ERITREA: PAULOS—REFUGEE REDEMPTION
After hours of questioning and physical abuse, the soldier yelled out once again, “Deny this Jesus as your Savior, and you will go free.”
A faint and simple response fell from my lips, “No.”
The blows of his fists and kicks were excruciating. Grinning as though he had figured a way to keep me from sharing my faith, the sergeant said, “If you promise to never meet with other Christians, you may leave here today.”
My head pounding and my body aching, I unapologetically responded, “I cannot make that promise. Christians always meet together.” They dragged me outside, threw me into the back of a truck, and drove for a long time. Finally stopping, there was complete silence, just a faint wind and the almost unbearable heat remained. My cell was a shipping container in the middle of the desert. The soldier shoved me inside and secured the lock. I had no idea when or if he would ever come back. Suddenly, the grim reality sank in: I was going die in this container.
The next day, a soldier returned with a cup of lentil soup, some bread, and a cup of tea. Day after day for the next year, this was the routine. The pain in my stomach became agonizing. I was so weak I could no longer sit up on my own. Shockingly, the sergeant released me to go home as he saw my death nearing.
But God had other plans; for the next two years, I laid in bed and became stronger. Eventually, I gained enough strength and confidence to escape Eritrea. I planned my route through the mine fields guarded by soldiers who were given the order to “shoot and kill” anyone attempting to flee. It was my only option for freedom. By God’s grace, I made it to a refugee camp in Northern Sudan.
As I finished sharing my story with Al, he sat in silence for a few moments, eyes fixated on something in the distance. Finally, processing the brutal realities, he looked at me and asked, “What did Jesus ever do for you? You lost your family, your country, and almost your life. Why didn’t you give up on Jesus?”
“Oh, I could never give up on Jesus,” I replied. “He is too deep inside of me. In a moment of tremendous pain, I cried out to Him, ‘Jesus, I need to touch you.’ With full assurance, I heard Him say, ‘You don’t need to reach out and touch Me. I am holding you.’ Because Jesus never gave up on me, I will never give up on Him.”
Paulos attended the National Conference in Sudan for Eritrean refugees, where 30 men and women were equipped to spread the Gospel. Al VomSteeg, ILI Senior International Director, served alongside the national faculty to teach and mentor participants.
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