I am so very thankful. Shukraan (that means thank you in Arabic).
I am still trying to put into words my thoughts and feelings about last week in Athens. The best summary I have is that it was a beautiful week, for in beauty there can be both joy and sorrow. The stories I heard were heartbreaking and inspiring. The people I met were weary yet strong. The systems I saw were life-giving yet broken. But in all, God is near.
God is near to the families (very few of them whole, with mother, father, and all children still together) who let us play with their children and sit with adults in informal camps called squats.
God is near to the Greeks (mostly non-Christians) who had quit their jobs to manage a warehouse of donations sent from all over the world where we helped sort.
God is near to the believers who’ve gathered from around the world to learn new languages and meet physical (and emotional and spiritual) needs with whom we gathered to cook and clean for refugees who don’t have those basic “luxuries” in camps.
God is near to the Afghani women who served me tea from their camping tent erected in an abandoned airport that they call home, though the only border open to them right now is the one from which they fled.
God is near to the Syrians, yearning and waiting for policymakers and governments to make decisions about lives in very different places (literally and figuratively) than they ever dreamed.
How do I know God is near?
I see that in His sovereignty, refugees landed on the shores of a city where a current economic crisis and Olympic games 15 years earlier left huge abandoned stadiums, hotels, and an airport that could provide shelter to the thousands in need.
I see that, even as I prepare to hug my family’s neck, He protected my new friend Ali’s mother and sister from the bombs that killed more than 55 people in his former neighborhood less than 48 hours ago.
And I see the truth that was preached by Paul to Athenians from a spot I stood less than a week ago is still true today:
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’;as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.'” Acts 17:24-28
Thank you for continuing to pray for refugees–in Athens, in Nashville, and all around the world. And together, let us give thanks for the rich, abundant blessings God has given us–mostly for His saving Love through Emmanuel, God come near.
Is this something you might be interested in doing? Check out our trips to Greece HERE.