11.13.19

BY Kaitleen Poon

Serving Refugees in Greece

When I first heard about the refugee crisis in Greece, I really wanted to get involved, but had no idea how. When I found out about the Village Young Adults Greece Impact Trip, I immediately knew that it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

Despite still having doubts, I signed up, and trusted that if God really wanted me to go, he would make it happen. And he did, and he has – again and again.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Greece each time. The first time, I imagined it to be a very dangerous and poverty-stricken place. I had read articles describing it as the “worst place on earth.” During one of my evening shifts that first trip, a new bus arrived, and people were yelling, “Welcome to hell,” as the new arrivals unloaded. It’s a place of such contrast; despite its reputation, it was there that I met the most generous, open, and welcoming people, who would invite me in without hesitation for a cup of tea, water, lunch, or a piece of candy. I was blown away at their kindness and selflessness, even after all they’ve been through.

The second time I went to Greece, I worked in the new arrivals area, where I distributed food, water, clothes, and blankets to the newcomers. One afternoon, as I was walking around the area, I saw some books laying out in the sun to dry. When I walked closer, I saw that they were Bibles. The next morning when I went into work, I saw a few people reading their Bibles first thing after waking up. On Sundays, we would go to a church called the Oasis, which was always filled with people from all over the world – volunteers, locals, and refugees. It’s amazing to see so many nationalities and cultures together in one room, singing and praising the same God. It’s like a little glimpse of heaven.

Being there really opened my eyes to see how God is working in even the most difficult and oppressive places. Through the darkness and evil that is there – all the violence, attacks, theft, and hatred – God’s grace and presence are still clear. Working in that camp is not easy; the days are long, and the work is hard. It’s exhausting, both physically and emotionally – and yet, I found so much joy in being there. Though most of my days consisted of angry people yelling at me because I wasn’t able to help them, I felt so much patience and peace. That was all God.

The refugee crisis is far from over; the numbers are currently at a record high. There are approximately 12,000 people in a space fit for 3000. It’s a bad situation that just keeps getting worse, and though I feel hopeless and helpless sometimes, I’m reminded of why I am here: To be the hands and feet of Christ. To serve and love people that feel abandoned and lost. Though I know I can’t help every single person I meet, I can help at least one. It can be as simple as listening, or giving them a pair of shoes, or providing them with a space to call their own. No matter how small it is, it’s something.