Have you ever feared for your life?
Was there a time where you lost everything and had the decision of being with your family or leaving them behind, basically giving them a death sentence?
There are hundreds of families, specifically Muslim families who experience these difficulties on a day to day basis and I came in contact with one years ago. His name is Sam and his story is inspiring.
When I first came in contact with Samwal, he was living in Kentucky, thousands of miles away from his home country of Pakistan.
Growing up in a hostile environment, he constantly feared for his own safety and the well being of his family. Extremists in Pakistan at that time were destroying homes, blowing up schoolhouses, kidnapping the weak, and making living conditions for devout Muslims a nightmare. Samwal knew he had to escape.
The miracles that allowed him to flee his war torn country were numerous and frequent. He successfully left, but had the difficult task of leaving his parents and siblings behind. The threats that followed were frightening-He was told that if he ever tried to return to Pakistan, he would be killed.
If he tried to contact his family in any way, shape or form, they would be tortured and left for dead. He was considered a traitor, an enemy to the violent extremists and their followers.
He was riding his bike to work one day, the Kentucky rain pouring down immensely, and as he was pedaling through the storm, he noticed something in the street ahead of him.
There was no time to swerve, and he hit the object in the road, causing him to topple over his bike. Frustrated because he was already late for work, he was about to gather himself and return on his bike, when all of a sudden he felt a distinct impression to go back and see what he hit. It was a small book.
With no cover on it, he couldn’t identify the title but he started reading it. Fast forward 2 weeks later, and my mission companion and I were tracting an apartment complex and had one more building to cover. It was getting late and we knew if we started knocking doors, we would miss our bus. We bowed our heads in prayer and decided to stay and tract.
The first handful of contacts proved to be unsuccessful; we began to doubt our decison. The next door we knocked on, an older man with glasses and a salt and pepper beard answered the door. We introduced ourselves and he said his name was Samwal-Sam for short.
He told us about his book discovery a few weeks prior, and how he had an impression to take it and read it. He handed us the tattered book, and upon observing it, my companion and I immediately knew what it was-
It was a copy of the Book of Mormon.
He said he couldn’t put it down-he read it twice.
We told him that this book was translated by a prophet of God and it contains a record of the ancient inhabitants of America and it is another testament of Jesus Christ. He was so overcome with emotion and told us he knew it was true.
He then said he had been searching his whole life for something more. He talked about his horrifying living conditons in Pakistan, how he tried to live a normal life as a Muslim, but extremists couldn’t make that a possibility. He said he knew there was more knowledge of a Supreme Being somewhere, but he couldn’t search in Pakistan because of the lack of religious freedom.
We went over some more discussions with him and he committed to baptism. He was someone ready to hear the gospel and embraced it with everything he had.
Sam lost his family, lost his possesions, had to start his life over in an unfamiliar country, but he had the faith to move forward.
How easy we have it here in the US-We don’t have the constant fear of being killed, we have freedoms here that most countries could only hope for. Sam taught me not to have preconceived notions of people, regardless of who they are and what the media may portray Muslims as.
We are taught to love everyone, and help all come close to Christ.
Elder Kearon of the Quorum of the Seventy stated in a recent conference-
We must be careful that news of the refugees’ plight does not somehow become commonplace when the initial shock wears off and yet the wars continue and the families keep coming. Millions of refugees worldwide, whose stories no longer make the news, are still in desperate need of help.
Sam is one of thousands of refugees who are looking for a safe haven. His story is one of loss but also of success-he found his way here, got his education and found answers to questions about God he has had his whole life. But there are others who may not be so lucky.
It is our responsibility to love, and be kind. We may not be able to take refugees into our home, but there are countless other ways to help those in need.
Our statue of Liberty has the inscription
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Are there some who want to come into the US to destroy our freedom? To take away things we hold dear? The answer is of course yes. ISIS has a deep hatred for the US and its citizens.We have seen that in the past and recently-attacks at the World Trade Center, the Boston Bombing can make us fear, give us doubts. But the number of Muslims who honestly want a better life by coming to the US greatly outnumbers the extremists.
Sam taught us this concept and continuing issue firsthand.
Now it’s up to us to do something about it.