Final Hours in Moria – (1/23/17)

Salam, bonjour, marhabaan, yiasas, hello! From the Greece team. It’s Friday morning in Lesvos and we are preparing for our last three shifts in Moria. As the end of our time in camp approaches, I think it is safe to say that we are all experiencing a whirlwind of emotions. Although I cannot speak for the other 18 members of our little family, I will do my best to give you a taste of the feelings many of us have been experiencing.

I want to start by sharing the story of a young man from Afghanistan, someone that we have had the privilege of getting to know over the last two weeks. Along with two of his brothers, he made the treacherous journey from his home to Greece in an attempt to leave behind violence and persecution. After paying a Turkish smuggler $1,600, the three men packed their bags and made their way onto a small black dingy. Even though the crossing from Turkey to Lesvos is as dangerous as it is terrifying, they knew they couldn’t turn back. There was simply nowhere to go back to. When their boat began to take on water and started sinking, everyone tossed their belongings into the sea to try and stay afloat. Can you imagine the all consuming fear every individual on that tiny craft must have felt in the face of possible death? I cannot even begin to fathom what that must have been like. Thankfully, a coast guard ship came to the rescue of our friend and his fellow travelers. When he finally reached the Greek shore, he remembers finding his two brothers and embracing them. After looking death in the eye and coming out on the other side, they were overjoyed to be reunited with one another. That was six months ago. Yesterday, our friend finally had the interview that would determine his next steps. The Greek government will now decide whether he will receive asylum in Greece or be sent back to Turkey. He dreams of going to places like England, Switzerland, and the United States. However, what he wants more than anything is to simply have the chance to find a safe, happy home. He now waits to hear if he will move forward to a fresh start or backward towards the suffering he sacrificed so much to escape.

Moria is full of stories like our dear friend’s. Many we have heard, countless more we have not. This, coupled with the heartbreaking fact that we simply cannot help everyone, makes it incredibly difficult to keep a smile on our faces and remain joyful. We have been grieving the hurt and suffering that is so present in this place. The sorrow often feels like too much to carry. In these moments, when the physical and emotional exhaustion seems impossible to overcome, we are reminded of the hope that we have in Christ. This world is not our final resting place, it is merely a short pitstop on the way to something much greater, a reunion more joyful than we could possibly imagine. It is this hope we have that sets us apart, Christ’s light within us that we are called to share with every precious individual we encounter at Moria.

Below is a short poem that I wrote after our first week in Moria. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time to weep and break down. This poem is a reflection of one of those times for me, experiencing a sorrow that was overwhelming and mourning the pain of those I was trying to serve.

There’s a war behind this smile,
A fight I never win.
The dark takes hold
My bones grow cold
Get me out of this skin.
My soul is weary
From days so dreary
When will this battle end?

Yes, there is a time to mourn. But let us not forget that there is also a time to laugh, dance, and embrace. In the midst of our grief, God has put a little bit of heaven in our hearts to carry us forward. Please pray that in our final hours at Moria we are able to remember this truth and live out the love of Christ in tangible ways. We truly appreciate you walking alongside us in this journey. See you soon!

Lots of love,
Leah Crabb

Exhaustion, Persistence, and Rest – Greece (1/15/17)

To all of our avid blog followers, hello! If you’re not sitting down, I would suggest that you do so, preferably on the edge of your seat. The past week here in Moria has been both long and quick. There is a constant battle of trying to process emotions and thoughts that seem too heavy and complex, and with so little down time between shifts we are left mentally exhausted. This coupled with the physical exhaustion that comes with the work makes for a pretty tired Greece team.

However, the Lord blesses his people and two days ago we had an entire day off work. There are few things more beautiful than a morning left to itself without the harsh blare of an alarm clock (expect when that alarm clock gets you up in time to see the sun rise over Turkey across the Aegean). A peaceful morning suited our team well. Even though we had a day off, we still had a lot planned for us.

Our Greater Europe Mission (GEM) hosts, Susie and Ernie, picked us up from our hotel around 11:30 and drove us to a refugee camp about 45 minutes away. This place was the complete opposite of what we had come to expect from Moria. It was small with only about 6 or 7 buildings, and in stark contrast to Moria, there was no one there. This place is a stage 2 camp whereas Moria is stage 3. Refugees are only placed here for a handful of hours before they are moved to Moria. After our stop here we took some time to enjoy the rocky shore of island. We spent a good amount of time here taking pictures, skipping rocks, and enjoying an afternoon of relaxed fun. A few people waded into the sea up to there waist, even though it meant coming out with sopping wet pants. The next stop on our island adventure was a trip to an old castle. Giving a group of college students 30 minutes of free reign and exploration of a castle? Yes please. It was crazy to think that a place that was once a strong fortress is now feeding our tourism. A place of prominence and might now standing in ruins. As I stood atop the tallest tower gazing out across the Aegean, I couldn’t shake one simple and yet richly profound thought; I wish capes were still in style.

Visiting all of these places on our day off was fun and full of laughter, as our team so often is. After leaving, we made our way to our last stop before eating and then making our way back. The lifejacket graveyard. Mounds and heaps of used lifejackets piled high made for a chilling sight. Each one of these jackets was once strapped to the body of a man, woman, or child crossing the sea on a boat. Each one of these jackets represents a person, a life, a soul, a human made in the likeness of God. Each one of these jackets carries a story of desperation, fear, risk, dreams, and hope. Questions fill your mind and heart. How many of these people have been granted asylum? How many of them have been deported? How many of them were with their familiy? How many of them were alone? How many of them are alive? How many of them are dead? How many of them have I met in Moria? Did I help the person who wore this jacket? Did I say no to the person wearing this jacket? Did this jacket belong to the man in Moria who put his coat on me as I sat outside in the cold? Has this person made me tea? Where are they now? Are they scared? How long ago did they wear this jacket? How recently? The air around this place was heavy, and it seemed to bring greater understanding of who we interact with on a daily basis. It humanized them and opened our hearts to their reality.

All in all, the day was restful and thoughtful. It was great to finally be able to spend time with Susie and Ernie and actually get to know them and have them get to know us. As we head into this next week of work, we have a few prayer requests. Please pray that the Lord would allow us to open ourselves up to the grief and pain of the refugees. Pray that we would meet these people on equal footing, recognizing their humanity. Pray that Jesus would shine through our actions. Pray that we would have strength and persistence in wrestling with our own thoughts and emotions. Pray for God’s Kingdom to come.

Thank you all for following our journey thus far! We love and appreciate you all. On behalf of the Greece team, this is Robert Emerson Brandkamp signing off.

Shiftwork in Moria – (1/12/17)

Hello everyone!  This is Noah Shingleton on behalf of the Greece team.  Thank you so much for continuing to think and pray for us as we serve in Lesvos in Moria camp.  I do not believe that any amount of words could properly portray the things we have seen and experienced so far in Moria, but I will try to give an overview of what our lives and schedules have looked like in Lesvos these past 6 days. 

Our team came to Moria at the perfect time to fill a huge need of volunteers in a camp that is currently in somewhat of a crisis mode.  This is largely due to the weather.  As Bri mentioned earlier, our first day there was a huge storm.  Lesvos got over 2 inches of rain that first day.  The second day it snowed 2 inches, the third day the snow melted, the fourth day it snowed 4 more inches in the Southern part of the island which is where Moria is, the fifth day it rained most of the day, and today was nice for the first half of the day and now it is pouring again.  It’s supposed to rain most of the next 2 days as well.  The locals said this is more snow at one time than they have gotten in twenty to thirty years!  Overall this is the worst week of weather in recent Lesvos history.  This weather has thrown Moria into even more chaos than they normally experience, and our team has been thrust into daily 9 hour shifts to try and control the madness. 

Our jobs during our shifts mainly consist of 3 things: clothing, security, and information. If you work clothing you go out into the camp in the morning to a certain section each day and visit the tents to assess what the people need, collect the things they need in the clothing storage container, and they come pick it up in the afternoon.  Security is mainly standing at one of the 5 family compounds and making sure the only people who get into the compound are workers and the families themselves.  It is important that we keep the families and vulnerable refugees away from the majority of single men who inhabit Moria.  Information can best be described as solving problems.  Whether it is repairing or replacing a tent, putting a pallet under a tent to raise it from the water underneath, exchanging wet blankets and sleeping bags for new ones, taking a census, shoveling snow, salting the roads, running all sorts of errands, you never really know what you will be doing if you work information. 

I do not want to write a depressing blog, but I will say that the need is much greater than any of us expected to experience before we arrived.  There are just over 4,000 refugees in a camp that had an original capacity of 3,000.  Most live in tents and have been continually cold and wet during the past week.  The majority of the refugees are somewhat on edge and always in need of something during this hard time, and it is impossible to meet even half of the requests that are given to us.  We have to say no a lot, and that is so hard to tell someone who has so little that we do not have another pair of gloves to give out.  Please pray that we can show these refugees love in the midst of saying no.  It is hard for them to understand that we are still trying to help and love them even when we cannot give them what they ask for. 

This week has been hard for team unity in particular.  12 of us are on the 8am – 4:30pm shift and 7 of us work the graveyard shift from 12am – 8:30am.  The graveyard shift has been especially hard for those who are now doing it for the fourth night in a row, and we will most likely have a few more night shifts in next week’s schedule.  You basically just sit at a gate and make sure no one gets in for 8 hours alone in the cold.  The only time our team is fully together right now is in the evenings for dinner and team time, and we always make the most of that time with stories of our day or night at work and much laughter.  Thankfully all 19 of us have the same shift on Saturday and Sunday after our day off on Friday. 

Thank you again for your support throughout our journey and preparation for this trip.  There is so much more to write, but I am off to bed so I can get up for another 8am shift tomorrow and 7 of our team is about to head to Moria for the graveyard shift! 

On behalf of the Greece team,

Noah Shingleton

 

Yiasas from Greece (1/11/2017)

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…

Briana Wozniak

The Greece Team

Providing Relief in Greece

Katie called the office today around 3pm our time, 10pm her time.  The team is all healthy and bonding together beautifully.  They are hard workers, willing workers, giving out hope with their smiles, their willingness to work long & hard hours and their attitudes.  Katie & Jessie are so proud of them.

The island has gotten 5-6 more inches of snow (unheard of!!!), so ministry is in Disaster Crisis Relief mode now.  Typically 7 students work from 8pm – 8am; however 4 more students volunteered to accompany them tonight.  Those 4 students will then continue their typical day of 8am – 4pm, joined by 8 fresh students tomorrow morning.  They will work some more as a group, then have dinner/team time and get ready to do it all over again.  They will get time off Thursday evening and all day Friday.

They are mostly helping to repair tents (tears & zippers), handing out tarps and clothes and being a “presence”…hoping to provide a glimmer of hope during a really rough time.  Everyone is cold, damp, & tired (the refugees as well as our team.)  The team got to go out to eat tonight together, which was nice.  The refugees react as we all would—some are grateful, some are grumpy; some are bitter, some quietly accept the help given.  It is a mix of feelings the students are seeing.  One student called the situation “heartbreaking”.  But Katie reiterated time and again how well the team is holding up, helping, loving, sharing themselves in various ways.  They work well together and together they have much to offer the refugees.

Please pray:

  • Health for the team, as it is colder & wetter (and snowier) than they anticipated
  • Grit, perseverance, motivation to keep going, and patience with the process of caring for the refugees
  • Ability to sleep in the down time
  • Katie & Jessie will need to be “moms” sometimes, knowing when & how to speak up for the students & provide some boundaries for them

Continue to lift them up in prayer.  They are doing a good work!

Made it to the Island

After a long day of touring the inland region of Greece, the Greece team has traveled and safely arrived on the island of Lesotho.  A cold front is coming in and tomorrow should be below zero at night!  All is well – the team have been troopers after another long day.  They are going to bed now and will meet their hosts tomorrow.

Greetings from Greece

Hello again! We had a full day in Athens to help push us into this new time zone and fight off jet lag. After a hearty breakfast, we made our way to the Acropolis Museum. This provided context for what we saw when we went to the actual site. We climbed the marble steps, took in the sights of the sea and mountains, and stood in awe as we walked around the Parthenon as our high school humanities class finally made sense and paid off! Then we went to Mars Hill and stood on top to look out over the city and pray over it. To think that is where Apostle Paul preached about the “unknown god” became all the more real. We ended with a late lunch where we had our first taste of Greek cuisine – the garlic and oregano makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Now we are headed to the airport once again to catch our flight to Lesvos. Everyone is well and in good spirits. Keep praying for us and our work that we will have with the refugees.

 

Greece Team Arrival (1/4/2017)

The Greece team has arrived in Athens. They experienced a minor delay (35 minutes) in Munich due to snow/ice, but other than that travel went smoothly.

They arrived at 11:45PM local time. Once they clear customs they will head to the hotel for the night.

Pray that they will recuperate after their long journey and that they will adjust well to the new culture.

Meet the Greece Team of 2017

The Greece team is new to Lighthouse. This team of 19 will be partnering with GEM and serving on the island of Lesvos. There the team will serve the refugees by providing meals, clothes, basic needs, interacting with children, and possible construction work – meeting tangible needs of those who need it most. Pray that this team will give hope to the hopeless.15418466_10154837459843928_2452976563984627627_o