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Monday, January 11, 2016

Light in the Wilderness

This week I want to write you about Farshid.

It's Tuesday night and we are riding the M21 bus back from German class with the Hansens. The robotic German voice announces the next stop: "Grubenstieg," and the Deutsche Rotes Kreuz (German Red Cross) refugee camp slips into view through my bus window.
I cannot even imagine what it must be like to live in a place like this.... A world where the only concept of any sort of privacy is found in a thin sheet hung between 'living spaces', where you have to wait hours and hours in a line for laundry or a shower, and where the massive fluorescent lights never ever turn off. No darkness to hide in or find solitude. The bus rumbles on and I see the flash of ambulance lights in the front lot. My heart skips a beat at the simultaneously irrational and rational fear that Farshid is somehow in the middle of it - that he's hurt or got involved in something. The memory of Farshid's face two days prior as he stared out of the Altona church building window and told us that he didn't read in his scriptures the night before because he got in a fight defending a woman that was being harassed was still fresh in my mind. The reality is that the only thing protecting him in his newfound faith is the thick white paper covering the cover of his Persian Book of Mormon; keeping his involvement with the church a secret is essential. The ambulance drives off and our bus moves on in the opposite direction. A skinny boy has climbed halfway up the fence and his brightly-light silhouette is the last thing I see before our bus turns onto the next street. In my head, I pray for Farshid and I pray for this little boy.

I gleaned some understanding of Farshid's life before he came to Germany from flipping through the pictures on his iPod as we sat in the mall food court the next day. I zoomed in on the faces of all of his family members. His voice changed when I zoomed in on one in particular:"That is my big sister." Using trusty old google translate, I asked him if they were close. His huge eyes crinkled a little bit as he smiled and he did his classic Persian extra-long blink. Over these past weeks, I have learned that the the longer the blink, the stronger the affirmative. He lit up showing us pictures of his nieces and nephews, brothers, and parents. A picture of him in a hard hat brought to light that he was an architect. Our lesson with our translator Hadi later that week gave Farshid the opportunity to give us even more background. At the end, he explained how now that he knows about Jesus Christ and he has found the church, his family means even more to him. He said that as he has come closer to God, he has learned how to be happier and more grateful, in spite of everything that he and his family have had to go through. I am still in awe of his humility, spiritual maturity, and his gratitude.

The Lord told Nephi: "I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you..."

Farshid knows who his light in the wilderness is. He knows that the Savior had been preparing him his whole life to hear and accept the good news of the gospel. He begins each prayer with "Father" - in full confidence that he is communicating directly with his Heavenly Father. I am so grateful for Farshid's example, testimony, sacrifices, and strength. I am grateful to know that God is intimately involved in the life of this Iranian refugee and for the opportunity I have had these past few months to watch and be involved in Farshid recognizing that too.

Liebe Grüße,
Sister Grace

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