The following is a guest post from one of the team members from our recent Malaysia trip.
We walked into a vast shopping mall and saw them waiting in a corner all by themselves – mother, daughter, and infant grandson. Father was standing by the table as if protecting them. After we exchanged greetings, they warmed up instantly – someone spoke their heart language! This family came to Malaysia not as tourists, but as refugees. Southeast Asia was not their choice of destination, but Malaysia was the only country they could find that did not require any visa paperwork. Our party moved to a local Middle Eastern restaurant where we share a meal together, our hands dipping into sumptuous dishes of hummus, grilled meat, rice and various salads. We chit-chat for a while, and after the typical questions are asked, the family began to share their story.
One of the daughters had been pregnant, so they had to wait for the baby to be born before they could start their journey. Too dangerous to go to the hospital, they huddled in their apartment in the safest place they could find to deliver this precious new life. They recall the bombs going off during the delivery. Once the baby was old enough to travel safely, they began their trek: four days on a bus to the border, then finding a way to a city with an airport, then the long flight. It was not an easy journey, but it was one they took as a family – grandmother, four daughters, and their families.
As we were serving tea to each other, the youngest daughter of the family joined us. “Working” as a tutor for other refugee families, she has been helping them with their English and other homework. Legally, refugees are not allowed to work in most countries, as the hope is for them to go back home as soon as possible. This family, though highly educated – a pharmacist, a chemist, a medical doctor – are not allowed to work, so the youngest daughter tutors so the family has enough money to live. A local church is helping them with a sparsely furnished apartment, paying what bills they can for them. That night’s meal was more food than they normally see for several days.
As the youngest daughter answered our questions, we knew something was different about her. We could tell that she shines, she is the “light” in a dark, dark situation, and that she is the family’s “hope.” Yes, she spoke almost perfect English (having been educated partly in the UK) but there was something more – she is a secret believer in the One True God. We could see that she continues to bring honor to her family by veiling her head. She told us that she had wished to stay back in her country, to serve those in such desperate need. She is a medical doctor, after all. She left the decision up to her mother; there will be plenty of work for her when the day comes to return home. She could not tell us her story of how the Father changed her life, though – not in front of her family.
A member of the local church that is helping the family with housing told us some of the youngest daughter’s story on our ride back to our hotel. The young woman encountered Christians in the UK while studying abroad. She was curious about Christianity. She became friends with Christians who eventually connected her with the church in Malaysia that has helped her family so much. Once the young woman returned to her home country after studying, she found herself drawn to other believers in the One True God. There were very, very few of her own people group who believe, so she sought out foreigners to teach her. There, at a local hospital, she found other believers.
Please pray for this refugee family. They have until May to figure out their next step. They long to return home, but do not know what returning would look like since their city has been destroyed and the fighting continues. For now, they need a way to provide for themselves, even though legally they cannot work. There is also a new baby on the way. Pray for this family as they face these challenges. And pray that they would continue to see the kindness of Christians – the hands, feet, and voice of Christ – reaching out to their family.