Streams of Sanctuary

The man screamed with all that was within, “sanctuary,” but it came out as a barely audible whisper. He was spent.

Minutes earlier he had hauled his broken frame on to the rocks.

Hours earlier he, alongside his fellow passengers had jumped into the sea as the boat capsized; deliberately scuttled with eight hundred people on board.

Days earlier he was running; running to freedom, running from persecution.

Weeks earlier he had opened the door of his busy surgery, just one more day of treating the usual ailments in the middle-class suburb of Aleppo.

The rocks were like the most comfortable mattress he had ever slept on, better than the Sheraton in Dubai at the last conference he attended. He lay, fighting sleep; a losing battle.

Later, awakening with a little strength restored, he tried to stand but the twisted, gnarled left leg refused. He had walked with it, ran with it and swam with it but it had needed treatment days ago. It was broken in at least three places where boots of the terrorists had hit. He was only trying to help, to be a good neighbour, he didn’t ask the religion of his patients and they sat together in the waiting room. But gossip spreads and one person let out they had seen a bible in the surgery and the men came.

Khalid shuffled his body along the rocks aiming for the tufts of dune he thought he could see. His eyes were still slits from days of intense heat, from the beating – he was concerned something was detached. He tried to think of them as ‘the terrorists’ because to bring their names into his mind caused bile to rise in his stomach. But he knew them, he knew their fathers well, he played chess with them in the cool evenings whilst sipping mint tea; he knew them well.

Slowly, the determination that had brought him this far brought him to the edge of the reeds and grass, a small stream gushed its way to the sea and he laughed: Streams of Sanctuary.

He drank water from the stream steadily until he was sure his kidneys were working and worked with the reeds and grasses to construct makeshift splints for his leg. He knew if he got as far as trees in the distance he could make a stick that would enable him to walk to the nearest village or town. As he drank from the stream he thought of the living water, how a girl had rushed into his surgery one morning to explain to him about living water.

Ten years ago he had read of a man in Haiti who had travelled for three weeks with a broken hip, shuffling most of the way. Khalid remembered how in awe he was of this man’s courage. He now understood it wasn’t courage, it was being more scared of the alternative, it was not choosing heroism; it was choosing life.

B’nyaroi, the girl with the bible, she had died along with her whole family. The men had barricaded their home and set it ablaze. The crowd cheered as the screams stopped. Horrific, Khalid thought. She had been teaching him about Jesus, she had such joy in her eyes and her face shone in a way he had never seen. He listened to her as she excitedly told him about life with this Saviour who was God and man. He said little but the leaflet with ‘the prayer’ had been read and spoken out loud. When he thought of B’nyaroi he thought of peace, love and acceptance.

Minutes later he was moving, a little faster now he hopped some and crawled some.

Hours later he arrived into the village of Velanidia and knocked at the first door.

Days later he was walking on crutches in the gardens of Molaoi Lakonia General Hospital. He had lost half his left leg, but his eyes were much improved. He would never have full sight again but he had enough to see the beautiful anemones and orchids. He was walking in God’s garden.

Weeks later still nursing wounds both physical and emotional he stood on a stage in Athens. He spoke the fluent English, his father had insisted he learn, he told of terror and redemption, he told of hospitality and he wept as he told B’nyaroi’s story.

Months later he enrolled in a theological college somewhere in the world. He now calls himself Khalid the Living, he wanted to reach out to his nation, to his former community, he wanted to spread the gospel message of love into the hearts of Bassel and Yaman and all the other young people caught up in the bloody battle. His eyes, precious to him now, watered freely when he thought of how much love he had for those young boys, for the men who torched B’nyaroi and her family. How much love the Father has for him and everyone else. He was living, Khalid the Living.

Years later Khalid … {a story to be told another day}