Today began bright and early flight to Lesvos, a frequent destination for refugees trying to reach Greece, an island located near the Turkish mainland. The Greek government established Moria Camp to receive and care for 3,000 people. Today it serves 14,000 people with more arriving each day.
Seeing the camp and the conditions folks are living in was challenging and confusing. The camp has spilled over its original boundaries and is expanding more as more people arrive. There was trash everywhere, and the process to serve refugees is tested by the sheer volume of them, and there isn’t a better solution in sight. We saw families with young babies were only allotted one diaper a day. The average wait time of 2-3 years for people seeking asylum, processing about eight asylum requests a week.
The confusing part was that people were smiling. The camp was bustling but peaceful. When we asked people how they felt about their circumstances, they said the camp was better than the life they left. That sentiment tried my understanding. It forced me to realize that living in abject poverty without the assurance providing for your family was better than the lives they left in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and many other countries.
We met seven teenage boys in the camp without any family. They told us they left their homes in fear of being kidnapped by ISIS or the Taliban. Each boy came alone from various countries, walked across Turkey, paid around $1000 to take a boat to the island. They wished for school classes so they can work on their English and opportunities to play sports. What struck me was that some people might be fearful of one of these boys, seeing them as the terrorists they were escaping from.
The problems are complex, but the image of God is in every person we meet. And God calls us to serve the least of us without regard for who they are, where they come from, or what they have done. And that means these refugees too. My hopes and prayer are that God equips with more than we could ever ask or imagine as we take up to call to serve these people.
Most of our team went home after the debriefing on the final morning, while Rich and I stayed to attend a conference for refugees hosted by a BelPres ministries partner. We witnessed a couple of things that God was showing us in Greece.
First, that so many Muslim refugees are becoming Christians shows that this is a movement of God, not of human making. God is doing this, but we are being invited to participate in it.
Second, the ways that the refugee crisis also involves difficult political questions regarding immigration and culture. It obscures the human experiences of the refugees as well as the good news of what God is doing here. You won’t hear the stories we heard on the news in the US, but God is bringing hope and healing and maybe remaking the Middle East into a Christian region.
Third, we were clearly on God’s agenda, not ours. Starting with our original plan for Beirut, many of our plans fell through. Not having international driver’s licenses in Lesvos resulted in us getting a driver who paid very close attention to our conversations about Jesus. We didn’t know what we would be doing from one day to the next, but God arranged the schedule, and we are coming home with great stories of God on the move. The stories need to be told because they show that Jesus is alive and bringing revival to the Muslim world.