This past year we have spent more than 12 weeks on Lesvos helping in the refugee crisis on Europe’s doorstep. We have been involved
in helping water-soaked refugees out of boats, giving them dry clothes, giving them water (many have not had anything to drink for a day or more), giving them something to eat even if it is a package of crackers or cookies.
We have been involved in transporting the refugees from the shoreline to the bus stop camp where Greek authorities picked them up to bring them to the main camp near the capital of the island, Mytilini. Beach cleanup of the rubber dinghies and many, many life jackets was also part of the work this past year. We have spent many hours leading many different teams and GEMers in helping refugees by housing them in tents, fixing their tents, cleaning bathrooms or buildings when they are new arrivals to the island. We have spent a lot time distributing clothes, shoes and hygiene supplies to the refugees, even going out to the town to purchase supplies from donations made to help the refugees physically.
Throughout our service we pray and strive to make friendships with the refugees, share our life stories with them and ask them about their life stories. It is during this time that we seek to share the love of Christ with them and who He means to us. I have managed to disciple a few of the refugees on my “extra” time when not serving them with clothes, housing, etc.
What can future volunteers expect to do on Lesvos? There still are new arrivals coming to Lesvos every week. So housing the new arrivals, giving them dry clothes, water, and hygiene supplies still need to be done. Being friends with the many different nationalities that arrive and have arrived continues to be a key component to serving on Lesvos. As many as 60–70 volunteers are needed for the camp to run smoothly with the distributions and housing. The volunteers are with the refugees 24/7 and are needed to serve some simple, basic living needs, from repairing their sleeping quarters, housing them, clothing them or just befriending them.
Many politicians and media have said that refugees from the Middle East will have a negative effect on their country and want to make it difficult for them immigrate. More often than not the Muslim refugees are being blamed for increased terrorism. It seems that the word refugee is a negative word with all sorts of fear and political baggage.
Who are the refugees?
Ashraf* is a refugee who had to leave Afghanistan because he was an English teacher. His life was threatened by the Taliban and so was his family. He is very talented and is waiting for asylum papers for Greece. Raheem, an Iraqi who found Jesus on Lesvos, had to flee because his father was part of the military fighting against ISIS. Betin, a Kurd from northern Iraq who found Jesus on Lesvos, is living in Germany and sharing his new found faith with fellow refugees. Jamali worked with the US military as a translator in the stronghold of ISIS and fled Iraq to not be killed. Omar has never been in his homeland in Palestine. He is 23 years old and has grown up in camps. He found Jesus in Greece. Zaid and Farrah lost their whole family and all their belongings in Iraq while they were at school one day. These are but a few we know from leading the refugee work for Greater Europe Mission on Lesvos these past two years. The world sees them as refugees, as terrorists, but we see them as brothers and sisters and dear friends.
In Matthew 25:31–46 Jesus is talking about a judgement. Sheep are being received into the Kingdom while the righteous goats are not. Jesus’ view of refugees is not that of the politicians and the media, as being negative to society. Jesus sees the refugees as people in need, people that need food, drink, clothing, visitation and need to be welcomed. Notice in Matthew 25:34–36 (page 8) how many times Jesus said “I was…” “For I was hungry… I was thirsty… I was a stranger… I was naked… I was sick… I was in prison.” Serving the refugees is serving Jesus himself!
What an opportunity! If you would like to serve Jesus on Lesvos please let Tim Dyck know about your interest and he will get us in touch. Special challenge to young, middle aged and older men to serve Jesus on Lesvos!