From Where I Sit…
Are you watching the Olympics?
So much pageantry, so much drama, such great athletes.
There is one athlete that caught the eyes of many, worldwide. Her name is Yusia Mardini.
Yusia was born in Damascus, Syria. She fled her war torn country, along with her sister, Sarah. Their journey took them through Lebanon, Turkey, and Greece, up through the Balkans and Central Europe, to Germany, all the way narrowly dodging capture and death. You have seen the news reports, the pictures. You have heard the rhetoric.
As they fled Turkey by way of the Aegean Sea to Greece, they were crammed into a dinghy built to accommodate 6 people, with 28 other fleeing refugees. On their second attempt to make the crossing, not far from Turkey’s shores, their boat began to take on water in rough seas, their small motor failed. Yusia, Sarah and two young men, the only four on the boat who knew how to swim, jumped into the sea to guide and pull the boat. The two men did not last in this heroic effort, Yusia and Sarah did. They guided the boat to safety.
Their flight took them to Berlin. It was in Berlin where an Egyptian interpreter who helped out at the refugee camp at which she was staying, connected Yusia with the nearby Wasserfreunde Spandau Club and with Sven Spannekreb, a long time trainer for the club.
It was there, where she began training again as a swimmer, hoping to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Coach Spannekreb learned the International Olympic Committee wanted to build a refugee team for this year’s Olympics, he and Yusia realized her Olympic dreams could come true sooner than expected.
Give her a look see. Check out her Facebook fan page and on Instagram. Google her and read about her story.
Her story puts a wonderful human twist on the sad news of a war torn Middle East, massive refugee crisis, immigration rhetoric, fear of terrorism and hateful rhetoric concerning this whole hard reality of our times.
In one interview she said, “I remember everything, of course. I never forget. But it’s the thing that’s pushes me actually to do more and more. Crying in the corner, that’s just not me.” (New York Times, August 8, 2016)
Next time I whine that the going is tough, I hope I remember something of her story.
Next time I will celebrate that we are a country of immigrants, refugees from many lands.
Next time I will remember that the Book tells us to remember that we were once “strangers and exiles” in a foreign land, and that when we welcome the strangers among us, we just may be welcoming angles, or as Jesus put it in Matthew, “Truly I tell you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”