Here’s a portion of an email update from a good friend working with Helping Hands in Athens. She is working among Afghan refugees and shares this story of one woman’s journey from Afghanistan to Greece. The name has been changed… but her story is true. Please join me in praying for “Parisa” and countless others who have shared her journey.
This week I would like to share with you Parisa’s journey from Afghanistan to Greece. When Parisa was a young girl she and her family lived in Afghanistan. They were there during the rule of the Taliban. Parisa said one day they heard gunfire, so she and her brother looked out the window. Her brother was shot in the head right in front of her. Not long after that her mother was taken and tortured for going to the market alone without a male escort. Shortly after that her father was robbed, stabbed, and killed by the Taliban on his way home from the market. Her mother took the remaining children and fled for Iran.
Parisa married and had three children in Iran. Because her family is Afghan, her children could not go to school and her husband could not get work. They decided to move to Europe to give their children a chance at a better future.
In the middle of the night Parisa and her family got on horses and rode thirteen hours to the Iranian/Turkish border. She recalls being terrified because it was the first time she had ever rode a horse and it was going up a mountain! From there they hid in the back of a truck that was carrying sheep. She recalls being terrified because the border patrol was stopping trucks, but for some reason they let the truck they were on pass without checking it. They stayed a few hours in a small apartment and then made the trek across Turkey in the back of a truck packed full with other refugees.
They arrived at night at a small village near the coast. Parisa’s family and another family were put in a room that was locked from the outside. There was a little bit of bread and cheese in the kitchen, but nothing else. They were afraid they were being held hostage or that they were going to be sold off as slaves. After three days the smugglers came back and drove them to a forest that led up to the sea. They had to lay quietly in some bushes waiting for darkness so they could get onto boats. Parisa remembers the children crying because of all the mosquitoes and the smugglers forcing her to drug them to keep them quiet.
When it finally became dark the smugglers led them to the shore where there was a small inflatable raft waiting for them. It was big enough to hold eight or nine people, but the smugglers shoved around forty people on the raft. No one in the group knew how to row or swim so the smugglers said they would stay with the group and help. About 100 yards out at sea the smugglers jumped off and swam back to shore leaving them alone. Parisa said they went in circles for what seemed like hours because no one knew what to do. They were on the raft about twelve hours before they spotted a Greek island.
As they approached the island something punctured a hole in the raft and everyone went in the water. Thankfully they were close enough to shore that the adults were able to stand and carry the children so no one lost their life. Parisa remembers the police coming and processing them. They were then told to get on a bus that took them to the island’s airport. They had no idea where they were going or what was happening. They kept asking what was going, but no one would answer them. They got on a plane that took them to Athens. There was a police bus there waiting for them that drove them to downtown Athens.
When they arrived in downtown Athens the police told them to get out of the bus and they were left there with no direction or help in what to do next. Some Afghans that had been in Athens awhile found them and took them to an apartment. Parisa and another woman she had been traveling with were afraid to go outside and were overwhelmed by everything they had just been through. Someone told them about the refugee center I work at, Helping Hands. They decided to leave their apartment for the first time in a week and come to our refugee center to get some clothes.
Last week she told some ladies from a short-term team visiting from America that the women that work at Helping Hands are like her sisters and one of her biggest blessings from God. She is excited to move onto another country in Europe someday, but is really sad to leave the staff at Helping Hands. When the ladies asked if they could pray for her, the only thing she said was, “Pray I get a visa quickly when I move to another country so I can come back and visit my sisters here. I’m going to miss them so much when I leave.”
Parisa has felt love and acceptance at our refugee center. Please pray that she finds that in Christ before she leaves. She said many times throughout her story that they were near death at this point or that point, but she would do it all again because it brought her to a new family and the chance for a future for her children.
There are so many stories like Parisa… People on journeys, full of hope and fear. People who are precious in God’s eyes. Thanks for caring and for praying!