Though news coverage waxes and wanes, the refugee crisis persists in Europe. It is estimated that well over a million refugees have come through Greece, seeking asylum from persecution and war. They flee their homes in countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Syria in the hopes of finding safety. Many arrive in Greece, the entryway to Europe and the Western world, and find themselves stuck there. They often face dangerous situations, homelessness, and chaos even after arriving. The needs are great and as those needs pile up, so do the opportunities to share God’s love.
One of our ministry partners in Greece filled us in on the current refugee situation in his country. He explained that as of January 2016, things have started to balance. “Everyday events we are currently experiencing have returned to a drum we knew in early 2015. As everyone is aware, people began to flood into Europe in unprecedented numbers. Since the numbers were so great, we saw many people forcing their way across borders. Presently, we have returned to a time where movements are not so quick and people are remaining in the larger cities for several weeks, if not months.” Some attempts have been made to place those seeking asylum into hotels and the Greek government is using old Olympic stadiums to provide temporary housing.
As Creating A Road Home has continued to send short-term teams to Greece over the years, we have witnessed many changes. The immediate needs shift frequently, so the work is not always the same. “The aspect of what we do changes almost as frequently as the weather,” noted our ministry partner. The organization I work with provides many elements of humanitarian aid to allow for the opportunity to speak truth amidst great hardship. The most enjoyable part is that our entryway to Europe is the first place where many Muslims do not feel repression or prying eyes. This allows for a great opportunity to openly talk about spiritual things. For some, it is a chance to share copies of Scripture for the first time.”
Though much has changed in regards to the refugee situation over the past year, the main objective of our Greece partners, to share the Gospel in word and deed, has not. The biggest change our partners have experienced is timing. “In times past, we would have 3 to 6 months to interact, share, and invest in someone’s life. Until early December of 2015, this dropped to only 3 to 6 hours. Presently, we are seeing this move back to a time period of a few weeks, maybe even one month, before people move further into Europe.” There are quite a few difficulties in engaging refugees. People on a journey are always thinking about their next stop. Their minds are distracted and their hearts are pulled between different things: learning a new language, seeking employment, and spending many hours working to provide for their families. As our ministry partner stated, “All of these challenges make it difficult in a dynamic of ministry work to find the best way to engage.”
Ultimately, we know that the difficulties are worth it in light of eternity with Christ. The daily struggles pale in comparison to the victories. Our partner shared that he is currently working with three believers who have made a choice to remain in Greece for a longer period of time and because of this, he is able to spend many hours investing and developing them into capable teachers of the Word. He explained that each person is leading small groups of new believers in a discipleship process that is simplistic and reproducible. New Christians in places like Iran, Afghanistan, and throughout Europe are coming together to study Scripture, encourage one another, and share their faith with their communities.
We are so grateful for our ministry partner in Greece and the time he took to share with us about the refugee crisis in Europe. Even more so, we are grateful for the opportunity to join together in prayer and work as we serve refugees together.