In one of my last updates I mentioned how we visited the island of Mitilini and worked at the receiving points by the sea where the boats came in. I have to admit that I returned back to Athens rather sad and disappointed with all we had experience. Daily we received hundreds of wet, frightened and hopeless people. I had no idea at the time that God had a plan to honor us and bring this opportunity to us so to minister and touch them with the love of God and mercy.
God did bring them to us. No plan from our part. We did though dream of the day God would bring Syrian, Afghani and other displaced people looking for refuge to us. To share the love of God with them. We prayed for God to prepare us since the massive exit from Syria and entry to Greece through Turkey and then Greek islands and finally the port of Piraeus, home port of Athens.
One day we were visiting one of the Syrian families camp, Eleonas, along with a group of volunteers from Servant group International in Nashville, TN and a young man, 17yrs, came to the car window and asked if we knew were the metro stations was. When we asked where they were going he told us that they would not take him, his mother and two sisters because the camp was full. We took them to a nearby hotel and our friends paid for four day stay. Then a member of the Omonia church took them to his home. Their father is in Germany with the fourth child and we are helping them to get their visas to reunite with their father. They are still staying with the Omonia friend and we help any way we can with food, bills, rent etc.
Reem and her family became our family. We love them dearly and they have been coming to the Omonia church for a month now. They are helping with cooking for the other refugee families and although their departure and passage into West Europe will be a huge joy, we will miss them greatly. Reem and her family were the first Syrian people whom God brought to us.
Only a few days later we were introduced to Mustafa and his family through a friend who works and volunteers on the island of Mitilini. She called and said that this sweet family with a nine year old miracle boy has made their way to Athens from the island and suggested we go to meet them. We instantly fell in love with Mustafa and his family. He started coming to our Omonia church special days which include dinner, English language classes, available wifi, play room for the children, clothes and above all God’s love, compassion and mercy. It did not take but a few days Mustafa brought more of his friends and families. This last Thursday we had 70+ people at the dinner and fellowship.
For the last four Sundays most of our Syrian families came to the Greek worship hour. We translated to them in English and Syrian. They have been very open and welcoming the Truth. Most of them have hard and very deep questions. Just one of the questions following a study on the triune existence of man, Body, soul and spirit was …so where does the battle of good and evil take place? we responded in the soul/heart. Their response was that we have indeed shared with them the truth.
Following our dinners we spent several hours discussing, talking, listening and studying the word of God. When they heard the story of the prodigal son they were in tears. They said ..is this a true story? we responded of course it is real it is your story and my story.
We are taking them to the hospitals whether for medical problems or if they need specific exams to convenience their journey to West or North Europe. Just this last week a young Syrian woman miscarried their first baby. We stayed with her and her sweet husband, prayed for them. We shared that babies do not get lost, they have a name and they are in Heaven one day to be reunited with their parents. They were very comforted.
Mustafa with his family and one more family left for the country they received asylum just this last Thursday. On Tuesday they came to our home and we studied the word of God for several hours. That Spring night they all said they believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that He will come back to judge this world. They said that we have given them the best gift to take to their new life along. We went to the airport to kiss them good bye and God’s love was so evident.
Our new Muslim friends have changed us forever and what we thought of their culture and religion. They are some of the most kind, affectionate and ethical people we have ever met.
We are honored that God allowed us to meet them and bring them to us so we can share the entire truth of God’s love to them. We have loved them beyond any words can describe and we are totally convinced that God will continue to shelter them and bring them to the next step of knowing him. One of their statements has been…we were taught that God lives in Heaven but you have showed us that God lives in our heart and that has changed everything. Really words are useless to try to describe the work of God among our Syrian and Afghani friends.
Threee weeks ago three mothers and 16 children walked in our Omonia church building. We asked how they found out about us at Omonia. they said someone in the bus told them…really? another messenger of Christ. We have loved getting to know the mothers, only one father – the other two died in the war, and these wonderful, sweet and beautiful children. Most of them speak English and are very well mannered. I keep saying to their mothers, Bravo for the way your raised them. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, sleeping out in the open, these families do, how can anyone maintain such kindness and ethics? Well they do! We got them tents, gave them clothes and they are coming to our dinners. They keep saying “first we thank God and then you”.
They show us gratitude and cannot hug us and kiss us enough. several members from Omonia are part of this outreach and three times a week are always present to the prepare the dinners and visit with our friends.
The Omonia team which is active to give a helping hand to the displaced in need Syrian and Afghani people are part of Omonia’s diverse ethnic make up. Our team is made of Greeks, Ukrainians, Syrians, Americans, Russians, Filipinos, Nigerians and Egyptians.
We need help! We need people to come help us preferably long term, one or two years commitments as well as short term – but not less than a month. We need people who will come because God will lead them to touch these people with His love and compassion. We never know if someone will see Heaven one day because we took the “risk” of reaching out forgetting the prejudice which have been so carefully filtered through media and other sources to poison us against good and kind people regardless of their religion or country they were born in. We need people to help us when we take them to the doctors and hospitals. Just this last Monday a young Syrian girl miscarried their first baby. We spent several hours in two days to comfort this beautiful young couple confirming that babies do not get lost, they are in Heaven and one day they will reunite.
We are handling their hearts very gently. They have been wounded, betrayed and abused by this horrible war. They need to be handled with care and only with God’s love and mercy. They need to be handled like precious crystal because this is simply how God sees them. He tasted death for them and nobody can debate His work on the cross for our Syrian and other displace people.
We need people who can teach English, especially conversation, to help with the children with creative play and teach them about Christ. To help us with the kitchen, to help us deliver food to the different squats we work with and just be here to help us and encourage us to continue. This is the most beautiful work God has placed in our hands. I have never been happier serving these families, loving them, cooking for them and just be there for them while they experience the worst of this any way difficult life. Some of them said …”when we walk into the Omonia church building we feel we are back in Syria”. They say they feel loved and accepted and that they are not in the way…since this is how they feel in this big city which is in a horrible economic chaos.
When our Syrian friends come into the Omonia church building they feel at home. The women are in the kitchen cooking, talking, laughing like nothing is wrong in this upside down world. We close the kitchen door for them to remove their scarfs so we can see their beautiful hair. They are safe and trust us. The children are all over the building feeling safe and happy, the men are quietly taking orders from the women setting up the dinning area, running out to get last minute things and all in all God must smile at this picture when he looks down. Nobody is afraid, nobody feels unwanted, nobody feels threatened or angry. These feeling are replaced by God’s grace with love, compassion, mercy, grace, joy, laughter and hope.
At the end of the day we leave with wings of hope and joy in our back. They all leave with a sense of dignity and worth which is not the norm in a camp or in a shelter. If we can only help them find their worth which they lost somewhere on the way out of Syria, on the boats, on their long walking journey, we will be successful to explain how much God loves them and how precious they are to Him.
We feel honored and high privileged by the Lord to have been given this opportunity. The opportunity to be His feet, His hands and His hearts as He brings us His people to us.
All in all we can only see what is happening among us here in Greece and elsewhere as an opportunity. God is making us a favor to bring all these people to our door steps. They are not a threat, they are wonderful, kind people who need our help. If this is not the time to practice the “Good Samaritan” mission, when will it be? We will regret it if we do not move away from misconceptions and biased propaganda and do not reach out to touch these people with God’s love. Above all we will answer to God. What did we do with our resources, what did we do with his forgiveness, what did we do with His sacrificial love and mercy? Are we keeping all the above well secured in our church buildings? if so we might need to reconsider and to rethink our mission as Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ.
What touches the most is their open hearts ready to receive God’s love like never before, their willingness to listen to the word of God. I have never been happier administering His grace and mercy.
Just for the information right now they are about 50.000 refugees trapped in Greece. Even the ones who are seeking asylum the procedure takes forever. Below are some stats from Operational Data Portal by UNHCR covering the past three years: