In May 2017 a group of 11 of us went to Athens for a week to help those working with the thousands of refugees in and around the city.
There is much to be done, some interacting directly with the refugees and their children, and a lot of work in the background ensuring that as many as possible of the material needs are met e.g. food, clothing, footwear, toiletries etc.
Below are some of the highlights as observed by some members of the team:-
From John and Lesley,
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Mother Teresa
Love this quote from Mother Teresa, felt like what we were doing – just making drops in the vast ocean of humanitarian need that is happening in Greece and so many other countries.
• Sunday morning in Arabic, meeting a family who had just got saved that week and who totally understood what they had done in becoming Christians. Watching Arab speaking church members being able to listen to their stories and love them as they wept sharing their traumatic stories.
• The fervent, passionate prayer of the church for God to move.
• To meet with a man from Afghanistan with a degree in business studies, who walked for 10 – 12 hours with his wife and 4 & 2 year old over the mountains to reach Iran, and then Turkey and then crossing by sea to Greece with 70 people in a boat that should hold up to 30. They had to leave Afghanistan as his father was blown up.
• Sorting pallets of shoes in boxes into sizes, seasons etc, then sending out boxes to refugees on a Greek Island, along with clothes and food for them.
• Staying with people in the church who were so generous in sharing their homes with us strangers, and made us feel so welcome and loved.
• Realising that God causes us to be in the right place at the right time . . . when got off the bus a few stops too early, but ended up praying for a man who had a heart attack, and Janis helping with the CPR, before the ambulance came.
It has been a life changing experience.
For me the highlights of the trip were:
• Meeting Stavros and his team and seeing the work they are doing to help others in greater need when Greece itself is going through such hard times.
• Meeting this almost invisible network of people from around the world (Greece, USA, Peru, Iraq, Kenya, UK), all with the same purpose of showing God’s love. This included meeting a couple from the cell group we visited when I was locked outside of the apartment I was staying in and offering help.
• Meeting so many friendly people, whether it be from the church, on a train, serving in a restaurant, etc.
• Helping at Piraeus. Seeing children who were physically and emotionally scarred, some tired from a 7 hour bus journey and just being able to show them love. Having one boy fall asleep in my lap who, along with his brother, didn’t speak for 6 hours. Reassuring parents that their children we ok; realising that some things transcend culture and deep down we are all the same. Giving food to those who were hungry and giving a safe haven to a 19 year old Syrian girl who was surrounded by Afghan men. Hearing the terrible stories to be told, seeing a beautiful young girl with her cheek covered with deep scars and feeling so helpless in ourselves but also knowing that we were outworking God’s word (Matthew 25:35-36, Mark 9:37)
• Seeing Janice give CPR to a man having a heart attack on the street and everyone else secretly praying for him.
• Making a difference at the Christian centre and seeing some order come out of the chaos.
• Realising that not even a series of strikes can prevent the Lord’s work from being done.
For me it starts with Stavros and the church, I was blown away by their sacrifice and their love. I love that their central event is the prayer meeting as they are so aware they have nothing without God and yet in Him heaven’s storehouses are theirs. They just keep giving away.
Meeting refugee children and parents at the immigration office and in an abandoned hotel where many live. Playing catch with a ball brought a smile to a boys face, telling an 8 year old girl how brave she was after she told me her story. Giving a Syrian lady with her 1yr old a hug – Seeing as Jesus sees.
Seeing the other side to the clothes and shoes and food that gets sent and how it gets sorted and distributed. I enjoyed feeling Part of Something.
Our team were great and we all brought different things but all worked hard to gave our all and I loved eating Greek food together and seeing some sights. God was so with us and it was a week I will never forget.
I really enjoyed going and meeting such lovely people. I have such admiration for the church. They are doing so much with very little.
• The face of the young mother at church who was trying not to break down. Her very intelligent daughter.
• The man who was putting on a brave face for his son at the immigration centre. When I glanced at him, he looked like he had the cares of the world on his shoulder. The little boy who was so cute and intelligent. Don’t know where the mum was!
• The lovely Afghan couple who had left Afghanistan because the mans father had been blown up. Their little boy who danced at the slightest sound of music. All had come by boat.
The children were so friendly, in fact everybody seemed friendly. The main thing that I brought back was the knowledge that these are people who just want a life for their families and it’s not them and us, or muslims and non muslims, just people who need help. The numbers are enormous and will get worse but if everybody does a little, that can amount to something big for the group of people we can help.
It is good to be able to pray for the individuals we did meet. I was glad to be part of the trip.
We have some amazing people in our church. 11 of us went to to help with refugee work at the Athens New Frontiers Church. Each one tackled the tasks with 100% commitment and enthusiasm.
I recall getting off the train at Piraeus in a downpour. Soon we were following families of refugees walking the same direction as we were. This did hit home, but they seemed happy and uncomplaining.
We couldn’t walk with them, which I would have wanted, as we were going to the same place, to look after their children. We needed to get there! Reluctantly, we had to pass them, to set up the tiny room.The children were with us most of the day and we did our best to meet their needs. It was an amazingly peaceful and memorable time, and knowing that these families did not really know where their journey would end, but many would have to return to this place for endless interviews.