Island Team – February 2017
Each of our teams volunteering to help refugees in Greece is a bit different. Some are all from the same group or church, others are a smattering of individuals from all over the U.S. Each one ends up doing slightly different things to help refugees. But the stories and experiences all have a lot in common. Our team members are changed, sobered, encouraged, and return home with a desire to love and serve better.
The Writing on the Wall
These words were found on the wall of the work area during the team’s first night shift.
“…the smallest things can change your life in the blink of an eye
something happens by chance and sets you on a course you never planned–into a future you never imagined …
where will it take you?
isn’t that the journey of our lives?
our search for the light…
-but sometimes finding the light means you must pass through the deepest darkness.”
What Words Are There?
“We are working at a refugee camp with over two thousand people who have fled some sort of danger or seeking a better life. Words that describe our experience: enlightened, trapped, courage, broken, desperate, friendly. Our feelings and experiences varied between hope and despair as we served the needs of the camp and refugees.”.. ~ Vance
“Wait” and “Tomorrow”
Today at camp, I did a lot of waiting. But the waiting I felt is nothing compared to the waiting the refuges and migrants in the camp experience every day of the weeks, months, years they have been there. As a young lady from Palestine told me, “the authorities favorite words are ‘wait’ and ‘tomorrow.’
In my waiting, I turned to observation. To truly soak in everything I was seeing and hearing around me in my silence. This was especially true of the two hours I staffed the new arrivals tent. The individuals there had just arrived in Greece.
All 12 souls in the tent were asleep – or trying to sleep – with their piles of belongings around them. They were using what few blankets they were given as pillows and allowing themselves to be completely vulnerable. In this moment, I felt God’s presence. I felt His presence as I prayed for those in the tent – prayers of thanks for their safe arrival, prayers of empathy for their road ahead, and prayers of safety for those remaining in whatever situation had prompted their migration.
At the end of tonight’s shift, I realized that sometimes all we can do to help is be present, prayerful, and wait for God’s presence. ~ Jenna
Holding Hands with Refugees
Wednesday morning, amid the chaos of refugees, volunteers, Greek military and the police, we began our walk from our hotel up the road lined with barb wire fences to the volunteer office for our shift. Along the way we encountered a little boy about 2 years old walking with his dad and holding his hand. As Chris walked by, the little boy said something and with a spurt he let go of his dads hand, ran to Chis and grabbed his finger and began walking with him. As they continued, the little boys father caught up with them, grabbed the boys other hand and the three of them continued holding hands as they climbed the hill. Those of us who were behind them had tears rolling down our faces. This simple sweet innocent moment reminded us that we are all God’s image-bearers despite cultural and religious differences. ~Stephanie
I am almost to the last day of my first mission trip. Riding home with my team one day, Jill asked for one word that described our thoughts. I had to think a bit, but the word that came to me was enlightened. I came here with a preconceived notion of what the people would be like and a little afraid of how they would accept me and our team.
The first job I had was sitting on a little wooden bench outside a steel gate with a sliding latch to a compound that housed women. We were to monitor who could go in or not according to color of wristband. I was introduced to a beautiful young Palestinian woman who sat and talked to us and told her story. In the pouring rain she brought me hot tea and insisted to help move our bench under a small overhang so we would not be so wet. I felt so bad when I had to open and shut that gate. Even though it was for their protection, it still felt like I was locking someone in who had done nothing wrong.
The Humility of Asking for Everything
Day four, was a rough day. I sat at the info gate where people come all day with all kinds of requests: blankets that they can only get another if it is wet, a needle and thread to sew pants, or replacing lost/broken wrist bands (their only access their sleeping area). An older gentleman wanted “bubbles” which I finally figured out meant soap, and rubber shoes for the shower. We had neither, and I had to be the one to tell him. I hated that he had to come and ask for such a basic need.
Do not Despise the Day of Small Things
Later, Elizabeth and I were tasked to convince a group of eight Pakistani men in a huge tent to move to a ISO pod (pictured) which is much better. Through lots of back and forth, by end of day they finally decided to make the move. I’m thankful for small victory. I am humbled and ashamed that I have so many freedoms while so many people have none.
I have found when you look people in the eye and speak with love in your heart and respect for their dignity it will cross any language barrier. I am enlightened because these people are my brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and there, but for the grace of God go I. ~ Sharon
What is the End?
The end of it all is that all of our team members come away seeing themselves in the people they have served. Volunteering to help refugees in Greece, they see the hand of God working both in the lives of our refugee friends and in their own lives. And sometimes life changes in the blink of an eye.
You, too, can start volunteering to help refugees in Greece! Learn more HERE!