A Gracious Gift from a Good, Good Father
At 3pm on Friday, the remaining seven of us went out to the stage two camp at Sikamineas. Three of our team had already been there serving for 24 hours and we were eager to see them! Not only that but after a week of God refining us and showing us that, no matter how we are serving we need to do it all for His glory, we were finally getting the opportunity to spend 24 hours at one of the refugee camps.
I would say that most of the group had to work through what it meant to be “excited” about going to the refugee camp. The very fact that we are here in Lesvos, Greece means that something is wrong in our world. It would be far better if we were at home, serving and doing what the Lord has for us there. That would mean all of these people from places like Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan would be satisfied and safe with the current climate in their own countries. As the past few years have shown us, that is certainly not the case right now. As the team talked through some of this stuff, my sense was that our excitement was a healthy one because it stemmed from our desire to honour the Lord, love the people in front of us, and be willing to do whatever to care for those we would meet. Boy, was the next 24 hours after this conversation ever going to be a journey in finding our satisfaction in Jesus.
We arrived at the camp around 3:30pm. We were meet by tired yet very smiley teammates. Though their bodies were exhausted, the life in their eyes told a story of faithfulness and service. We quickly found out that between 1000-1200 refugees had made their way through the camp during the 24 hours they were on shift!
The seven of us that were newbies at the camp got the tour of the place so we were ready at the first sight of refugees coming off the sea. We said goodbye to our three friends shortly after that. After the serving day they had, it was time for some rest!
Our leader Kim had told us (along with many others) that boats usually leave from the Turkey shores just after dawn and right after dusk. Being that we arrived at 3pm, we wondered what our evening would look like. Maybe we would have a busy night just like our other teammates!
We did find ourselves cleaning around the camp, tidying up piles of wood, making food, brewing sweet tea, praying together, reciting Romans 12:9-21(the Scripture we are memorizing this trip), and singing. We did NOT find ourselves serving refugees. It looked like maybe the seas were getting a little choppy and it was cold, so we were glad to pray that no one would cross that night.
Now, that sounds like the right thing to pray, right? “Lord, please take care of all the people who might cross from Turkey tonight. Please keep them safe and don’t let them get into a boat if it would be too dangerous tonight.” I believe that everyone on our team and the other staff at the camp who prayed that did it earnestly and honestly. Still, we came all the way to Greece to help out with what is being described as the greatest human migration since World War II and there is a chance we won’t even get to serve one single refugee face to face? We’ll come back to this later.
The late night worship turned into middle of the night conversations around the fire. By the time everyone was gathered together at 8am today, we still had seven and a half hours on our shift. Weather-wise, it was very cold and windy. With the naked eye you could see whitecaps on the sea from a couple of kilometres away. It would have been crazy for us to think that any refugees would be crossing today. We continued to pray that the Lord would keep each person safe that might consider making the journey today. There have been way too many deaths attributed to these boat crossings. No one wanted more people to perish.
10am came and someone noticed something on the waters. It was a boat crossing! With the binoculars we were able to see that this boat was in some very tough conditions. The waves were large, the wind was howling and the boat was full to overflowing with people. Though no one wished for this crossing to happen, now that it was, we prayed fervently for the Lord to bring that boat to shore safely. We were able to watch the boat until it almost reached the Lesvos shoreline. We assumed the boat had landed safely (which it had) and that we would see these travellers within the hour. 11am, 12pm, 1pm passed and still no sign of any refugees. Then, the group that was taking over our shift showed up two hours early. It was 1:30pm and still we had not done what we thought we were there to do – serve those fleeing from terrible life situations.
Remember what I said earlier about not seeing a refugee? What if you were in our place? Would the trip to Greece be considered a failure or a meaningless experience had you not been able to serve those you sensed you were called to come and care for? All week long our team has sensed the Lord was teaching us something in this area. Through reading the Word, being given wise counsel from our Euro Relief leader Kim, and from talking with each other, our sense was that God was teaching us what it means to give Him the glory in all things. One team member remembered what Paul calls us to in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Another person mentioned our need to serve with a selfless heart so that no matter what our day looked like here, we would find it significant because we followed through on what God asked us to do. Finally, I was reminded of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” The point of our trip to Greece wasn’t to see refugees. The point was to serve Jesus, no matter what that meant. Yes, we came because there was a need in Greece that we sensed God was asking us to be a part of. However, as we experienced this week, how God asks us to serve him comes in many different ways. Our response needs only to be, “Yes Lord, whatever you say.”
Through our first 22 hours on shift we did everything that was asked of us and then some. I am so proud of our team. With great joy, a spirit of thanksgiving, and with no complaining, our team was willing to do whatever God asked. You have to know this team has represented the Lord and CrossRoads church well. They proved they were worthy of the call God placed on them to come to Greece and serve.
Finally, all our bags were packed and loaded in the van. Our shift was over earlier than we thought so Kim said it was five minutes until we had to leave the camp. There was certainly some disappointment, but there was still joy in the fact we served Jesus with everything we had.
Would you believe that, just as we were getting ready to leave, a van drove up to the camp. As the sliding door rolled open, out came some of the refugees who were in the boat we saw earlier at 10am! Quickly we were called to our posts to take care of those who were exhausted from a treacherous trip over. Two more van loads of people showed up shortly there after. The final number of refugees we ended up serving was around 50.
After an hour of serving, talking, laughing, and playing with adults and kids alike, it was our time to go. Just before we loaded in the vehicle, we stood in a circle outside the camp. Emotions were high, hearts were full and we were in awe of our God who would bless us with the privilege of meeting such amazing individuals. One person prayed, “Lord, you didn’t have to do that for us today. It is our desire to follow you no matter what. But thank you for the gift of serving these people. Thank you for being a good, good Father.” That about sums it up there.
We drove away from that camp with lots to process and ponder. We also left that camp full of hope, knowing the Father has his eye on each of those refugees. He loves them so much that He sent His Son Jesus just for them. For that gift, we are grateful. So, so grateful.
Make sure to check back in tomorrow as each team member will have a post up, sharing a story with you about what God has been up to in them since arriving. I promise, you’ll want to read each of them!