“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”― Arundhati Roy
Today my mind is drawn back. Four years to be exact. I was just leaving Lesvos Island, Greece. A place where resilience, beauty and strength are juxtaposed so tangibly with tragedy, pain and the brokenness of humanity. If you know me well, you might know I’m not a huge fan of short term missions. Yet I’m grateful for the month that I got to spend in Moria Camp with some of the bravest and most courageous people on the planet. It changed me. It broke me. It stretched me. And I still think about it to this day; so I can’t throw Short Term Missions out just yet. There is a place and time.
Greece was a place where I personally encountered the Father’s love for me deeper and more clearly than I previously ever had. It was a place where I met people sacrificing a lot just to give others hope for one more day. But the people who impacted me most were the individuals and families that were fleeing from what was once their homeland. Their homes had become a war zone and they were left with no choice but to leave all behind. From what I hear and understand the refugee crisis is still that- a crisis. Only now since Europe’s borders have tightened, people have been stalling in Greece. Unable to go further and unable to return to their homes for fear of their lives. I can’t quite imagine the hopelessness and the utter despair and anguish that must be felt in camp with those changes in place. While I was there many people were only in Moria for a night or two before receiving their papers for moving onto the mainland. Boats were still arriving in large numbers and we had busloads of cold, wet and tired families arrive at camp regularly. At that point it was primarily a transit camp, while now from what I hear, it is more of a holding center. Today I share with you some memories, snippets of stories, and some of my own wrestling’s with the humanitarian crisis. Although it is no longer the focus of major media sources, it is still a major current day concern. I don’t believe the Church should forget, and it definitely can not turn away.
There were evenings spent over steaming cups of chai, listening to stories, sharing laughter and tears. There were giggles and squeals of delight as kids played under the harsh, bright lights of camp, under the razor wire, inside the chain link fence.
There was the man who lost all his documents at sea, with Palestinian heritage born in Syria, yet no way to prove his identity without ID documents. He was stuck. No way forward and no way back.
The woman who lost her only remaining child at sea. The dark, angry waters of the Aegean Sea snatching her out of her arms. She sits on the seashore, begging for the waves to at least be merciful enough to return her baby’s body.
There was the woman who was on her own. Her husband’s whereabouts unknown. Her children left back in Syria until she could find a way for them to join her.
The family with tiny children who crossed seven mountains, through snow and rain. Passing by bodies on the path, dodging danger, arriving on Lesvos only to hear murmurings that they may be turned back.
One night while on shift a phone call came in, from someone’s family, in distress at sea- engine quit, boat taking on water, too many people. Would the coast guards be able to help?
Walking down to MSF’s medical tent with a distressed father, clutching his very sick little girl. I see the fear evident in his eyes, she is so badly malnourished; I’m scared for her too. He walks with a painful limp. Pointing down at his leg he says, “boom boom, Syria”. I don’t speak Arabic and he hardly speaks English, but somehow we communicate. I breathe a prayer- begging for life for his daughter.
There are so many stories, and they aren’t mine to tell. But what I can do, is to speak out from what I saw, to prompt the Church to remember, to be interested, and in that remembering and interest, to be moved into action, because we are called to be the hands and feet of our Savior.
“We believe we should see each other- refugees, Muslims, Christians, Republicans, Democrats, everyone, as people- not as enemies, not as potential threats. Not because there is no risk, but because love is always risky. And even when the world is scary as hell, we choose to love anyway.”
I dream of the day when the Church rises up to do its job- regardless of political opinion, regardless of personal beliefs, regardless of social status. I see it beginning, I see a handful of individuals rising up and speaking out. I see these people of Jesus actually standing up for the oppressed, the fatherless, the widows- both at home and abroad. Somehow, something about that stirs a hope in my heart and a fire in my bones.
We don’t need to cross oceans to do this. We simply need to remember that every single human being is created with dignity, in God’s image. Let’s allow that to impact our actions and interactions. For today and every day. I don’t know what kind of impact opening our doors and our hearts to people might have. But what is love without a little risk or sacrifice anyway? There may be potential threats and possible risks, actually there always are. But I’ve been mandated to love. So no matter how imperfectly or brokenly I do this, one thing I know, I haven’t been given the signal to stop. So until then I’ll keep choosing Love.
Learn to do good.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.
Isaiah 1:17 NLT