It has been almost a year since the tsunami of Syrian, Afghan, Iraqi, Iranian people started arriving in our country. A very familiar picture for the Greek people. The Omonia church has opened its doors literally and figuratively to offer a refuge to these people. God’s people. However, regardless of this picture’s familiarity some facts are in some way different. The passports were different. In 1920 it was the Greek people of Asia Minor who were arriving at the Greek Islands and shores looking for a refugee away from the Ottoman regime.
So here we are now October 6, 2016. I have no idea what happened to the winter, the spring and the summer of this last year. The days have welcomed each other faster than the speed of light. It is Monday and then Monday again. Our lives are planned around the lives of our refugee friends daily.
We are now more than convinced that the Omonia Church has been preserved for a time like this. Unlike other community centers and organisations welcoming refugee places are told that the Omonia refugee outreach is different. We are told that God has created a “refuge home for the refugees at Omonia”. We are told that this is a relational ministry and other coordinators come and take notes and tips how to run theirs. We tell them the only tip ….is love them, serve them humbly and make sure you remind them that God loves them more.
Come visit the Omonia building on any Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday and sit at the table with us. You will find over 100+ people sharing a fellowship meal following either worship on Sunday or a Bible lesson on the other days. There is a lot of “sign language” going on between everyone sharing so many languages, Syrian, Farsi, Kurdish, Russian, Greek, English.
Three families have received Christ so far and everyone else is listening about Him daily. The atmosphere of the little Omonia building is that of a home. Someone welcomes you at the door, hugs you, kisses you wants to find out where are you from and shows you either to an English class, to the tea kettle or to simply visit and discuss with one of the volunteers and share your story.
Everyone who walks into this building is very special and is honored. Our refugee friends know this and come back consistently and bring their friends. When and if their time comes to move to the next country in Western Europe they are happy but they are also sad to leave this safe and loving place where God has brought them.
One of the Greek volunteers told us recently….”I cannot understand what kind of Muslim people are these…sitting all quietly listening to a woman talking to them about Jesus”. Yes they do and if for someone reason they feel we are either running late or cutting our “Holy book time” short they complain. Just for practical reasons, someone started calling me back in February Mamma Eleni. I think I am tagged for life. So Mamma Eleni shares the stories just like any mother would with her children. Right some of them are a bit older, but again the figure of the mother who loves them and would do anything for them, and I have, captures the hearts and listen like little five year olds.
I humbly read stories from the “Holy book” this is how they call the Bible. They amen my amens, they cry, they weep. Their eyes are wet from seeing the light for the first time and no photography or words can capture the beauty, the joy, they hope that God is still sovereign over the lives of His people. And He has called them out from the darkness into His glorious light and He is using so many of us to lead them.
Sometimes light blinds you. We are holding their hands in prayer following our “Holy book” time. Afghan people hold the hands of the Syrian people and Iraqi people hold the hands of the Iranian people. There is not end to this miracle. We pray in Arabic, Farsi, English and Greek. And when the prayer is over everyone stands frozen and we have to remind…ok now is time for our holy meal and everyone lines up to be served the meal as well as the fellowship which will shortly take place around the tables. And just in case you want to know what the menu is…..we serve daily, hope, joy, peace, compassion, forgiveness, grace and mercy. They leave at about four o’clock in the afternoon with their stomach and hearts full.
Isaiah has said….I will serve the best of meats and wines to the table until they are satisfied and cannot have any more. We have been gifted with this precious gift of being His feet, His hands, His heart.