this inflatable). The odd thing is, the coast guard boats USUALLY take them straight to port, not to shore, EVER. He comes up towards us at about 0958 and we notice he is waving his arms at us, we wave back and see there are women and children on the boat. Bashar is besides himself and as the boat gets close, at 1002, just 20 feet away he sees his precious wife and sons on the boat. THE BOAT BROUGHT THEM RIGHT UP TO US. The photo at the top is just moments after we have both boys and Hanan off the boat. Everyone, all of us, are overwhelmed with joy! I prayed about this morning. I prayed they would come right to us, safely. That Bashar, this dear man, who is now like a brother to me, would be reunited with his family.
This trip has taught me so much. But mostly what it has taught me is that with HOPE, great things happen. It happened this morning on a beach in Lesvos, Greece.
A few facts as I wind up this post.
1. This trip costs thousands and thousands of dollars. The smugglers charge about $1200 per person for the boat crossing (they don’t accompany them).
2. These lovely people are humans, just like us. They are amazing, educated, loving, humble, gracious people. They do not mean any of us harm. They want what we want, a safe place to live and raise their families.
3. These lovely people are FLEEING certain DEATH. They aren’t immigrating because they want to. They are immigrating because they will DIE if they don’t. DIE. Women, Children, Men, Elderly, HUMANS. Their fear is PALPABLE and I will feel it in my heart forever.
4. Things Bashar said this past week that make this such a reality:
On Wednesday, “If this last time doesn’t work (this was before she was arrested), I will just drop my application to Germany, take a ferry to Turkey and take my family back to Syria”. Me: “But that would be dangerous! You may die”. Bashar, “But we would die together, as a family.”
Last night (Sunday), when he was telling me about moving from area to area to not be killed by the bombs being dropped from the sky, “We were looking up and saw the bomb being dropped on our neighborhood and I knew that we were going to die”. Me, “but you didn’t”. Bashar, “no, not that time. We decided to live just for that day, never for the next, because we didn’t know if there would be a tomorrow”.
5. And last, I have nothing but BIG love for all of these people, the refugees. ALL of them. Whether they are Muslim, Christian or Yizidi, I love them all. I love them all, as Christ loves me.
If you’d like to support what is going on over here, money is needed for new shoes, warm clothes, socks, ferry tickets to Athens, bus tickets to the Macedonia border, etc, etc…
If you are so inclined, my PayPal is: firstname.lastname@example.org
and my fundraiser site is: https://www.youcaring.com/sandra-blankenship-480179
PayPal is the most convenient for most donors and for me, as well, as it is easy to pay for goods with the PayPal account. Thank you… thank you… thank you