We started our time on the beautiful island of Lesvos, Greece at the home of Josh and Melanie, GEM missionaries, to hear about the work we would be doing and the people we would be serving. We soaked in these words that would inform our time, from Acts 17:26-27:
From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth, and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us.
As these words became our encouragement, we went through our work and saw how God used each of us in different ways. “The hill” at the center of camp (think Northside Park hill X2) can be a challenging part of our nine-hour shifts, but I saw Stephanie jump in to set up new arrivals, carrying shovels, tarps, tents and supplies over and over, day after day. I saw Emmanuel spend every possible moment visiting and encouraging both believers and non-believers, using language and relational gifts I don’t have. I saw Mindy work with many families to address challenging needs, showing patience, compassion and determination to resolve the problem which sometimes took most of a day. I saw Kevin make trip after trip, driving from the warehouse to deliver donated foam mattresses to the camp. I saw Karen working at the new arrival get, smoothing the hard journey from raft to bus to detention with her efficient kindness and occasional “mother bear” instincts to protect an overwhelmed father. Ron stepped in to help in a dozen different ways, and Kristin’s sweet encouragement given to other volunteers as well as to the many refugees she connected with during her census taking was a gift to so many at the camp!
Those weren’t my experiences exactly, but I was able to hand out diapers to moms and dads with their little ones clinging to them, to pick up trash out in the olive groves by camp where the overcrowding is spilling out and to help a Pakistani man, who recently returned to camp after incarceration, to register with the Greek police, set up housing and supplies and hear from him (with his limited English) about his 12-year-old daughter still living in Pakistan with his sister, while he has been at Moria for 24 months. I shared a bit about my family, and then he asked the questions, “Why did you come to this place?” Then I could say, I’m a follower of Jesus who came to seek and save the lost and to serve out of love. I am trying to follow his example and serve here.
I was able to give impromptu swim lessons to 16-year-old Farishta, her aunt and little brother who arrived at Camp Moria just two months earlier, after fleeing their home in Afghanistan almost three years ago.
It was a great encouragement to see the community center set up by Greater Europe Mission only a half mile from the camp, where the refugees could come in the evening to enjoy tea, play games and ask questions. There are Bible studies for six different people groups taking place there, discipleship and prayer groups, and a separate area for women to meet. We were invited to witness the baptisms of two Iranian men in the Aegean Sea, watching the joy of those two and the other Iranians who have been part of their spiritual journey and who shared about their own need to flee their homeland because of their Christian faith.
And on Sunday we worshipped with a couple hundred refugee believers with the Persian, French and Arabic translations, joining our voices to sing “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord” with the beautiful blend of languages. And on the wall in the simple room where we sat on the floor was Romans 12:12, “Joyful in hope, Patient in affliction, Faithful in Prayer.” Words familiar to me, easy to say, but taking on new meaning as we witnessed the reality that for these brothers and sisters in Christ in a seemingly hopeless situation in our messy world, their hope truly is in their Savior Jesus Christ.