Tuesday morning came far too quickly, and we all rolled up our sleeves again for another 'busy day at the office.' Neal and I made a start on painting the walls and ceiling of the Bible room while Martin and his wonderful crew started fitting the new bathroom ceiling. Huge progress being made today - and then, just after lunch our dear friend Ali burst through the door with: "Neal and Lesley, can you put down your painting for a couple of hours? I need you to come with me right now ...."
Ali drove us to a small kiddies playground in the vineyards where Marzia and little Emmanual were sitting around a picnic bench with a young couple and two small children. Here is their story.
M and his wife S travelled the long refugee highway from Iran to Austria three and a half years ago. They'd become Christians in Iran seven years ago, and were secretly attending an underground church when the authorities discovered they were Christians and they had to leave the country, fearing for their lives. While in Iran they had lost a baby son in tragic circumstances, and because there are no 'official' Christian cemeteries in Iran, they had no option than to bury him in a Muslim graveyard. When they fled Iran, both sides of their family disowned them, and they've recently been told that the body of their little boy makes the Muslim cemetery unclean. They've been threatened that unless they return to the Islamic faith, his body will be dug up and 'disposed of.'
If this wasn't enough heartbreak for them, last week their second appeal for asylum in Austria was denied and they've been told they must be deported back to Iran (they were not fingerprinted in any EU country on their way here) After having found and furnished a little apartment, joined a local church community, got their oldest little boy settled in a local school and begun to make a new life here, they've had their apartment confiscated, lost all their sparce belongings and are now back in the Lager waiting for the police at any time to come and put them on a flight back to Iran.
How do you minister the love, hope and joy of the Gospel to someone in a situation as desperate as this? Thank God for the precious Holy Spirit who fills our hearts with compassion and gives us the words to speak into their broken lives. Please keep this dear family in your prayers, that God will make a way where there seems to be no way.
And so after a long and tearful 'farewell' and a promise to meet up to pray with them again as soon as we can, Ali dropped them off at the gates of the Lager and we returned to the Oasis to pick up our paintbrushes. What a day its been.
Oh - a footnote: The building team decided to keep the lentil stew for their evening meal, and ate the sultana scones as an accompaniment!! Seriously guys - that's not cool. (but apparently they enjoyed it that way!)