Yiasas from the Greece team! First of all, we would love to take the time to thank you very much for constantly praying for and supporting us as we’ve spent many hours traveling across the world to accomplish this mission. All 19 of us have already been greatly impacted in some capacity throughout these past few days.
As I recount the experiences we have had as a team thus far, it is fascinating to think that we embarked on this trip only six days ago. Traveling as a team has not only been efficient, but also a great amount of fun; we were the group in the airports that almost always had an intense game of Risk or Pass the Pigs being played on the floor and that were on a never ending scavenger hunt for a cup of coffee. We also were able to engage in many encouraging and honest conversations with one another.
Upon arriving late Thursday night in Athens, Greece, we took a bus to our hotel in hopes of conquering jetlag. Our hotel was in walking distance from the Acropolis, which allowed us to appreciate the beauty and culture of downtown Athens on Friday morning before flying to our final destination on the island of Lesvos. We explored the Acropolis museum and marveled at the seemingly incessant amount of timeless artifacts, detailed marble carvings, and powerful stories and traditions from Greek mythology, along with observing the structural remains of an ancient Greek city from a bird’s eye perspective. Following the museum, we hiked up the Acropolis – taking frequent stops to soak in the captivating beauty of Athens and the vast mountain ranges – to join the Parthenon at the top of the hill. To acknowledge that this gigantic structure standing before us has stood tall and strong for thousands of years evoked our wonder and reverence for the Greeks, which we knew would be significant to hold onto as we would soon begin to experience the less-beautiful side of Greece. After the Acropolis, our team was able to swing into a local restaurant and enjoy an authentic Greek meal together prior to flying onto the island of Lesvos.
On our first full day in Lesvos, our team was invited over to our hosts Ernie and Suzie Penner’s house for an orientation and a homemade lunch. Being able to sit in a circle together as we received a more in depth explanation of the work ahead of us was encouraging and supportive as we each experienced different emotions and began to realize how significant our team dynamic will be throughout the next three weeks, as we will need to lean on one another through it all. Suzie led us in a Bible study of Matthew 25:31-46, which recounts the final judgement of the sheep and the goats. The sheep to the right of God’s throne did not recognize that they served and worshipped God through feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned or welcoming in the stranger, yet they inherited the kingdom, while the goats to the left of God’s throne did not serve the least of these under the same ignorance to the reality that serving the least of these is serving God and therefore, they did not inherit the kingdom. We discussed what we appreciate and hold onto in this passage, what we wrestled with in response to the definitiveness of this parable, and how we are to respond to this mission throughout the next two and a half weeks. As I’ve engaged in conversations with my fellow team members since that afternoon, it is evident that we are all still picking this story apart and processing how to best apply its call to our lives individually and collectively.
Throughout the previous night and all morning during our time together, we observed a fierce rain and thunderstorm roaring outside. Our hearts began to break in a deeper way for the residents in the camp than they had before because we now understood at least a small piece of how challenging life can be as a refugee, because when a tent is your only shelter and it collapses in the middle of the night because of the storm, you’re simply out of luck until morning. Halfway through our lunch, Ernie announced that the storm had destroyed many tents, drenched the residents’ blankets, sleeping bags and clothes, and caused significant flood damage to the property, so we needed to begin work right away. After we finished our meal, the six men on our team – Shawn, Robby, Nathan, Noah, Austin and Tyler – left with Ernie to begin disaster relief. And so our work began…
The Greece Team