My time in Slovakia was over. All of the other short-term team members had already gone home. I had some extra time before my flight left, so one of the long-term missionaries accompanied me to Budapest, where I spent several glorious days exploring one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
I stayed at a mission just outside of Budapest, in a small town called Erd. It was there that I met a young woman, a refugee.
She was from Kosovo.
August 2, 1999
10:05 p.m. CET
“Every soldier is someone’s son.” A beautiful young Albanian woman had spoken these words to me earlier that night.
We sat at the kitchen table in the mission house. Her six-year old daughter was there too. The resemblance between mother and daughter was strong, despite the fact that the mother’s hair was a rich brown and the daughter’s was golden blonde. The mother’s eyes were different too. They no longer reflected the innocence of childhood. This was a woman who knew sorrow.
“My brother, who is 20-years old, did not want to fight in the army,” the woman told me. “He ran away and escaped across the border. He was caught and beaten by the police and then put in a refugee camp. In the refugee camp, there is not enough food or clothes or shampoo. The conditions are horrible.”
The young woman went on to share her own story.
“I am a single mother. My daughter and I were forced to leave Kosovo because of racism. People could tell by the way that I spoke that I am Albanian and it made things difficult. Two weeks after my daughter and I left our home, a mass grave containing thirteen children was found near my daughter’s school. The children were my daughter’s age.”
Understandably, this woman should have been angry and bitter. The war had torn her family apart, and she and her daughter no longer had a place to call home. This was a tale of tragedy. And yet, for this young mother, it was more than that. There was sorrow, yes. But this was also a tale of forgiveness.
Love your enemies…
This young refugee depended on the Holy Spirit daily to help her live out this verse.
“Mistakes were made on both sides,” the woman concluded sadly. “And every soldier is someone’s son.”
I never wrote down this woman’s name. The things that she experienced seemed more important to me at the time. As I sit here holding a photograph of her and her daughter, I am struck once again at the sadness of war.
I learned that day, however, that there is something greater than the sadness in our lives.
What could be greater than the sadness? you ask.
Only one thing. The God who heals and gives us the grace to forgive.
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