Back to the Islands
The refugee crisis in Greece is often portrayed as connected to the war in Syria. And while Syrians do represent the majority of refugees in Europe, our team spent last week on a small Greek island in a camp that is incredibly diverse. We met refugees from as far east as Bangladesh, as far west as the Dominican Republic, as far south as the Congo, and everything in between.
We worked long shifts at the camp, sometimes all night. We delivered apples and rice to the tents, passed out dry blankets and sleeping bags, manned security gates and assembled bunk beds. We also heard too many hard stories, avoided a few fights, offered a lot kind words and prayers, played some volleyball, and made lots of new friends.
The military-style compound used to house the refugees were intimidating at first, – barbed wire never makes me feel safe. But as we got to know a handful of names, faces and stories, our hearts melted for the young men living here. Most have little if any chance of finding a safe new home in the West, and will probably eventually be sent back to their war-torn homes.
Hold the Potatoes, Please
One man I met was from Central Asia and once practiced an ancient folk religion. He had become a Mormon somewhere along the way and had tons of questions and very interesting ideas about the world refugee crisis.
I struck up a friendship with another man from the Congo who fled home after being beaten and jailed for participating in a protest. He had to leave all his family behind and would weep for them as he spoke. I was able to pray with him, – for God’s peace to comfort his aching heart. Some stories are really hard to hear and handle when your face to face; its a lot easier to watch it on the news.
There was a group of Christian men from Africa who would stop by our work station to bless and pray for most times they passed. They wanted to know our names and the names of our children so that they could, right then and there, pray God’s blessing upon us. It was a little bit too much humbling to handle. They have nothing, but keep giving.
My conversations with Iraqis were some of the hardest. Most shared the same question, – some with anger, some with tears: “I believe you are a kind person and want to help, but why did your country want to destroy mine?”
One afternoon, some of our team got invited into a tent for a home-cooked Algerian dinner, an interesting potato dish you eat with your hands. Strangely enough, one of our team leaders was allergic to potatoes of all things! I think it was a pretty awkward moment for her.
If you think you might be interested in serving on one of our teams or putting together a team to serve longer in the camp, please click here and learn more!