The Tide is Turning for Refugees
We have all seen the news and felt overwhelmed with the numbers and the tragic stories. Hundreds of thousands of refugees on the move, fleeing war, terror and hopelessness searching for a new, but unknown life. In November, our partners Greater European Mission (GEM) and Hellenic Ministries (HM), requested help to assist them in their response to this massive migration and humanitarian crisis. Through EuroRelief we have been responding by sending teams of workers to provide hands-on support in the refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece.
Early January we sent our first team, comprised of 8 Young Adults and then in late January we sent our second team comprised of 10 worship team members. In February we sent our third and largest team of 14. Finally, on April fifteenth, 9 more of us will be heading out as what may be our final team to serve in this difficult situation.
Each team that has gone, has already had completely different experiences from each other and yet each has had profound interactions and learnings. God is at work in their hearts and lives. Many of them have journaled publically so you and I could follow along and hear about the people they met, the work they were a part of and most importantly what they heard from God during this time. If you haven’t read their entries, please take a look back and read through their thoughts via our CrossRoads On Mission blog (simply scroll down through the various blogs as they are posted most recent first) https://outreach.crossroadschurch.ca/
As I prepare myself and my team for this next Greece Mission, our hearts are heavy and our prayers are strong. The dynamics of the situation seem to be changing daily and none of us knows what it all means for these vulnerable people in transition. In addition, as we look to our time in Greece, our thoughts wander as we aim to know what kind of help we will be providing and even where we will be based. We have watched as reports grew of an ever growing tension in the international community, specifically the EU and Turkey as the numbers of refugees attempting to cross the dangerous waters of the Aegean grew and grew with seemingly no end in sight.
In February NATO ships were sent in to patrol the waters and to keep an eye on the area. Around that time one of our team saw some rafts being towed back to Turkey, via the Turkish patrols. Meanwhile, thousands of people took the extreme risk to cross these waters and hundreds have lost their lives in the process. No one would choose this route for them and their family if the life behind them wasn’t terrible and hopeless.
We watched a few weeks ago as every European country with a pathway for refugees to migrate closed its borders, keeping people trapped in Greece. More recently we have been tracking as the EU and Turkey signed a deal on March 20th that looks to be changing everything. On March 23rd, the United Nations refugee agency and other large humanitarian groups pulled out staff from facilities on Lesvos and other Greek islands being used to receive refugees. Moria camp, where many of our teams served, is now being emptied. Under the new deal, Greece is now arresting everyone arriving in boats from Turkey and the detained refugees will be sent back to Turkey. In exchange for taking back the refugees, Turkey will receive significant financial aid to help resettle refugees. But there are many questions and concerns with this deal.
Furthermore, the UN agency’s spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in Geneva it is “concerned that the EU-Turkey deal is being implemented before the required safeguards are in place in Greece. Greece does not have sufficient capacity on the islands for assessing asylum claims, nor the proper conditions to accommodate people decently and safely pending an examination of their cases.” About 2,000 people have been detained in the first 2 days of the deal being implemented, with refugees still arriving in boats despite the crackdown.
The next few days and weeks will be very telling. We will see if the desperate refugees will find yet another route of hope or if they will take their chances and still try to cross the Aegean. No one knows what this next season looks like and in this story, the authors are not the Turkish or EU officials or the UN or the policy makers. The authors of this story are the refugees. They are the ones writing this story and we are all watching with heavy hearts how it will unfold.
As we wait, we need to be praying to the ultimate Author of life, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is ultimately still in control and his heart breaks for each person and sees each tear. These are people created in His image and His life is breathed in them. It is unfathomable what is happening to them. Some scripture that has been giving me hope lately is Psalm 144.
David talks about the Lord as his Rock, as a loving God, his fortress, stronghold and deliverer, a shield in whom he can take refuge. THIS is the God the refugees need to find and hope in!
In verses 5-6 it says,
“Part your heavens, Lord, and come down;
send forth lightening and scatter the enemy;”
then in 7 it says,
“Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and rescue me from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners whose mouths are full of lies,
whose right hands are deceitful.”
These people, whom God loves, need his hand to rescue them from their enemies: smugglers, corrupt politicians, greedy locals, militia, etc. They need God’s Truth and they need to experience his Truth being spoken and lived out from believers in their midst.
We must be praying on behalf of the refugees, those that are stuck and afraid and those that are finding refuge here in Red Deer or any other safe land. Pray just as it reads in Psalm 144:12-15 that their sons and daughters will again thrive and stand strong and their barns and fields will again be productive and that they will again live in a land where they find safety and experience no captivity or distress in the streets.
Pray that they will find this loving God we are so privileged to know.
As people of God we are called to be people of hope, people of prayer and people of action. Let us play our part.