Letter 23: Sam's Story--Surviving a Massacre

Dear Elizabeth,

During out days in Kosovo, our most helpful, most fun "student" was Sam (name changed). He had such a great attitude, we were blown away the day he told us what he had endured during the war.

Here is Sam's true story:

In the year 1999, police from another ethnic group gathered together 480 men from the ages of 15 to 75. I was in that group of people. They took us from our families, wives, the children, and our houses. The police said we would not be the Liberation Army any more; they were sending us to Skend (revised name) to shoot us. On the way, we saw houses burning, people evacuating, crying.

While we were walking, one policeman stopped us and ordered us to clear our pockets. After we took everything out of our pockets, he took a pipe and began hitting us just because of our ethnic group.

On the other side of the road a policeman with a knife was saying he would kill us and chop us. We were very scared because we didn't know what was going to happen.

We continued walking. At the check point to one village, the soldiers made a line. We walked through the line while they beat us with ax handles, muzzles of guns, kicking, boxing, etc.

Then after all those tragedies, we arrived in Skend. Police were waiting for us. They started screaming and shooting their guns upward, giving a sign that they have taken a lot liberation people, not thinking that we are civil people and guiltless.

They ordered us to lie down on the ground, but the ground was full of water and very cold. We slept there. In the night the water froze and in the morning we could hardly get off the ground.

At six in the morning, the police came. We were happy because we thought it's better now. The police commander asked our names and ages, and was very surprised at the ages of the people there. He knew the soldiers and police made a mistake.

After three o'clock, they gave the order that we are free. We left, but soon some police stopped us and divided us into two groups. Now, we were 35 people.

Then the police started beating us in a brutal way. They hit us on the head and everywhere with ax handles, asking us "Where is NATO now? Where is America?" etc. They started to scare us, pretending they are throwing bombs on us. They took a knife and put near to neck and said they will do a massacre now.

While they are beating people a white jeep arrived with a police commander. He asked the police "Are you crazy? What are you doing?"

We were told to go to Skend and be checked to see if we are liberation or not. One of our group told the police commander that we were in Skend and the police set us free. He said, "Am I the commander, or who is?" And he killed him.

We went back toward Skend. After 200 meters, police stopped us again, shooting in the air. They said they will finish with us now. Three people from our group ran. The police shot at them but fortunately they escaped.

Then the police sent us into a field. They made the group of 32 men into a triangle and then started shooting us. On the first shooting, I got two shots in my arms. I had a terrible pain.

They kept shooting. We laid down on the ground, then the police came to us shooting each person. When they came to me, they ht me on my legs, but I didn't move. They shot again, but thanks God the ball went through my hair and not into my head. They thought I was dead like the others, so the police left.

I saw that the police are not there anymore and I started slowly and with much difficulty my journey. I walked 12 hours, not knowing where I was.

I had a very difficult way, pain in my arms, tired, hungry, scared, because there was danger for my life.

The next day I arrived in my village. There was no doctor, but some students came to me and started to help me. They helped me for 3 months regularly.

This is all.

Life Lesson: Elizabeth, the thing that breaks my heart most about Sam's story is that all this terror was at the hands of the Serbians, a people known as Christians, trying to wipe out a people known as Muslims. To the people of Kosovo, the word Christian does not bring to mind nice people who love God and each other. It brings to mind those who slaughtered their families and destroyed their towns. As we talked with our new friends, we decided not to use the word Christian to describe ourselves, since that name did not mean to them what it meant to us. So instead, we needed to think how to define ourselves. Who were we? How did we want to define ourselves?  For you, Elizabeth, it is also a good thing to think through. If you call yourself a Christian, what does that mean? It needs to be more than just a term. How would you define yourself if you couldn't use the typical term?

I hope you have an answer, as 1 Peter 3:15 says, be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.

Like many others around the world, we picked the term "Jesus followers." That is who we were. I liked that as a way to define ourselves.

I am a Jesus follower. Who are you?

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