Last week started on Monday with taking a team of 12 World Racers to the border to pass out cloths to the refugees rushing to get to Northern Greece. World Race is a gap year program and this great team is with us until the end of November. I took this picture of this little girl after we were able to give her a coat. So the first day was rewarding to help people with some needs. This week was all about being the taxi driver for the team that contributed this month to assisting in the overwhelming need of the thousands rushing to start a new life. The numbers are staggering. In the past 47 days 206,550 refugees have pasted the tiny make shift border crossing. The average is about 4,400 every day. Every morning a wave arrives by ferry boat at the Athens port from the Greek islands and then by bus they arrive in droves at the border. The passage backs up sometimes, but usually within a couple of hours, they all eventually move on. Except when the ferry boats were on strike for a few days. Then over 10,000 spent the weekend. The refugees are happy and optimistic of a hopeful future. Government and UN supervision is non existing. NGO’s, volunteers, and Christians are doing the majority of the work. Time is short, but friendships are made with the many who speak English. Many accept a NT gift. The borders are 80 kilometers or 50 miles from my home in Thessaloniki. The trip there and back is tiring, but the opportunity to share God’s mercy is a joy.
Things changed drastically on Thursday when the border passage started allowing only Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans to continue on to N. Europe. The Iranians blocked the border and demanded to be allowed to pass. Suddenly, the blockage forced 1000 to spend their nights and days at the border area which is nothing but open fields around a railroad crossings. It is dark and cold. Fortunately, the weather has been fair, but the volunteers became uneasy and cloths distribution was impossible even potentially dangerous. The team resorted to sorting in storage rooms at the train station safely away from the border crossing. Frustrations are high. One day when I was leaving cloths tent, I drove though a riot police line. When I try to get on the road to drive back to Thessaloniki, a local resident had parked his truck blocking the road demonstrating against the disorder and unrest that has taken over his village and screaming that the police should arrest him as he protests what is happening. On Saturday, a few Iranians requested UN protection because of their sexual preference. Truly, the whole unbelievable phenomenon is beyond comprehension. How will this unprecedented influx of Middle Eastern population ever adapt to European life and ways? Certainly, it will change life as we know it here. Still, even as unusual as it appears, might it also be an opportunity for a huge number of discouraged people to find a new meaning of life. I wonder if there are persons who are reading this that just maybe God is calling you to serve the new immigrants of Europe with the love of Christ? Please let me know so that I can pray for you and email me. firstname.lastname@example.org
My last memory of the past week was loading up 3000 bottles of water from a storage container to be taken to the distribution point in the camp. While we were loading the water, nearby the refugees were fighting over sleeping bags and who would sleep in the tent for families. In the storage container, there were 20 sleeping bags, but we were afraid to give them out. There were over 200 refugees standing around in the dark. We were not enough hands and not enough supplies. Nothing happen to us and really was not that dangerous. Yet, it was yet another time that the desperate need of our fellow human beings is greater than our feeble ability to assist. Oh, that Jesus would show up and multiple the 20 bags to 200 and all would know that the Almighty God is the great provider. Please consider making a contribution to the Bishops Crisis Relief Fund with just a click on the link.
So you can understand that the emotions of workers are worn out by the overwhelming conditions of this historical influx of nations struggling for life.