September 29 through October 10, 2017
MRI was invited by Hellenic Ministries to serve the refugees in Greece on Lesbos Island for the first time in 2017.
Here are some of the reflections that are coming from Greece:
"No words. Lifejacket Graveyard. When the sea is safer than the land, there is no choice. This September, the water was calmer, except for the last three days. That's why they came by the hundreds. 600 in just the week before we arrived. 120 in one day, counted by Robbie, a volunteer with Euro-Relief. We try to find the humanity within all of this? With smugglers only filling the tanks with enough fuel to make it halfway through the waters. Lives lost. Lives saved. 4800 at the camp only meant to house 1,000. We question our purpose for this week here? Then we realize God asks us not to question and just to be. To be who he created us to be."
"I can only say one thing at this point.....I need to be here helping Hellenic and Euro Relief reach as many of the abandoned people of this earth. We have helped so many and received many hugs. Taking on a half denture tonight for a guy who had front teeth (7) busted out with an ISIS rifle butt. It will be an undertaking, but Dr. Pham and I have a plan. It will be worth the late night work. Tomorrow I will post before and after pics....it will be dramatic. I usually do not have an issue with words, but I feel speechless with all this. As I send a pic of Lesvos Island at night, please remember to pray that we all have a new awakening as to God's plan for us to reach many."
“Today was emotional. Hard. This is what they call the Lifejacket Graveyard. Greece is beautiful and charming, as most portray it, and we've certainly seen a lot of it as just that. The truth is there's pain and ugliness everywhere, and I was certainly sheltered from a lot of it. The more people know, the more can change for the better. Standing there today our purpose was never more certain. These lifejackets were worn by families hoping to flee a worse reality than the difficult one they'll be entering. Paying smugglers their life savings to get them across to Greece, but being in it only for the money, they fill the tanks with only enough fuel to make it halfway through the waters. Either they get caught not far out and are sent back to where they came from, or, they make it into Greek waters, but risk drowning before making it across. But either way, the smugglers get their money. If fortunate enough to make it to shore, they shred their jackets and rafts, destroying any means of having to go back to where they began. Adults, even baby jackets pictured, all abandoned in the haste to get away. Although painful, seeing where the people we're serving first started, and thinking of those who didn't make it, will put things in perspective and propel us through this week when we feel we have nothing more to give.”
"It's hard to encapsulate, I can't quite put it into words, but the camp is basically despair in concentrated form. 4,800 crammed into a soccer pitch sized plot of land. One of our interpreters told me a little of his story. Born in a Palestinian refugee camp. Relocated to a Syrian refugee camp. Fled unspeakable conditions in Syria ( think ISIS). Paid $10k USD to get crammed onto a raft with 72 others (25 children) by smugglers to flee to Greece. He's 26. He's never lived outside a camp. Merciful Jesus..
Later, I was approached by a man carrying his 6-10 month old child while assisting his wife. Thru the terp, he explained his wife needed care as she had "bad blood" and was obviously miserable, sweating profusely and unable to walk unassisted. Not knowing we were just dental (all medical folks are in one area) he begged me for help. I took his child so he could better assist his wife as we made our way to the medical groups. As I left them, I empathized non verbally with him. Later on as I passed by his tent, our eyes met again. In that moment I connected father to father and husband to husband. The visceral need to protect, provide and comfort, all things denied him.
I about lost it. I suspect their plight was just a footnote in a much larger story.
I'm glad we are here, providing very needed and unique care, but it shines a spotlight on what is actually going on in this world.
It's hard to see and experience, but it's only a smidgen of what is reality in a fallen world.
I feel compelled to do what I can as I consider that my Father sees all and feels all and yet asks us to be his hands and feet.”
“My 1st thoughts of what the locals call the Life Jacket Grave yard.... Reality... reality of why we are here. Not the amazing food and scenery or the friendly people... That piece of broke down equipment is symbolic for a bankrupt country... Those cut up life jackets are a very tough decision made for a hopeful future.... Reality...”
“No words. Lifejacket Graveyard. When the sea is safer than the land, there is no choice. This September, the water was calmer, except for the last three days. That's why they came by the hundreds. 600 in just the week before we arrived. 120 in one day, counted by Robbie, a volunteer with Euro-Relief. We try to find the humanity within all of this? With smugglers only filling the tanks with enough fuel to make it halfway through the waters. Lives lost. Lives saved. 4800 at the camp only meant to house 1,000. We question our purpose for this week here? Then we realize God asks us not to question and just to be. To be who he created us to be.”
"Happy Blue Friday from Athen's! The beautiful Tagaroulias family met us at the airport decked out in their 12th man spirit! Bobby and Lahela are a part of Hellenic Ministries, which has had a refugee ministry since 1981. Lahela comes from a Polynesian heritage with both parents originally from Hawaii. She has served in missions for over 13 years. Her newborn 3 week old son is named after her dad, David Hughes. He was not only the former Missions Pastor from Antioch Church, but also played for the Seahawks from 1981-1985. Bobby, also a lawyer for the Ministry of Finance and board member of Hellenic Ministries. Missing my hubbie and daughters, but playtime with Kela (9), Liki (7), Zoe (4), Nicolas (2), Davis (3 weeks) really warmed my heart. Go Hawks!"
"Block 4 - each day new neighbors move in literally 8 steps from where I am drilling. 6 new tents I count since yesterday. Most with an infant or toddler. Yesterday we are strangers. Today we are family. There's a heaviness and ache deep that gnaws on my heart as each refugee tells their story. Hala and Zharaa, teen sisters from a family of seven, live with 2 other families at the corner of Block 4 arriving 10 days ago on a rubber boat that carried more than 60 from Turkey. It was cold and they were scared as they floated for seven hours with their 8 and 10 year old sisters and a younger brother at early dawn. "I want to be an eye doctor", 16 year old Zharaa shares with excitement as I examine her teeth. "My daddy is blind and I want to help people with their eyes." After selling all their worldly belongings, It took their family one and a half months to walk from Syria, through Turkey as their mom led their blind father, then to pay smugglers $1500 each to cross the waters, to become refugees in this small Greek Island. Now they are our neighbors - our family on block 4. The girls are giggly, huggable, and charming and it makes me miss my sweet daughters. I meet their mom with a vivacious smile and my heart melts even more. I lament not bringing my heavy jacket as the cold and wind catches you off guard in the evenings. I wonder how this sweet family sleeps with the ration of one blanket per person at the camp? I pray for them tonight in hopes that God will keep them warm...as much as they have forever warmed my own heart."