There is nothing like necessity when it comes to communication.
The Afghan ladies who gathered at the center for the bi-weekly refugee meeting were gracious about the fact that I struggled miserably to put together a simply sentence in Farsi. As time went on, my pre-programmed, memorized phrases started to come out better as we sat around the table trying to guess everyone’s ages.
I feel terrible about speaking languages that I don’t actually speak, lest I burden people with my disgraceful abilities. But imperfect communication is better than no communication at all. It’s a necessity, and when I’m required to be everyone else’s spokesman, it also forces me to … open … my … mouth … and … talk!
Smiling a lot helped. And laughing. It helped to remember that I didn’t have to feel guilty about not speaking Farsi very well and you don’t have to be too ashamed to try. No one else was going to talk to Afghan ladies for me!
A friend set them up piecing together lighthouse charm bracelets with their teen and pre-teen daughters while we went out to the market to shop for lunch. She’s a peaceful person with a wide warm heart. She couldn’t have been more elated to have me there when the Syrians arrived so I could transmit her words of welcome and compassion. Didn’t it just work out perfectly? I can never think of what to say and have to be dragged out onto the floor to open my mouth for fear of what might come out. But in this case, she told me what to say and all I had to do was say it!
Concern, anxiety, and uncertainty define life for refugees in Greece, who are generally suspended in a temporary living situation in substandard conditions, passing through the port and the islands for hope of asylum in other European countries. The favorite is Germany, but Germany is bursting to its maximum capacity and is no longer accepting any new arrivals. In any case, they have to wait for a representative to show up at their camp and register them, however long that takes. They will have to remain stuck, lost, and on a shadowy path to the future for the time being.
Though lunch was late and I had to leave early to get to my shift at work, my friend snagged me just in time to make sure she was able to leave them with her final message.
“We want you to know that we are here not just for your physical needs, but primarily to heal your spirits. God’s love is what heals our hearts, and He loves each one of us like a father loves his children.”
Something happened in the course of the speech in which the Syrian ladies derailed the topic into asking whether or not there were any mosques in Greece (apparently there are few, if any, legally speaking). My friend had to check on lunch, but despite not having my teleprompter by my side, words actually kept coming out of my mouth. I was surprised!
It’s amazing how a teeny, tiny, little, intimidated, cowardly person who is terrified of her own shadow barely able to say hello to someone at the grocery store can, with perfect ease, field a conversation on the nature of absolute truth with a group of devout Syrian Muslims. It’s awfully kind when God lets you be in a situation where there isn’t anyone else to do it for you. Anyone could do a better job than I could, but in this case, no one else was there, so I got to!
To the group of Americans who had to sit there silently while I spoke with the Afghans and the Syrians this must have looked exciting and thrilling. But it’s important to remember that there’s always a price. For every skill you acquire, (unless you’re a savant) it’s going to cost you. It’s going to cost you time and effort and, if you struggle with an anxiety disorder, the breaking point of nearly unbearable psychological torment that cripples and inhibits every effort. It’s a life-long investment that you may never feel confident, secure, or satisfied in. But it is not an investment without some returns.
Stacy now serves as an Arabic interpreter in Athens. She is marked by willingness to follow God’s lead wherever it might take her, no matter the cost.