I sent this email to a friend of mine. It’s about two people who’ve come into my life lately, Marko and Saimir. I’m putting this on my web site so I can stop rewriting this email. J Marko is from Bosnia and Saimir is from Albania. Marko’s family is kinda Orthodox Christians. Saimir comes from a Muslim background. But, he was saved when he was 17.


Marko walked into my store with his mother back in April last year. She needed some help with her passports. She wanted to send them to the Bosnian Embassy in Washington, DC. She laid everything she had on the countertop and said, "Help". She didn't speak much English. She had two passports, two money orders and some documents written in Bosnian. She needed help filling out the two money orders. She'd already signed them.


As she was going through everything she realized that she didn't have the current photos. So, she left everything and went home to get them. She left the passports, the money orders, the documents and her 10 year old son. (He turned 11 on June 6th.)


He was a nice little boy. I gave him something to color and he sat down up front and colored. He asked a lot of questions. He asked me if I had Internet. I told him I did. He asked if he could play games. I hesitated then said, yes... because the computers were behind my counter.


During this time I called the Bosnian Embassy in Washington DC and found out what to do with the money orders. A short time later his mother returned. We did all of the paperwork and then she wanted to go to Fred's next door. Marko wanted to stay and play games. I thought his mother would say no. She didn't. Marko stayed and played games.


She came back a little while later to get Marko and go home. He didn't want to go home. Out of the blue he asked me if he could stay until 3:00 pm. I don't know where that time came from. I didn't want to be the "heavy" or the meany and say NO. Well, neither did his mother. He stayed until 3:00 pm and played games. His mother walked back and picked him up at 3:00 pm.


That was the beginning of our relationship. As I said, both his mother and step-father work long hours and his step-father works two jobs as well. Over the last 10 months (I can't believe it's been that long) I've taken him under my wings and befriended him and mentored him and tried to teach him certain things. With Saimir's help I've taught him how to eat with his mouth shut, eat with a fork and knife, how to say Yes/No Sir/Mam, how to be respectful (we're still working on this one) as well as a host of other things.


He started out the school year by "needing" help with his homework. Eventually, he just used that as an excuse to be with me so he wouldn't have to stay at home by himself and play video games or watch wrestling movies.


So, he comes to the store each day after school. He plays games on the computer I put up front for him. Then, we close the store, go to the post office, eat dinner, go to church, go to choir, whatever, and then he goes home.


His mother doesn't have a problem with this. It was a bit unusual at first but, then again I developed a relationship with my other Bosnian friend, Mirnes, back when he was 15. He is now 28 years old. Marko's just a lot younger.


I should stop and say that I led Marko to the Lord back in September. That took about 2 weeks. He asked a lot of questions, some of them over and over again. Then finally, one day, he decided he wanted to ask Jesus to come into his heart and save him. He walked the aisle the next Sunday and was baptized that night. His mother is an Orthodox Christian. His ‘step-father’ is too. He’s been talking to them about Jesus being God, about getting saved but, they haven’t accepted any of that, yet.


Saimir walked into my store one Monday back in September. He had just arrived in Jacksonville and thought renting a Personal Mailbox would give him a "fixed address" in case he changed addresses.


He heard the Christian music I had playing in the background. That started a conversation about our religious beliefs. He left and then returned that afternoon looking for a job. I can't officially hire him because he only has a visitor visa. I did tell him to come back on Tuesday and talk with Tracy, the Goin' Postal owner of the Fleming Island store. (She has since gone out of business.)


Tracy liked him and told me I needed to get him. Her husband works for Toyota Co. and he said the Albanians that work for them are very trustworthy and reliable. I came back from my doctor's appointment and spent a good hour or more talking with Saimir. He told me about his past.


He was "saved" at the age of 17. Some missionaries went to Albania and after about 6 months he decided to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He was baptized in the river. He was the FIRST MUSLIM in his village to be baptized. About 200 Muslims watched.


Saimir came back on Wednesday and I invited him to church. He was hesitant at first but, I persisted and he accepted the invitation. After the service I drove him "home" to the Gatorlodge. As I drove around the back (I didn't KNOW there was a back to the motel) I had a flashback to when I went on a road trip with the Bolles crew. The kids were so scared they blocked the doors with the motel furniture and didn't even try sneaking out during the night.


I told Saimir that I thought I could make him a better offer... I told him I had a room at my house and he could stay in it. He said yes before I even got all of the words out of my mouth. He was SO relieved by my offer. We went upstairs and got his belongings and took him home.


All he had was his clothes, some Bibles, cd's, dvd's and a few personal items. I had a bed and chest of drawers. He's gone treasure hunting through the middle bedroom and found a few other things to make his room 'cozier'. I gave him the keys to the Highlander so he has a way to get around. He has the keys to my house and the store. He even has the keys and combination to the store safe. He's helped me with the store ever since. He's a hard worker and a very fast learner. He can run the store without me now. He was a God send at Christmas.


He took the TOEFL exam and passed it. They submitted the test scores to FCCJ and FCCJ accepted him. FCCJ issued an I-20 form. He took the I-20 form and gave it to the attorney. She is doing the work with immigration to get his visitor visa converted to a student visa. If everything goes well, the process will take 30-45 days. His visa expires on March 11th. He can stay in the U.S. until he gets an answer from immigration. If they approve the change then he can stay in the U.S. go to school and work on becoming a US citizen.


I've committed myself to supporting him. The attorney's fees were $2,000. It'll cost more money later on down the line. I also have to think about how he's going to pay for college. I'm thinking about asking for donations. (c:)~ Who knows when the money's going to run out. I haven't quite started making enough money to even cover all of the expenses of the store, let alone to pay myself anything. That's just something I have on my prayer list.


Barbara helped us find an attorney by asking a friend for help. Her friend referred him to somebody downtown. He went and talked with that attorney and the attorney told him he knew of another attorney, a Russian, who he thought would be better. So, the attorney DROVE Saimir to Southpoint from his downtown office ... and, Saimir is now working with that attorney.


Saimir and I are just good friends. It's really nice because it's like we're brothers. Philosophically, we are on the same page and that is VERY NICE! It's amazing to see God work this way. It’s crazy because who in the world would’ve thought I would’ve had a former Muslim, Christian brother, walk into the store and just be an amazing friend… all within a matter of days? He's technical, loves working with his hands, is smart, sharp... and is just the little brother I never had.


His mother and father aren't "happy" with him being a Christian. But, they still accept him. He's 28 years old. He has an older brother about my age and two middle sisters.


I don't know what the future holds. He’s amazing in my store. He knows the Bible and Bible history like you wouldn’t believe. He has talents coming out of both ears. I would like for him to stay forever and help with the store. I just can’t say that’s what God has in store for him, or for me.


Time will tell.


There’s one more thing. Why did Saimir come to the US? Back when Albania was a closed nation he had an uncle "stand-up" to what the Communists were doing and then he "disappeared". They killed him. Saimir had always wondered about that. So, he started doing some homework. He eventually found out who was in charge back then. The surprising thing he found out was these same people are still in charge! He has cousins all over the place. He has one cousin who is a big wig newspaper publisher in Albania. He asked his cousin to write an article about what he found out. The cousin suggested starting with something small to see what the reaction would be. Well, he didn't get a favorable reaction to say the least. He started getting threatening phone calls and threats on his life. He decided that he needed to leave the country. He has a Visa and could stay in Europe but, he felt that whoever was making the threats could reach him too easily in Europe. So, He felt like he should go to the United States. He flew to the U.S. in September and visited some friends up in New England for a few days and then flew to Jacksonville because he has some friends here and there’s a good Albanian population in Jacksonville.


NOW, that's about it. Whew... long story, I'm sorry. (c:)~