He didn’t recognise me. But he knew someone was coming to visit. With the realisation that I, a grey haired grandma, had come to see him, excitement spread across his face, and his eyes smiled welcome.
Four years he’s been ‘inside’, all in the name of freedom.
His father helped him leave his homeland, knowing he would probably not see his son again. A plane ride to South East Asia, then a wooden boat until his bid for life without the daily threat of death ended. And detention began.
We talked about family and faith, art and music, exercise and diet. His passion to be fit – physically, emotionally and mentally – is inspiring. God has gifted him to paint. It has helped him to express the deep pain in his heart. And to capture the wonder and faithful care of God. Currently, he’s working on a canvas of a huge tree with many little birds nesting safely in the branches.
A beating in a ‘shut-off community’ shattered discs in his neck. The pain and loss of mobility were his constant torturers for more than eight months until he was brought to an Australian city and a courageous surgeon reconstructed his neck.
So many said, ‘Don’t have it done. You’ll be in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.’ But he believed God would help. And his prayers were answered. Some medical workers say the results are miraculous.
I mentioned how the five and a half years of my late husband’s battle with bowel cancer had tested my commitment to persevere, but I’ve never been tested as he is being tested to persevere.
Then I realised he didn’t understand the meaning of that English word, persevere.
I flicked through my New Testament to James 1 and then back to Matthew 26 and 27, and we read some verses together. He grabbed my pen and scribbled the references on his palm: James 1: 2-4, Matthew 26, 27.
“Can I tell you something that has helped me through difficult times?” I asked.
So I painted a word picture of a dark tunnel on the path we travel. We knock our hands and feet in the rough, dark places because we can’t see. It’s not always comfortable. But we keep going. We persevere.
“I try to remember a couple of things in the dark tunnels I have to travel. Firstly, tunnels are always on the main route, and secondly, they are the shortest route to our destination.”
“God has a purpose for us in the troubles we endure. His goal is that we become more like Jesus. I see he is growing you to be more like Jesus. That is what I believe he is doing in me too.”
We explored how God is using this young man to influence others right where he is.
Then I prayed for him, stood to shake his hand and take my leave.
“May I hug you?” he asked.
And I was undone.
A young man, a full decade younger than my sons. Hungry to belong. Craving physical touch. Wanting to serve Jesus and be used by Him right where he is.