Our Journey to Lesvos Thus Far…Day 1
Greetings from Lesvos, finally. After many weeks of preparing and planning, we (CrossRoads’ 4th team) are finally here. It is already Sunday here and we have already been gone from Canada a few days. Since we left Red Deer Friday afternoon we have been slowly making our way towards reaching our final destination- our home and place of work for the next 9 days- Lesvos.
After a great flight on the newest model of Boeing’s plane, the Dreamliner 787, we arrived in London then continued our journey to Athens. We were met at the airport by Andrew Fletcher (CrossRoads supported missionary) who then connected us with his wife Melissa and their 2 beautiful daughters and later Johnathan Macris (Hellenic Ministries Director). We enjoyed souvlaki and great discussion on the lawn outside our hotel. After a short sleep in Athens we finally took our final flight to Mitilini and finally, on Sunday morning we arrived in Lesvos!
Upon arrival, we met the ever famous Kim (host from Greater European Mission) and our team grew from 9 members to 11, as we picked up 2 American young adults, Chris and Amira from Matt Chandlers’ church in Texas. There were 2 vehicles at the airport to pick us up, I still can’t figure out how that works since Kim and I ended up driving us to the hotel. Not sure how Kim got both vehicles there by himself. 🙂
Kim has been working here coordinating teams since October and there is no doubt he is well experienced and knowledgeable about our God and this situation that has been developing here on the island over the past 6 months. He gave us a fantastic orientation
which lasted a few hours and covered numerous topics. Not surprisingly, he focused a lot on the ‘why’ we are here, and continually encouraged us not to focus on the how or what. In other words, no matter what we are doing or not doing, or how we spend our time, we need to remember the reason we are here is to love each and every person (refugee, detainee, Greek national, other volunteers, etc.) as Jesus. We are to do as it says in Matthew 25:31-46, to act as the righteous sheep to: feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit those in prison.
Story after story was told of how the members of EuroRelief are doing just this, they are being the loving hands and feet of Jesus and instead of trying to be Jesus they are treating everyone else as they are Jesus, and people are noticing. Little by little, fruit is being seen and experienced. We heard word of the first baptisms in the main camp just a few days ago and people who are interested are able to hear the gospel and receive Bibles. But long before any of this happens, the focus is simply on relationship.
The people of EuroRelief (which is now us) are known as the ‘peacekeepers’. They were even placed in strategic places just the other day when the Pope was here to meet the refugees. We were told how refugees have said spending time with the people of EuroRelief is ‘like sitting with angels’.
There is so much that could be shared from our orientation but a few things that stood out to me I will share here.
- One is the dramatic change that took place over the past few weeks. As our first 3 teams were here, they were serving refugees in a refugee camp. Now we will serve the same people, in the same place but they are now called detainees and they are now detained in a prison.
- January 2015 there were 750 refugees that crossed the dangerous Aegean Sea and just one year later, in January 2016 the number jumped to 30,000!
- People from approximately 27 different countries have come through Lesvos looking for refuge
- Even since the Accord was signed between Turkey and the EU, greatly slowing the number of people coming, there are still more people arriving on the island than the number of people being deported.
- A month ago, refugees would be in the camps for 3-4 days before being processed and sent on their way to Athens to continue their journey towards Germany, etc. Now they are waiting to hear about their request for asylum and could be in the main camp 30-90 days. Due to the new policies, there are 3000 currently in the main camp.
- This crisis has obviously had a huge humanitarian impact but also a massive environmental impact since last summer- imagine impact of the 450,000 ‘lifejackets’, the 15,000 dingees (rafts), 100’s of fiberglass boats and millions of water bottles…. Not to mention the trees cut for cooking fuel, etc.
So, it is now Sunday afternoon and we are still in our first day here on the island. Tonight we start our first 24-hour shift at Skala, the stage 2 camp on the north side of the island. We will return to our hotel around 7pm on Monday.
The following 3 days (Mon-Wed) we are scheduled to be at the main camp working in the clothing tent and then back for another 24-hour shift at Skala, followed by another shift at the main camp working in the family unit. Everything could change so we are ready for anything. But for now, this is a framework to walk into as we see what God has for us.
Please keep our team in your prayers that we would continue to adjust to this time zone and return to 100%.
Please pray we would be unified and together as a team as well as individually we will treat every person we meet as we would treat Jesus.
Please pray for those volunteers and workers that have been here for much longer than a couple weeks, that they would find rest, peace and renewed strength.
Please pray that more and more of the refugees would notice the difference of the EuroRelief staff and seek out their Jesus.
We are humbled to be here, humbled to be sent by our church and humbled to serve.