The Power of Light Over Darkness
Imagine an environment so turbulent that you had to flee your home country. Not just your geographical location, but your befriended comforts. It's also not just any comforts either, but the ones you live in, the ones you know. It's your family, your friends, your job, your favorite coffee shop, your quiet trail in the woods, even your cozy reading spot on a rainy day. It's your memories, your keep sakes, and your tokens you've collected throughout life. And then-- boom! --out of no where... It's all gone.
You had to leave everything behind. But not only that, everything was taken away from you. Some of your family members were brutally killed by the police, caught crippled in your collapsed home that was bombed, or held captive by the people you once thought were supposed to protect you.
All security gone.
The only thing that you do know is that you can't stay. You have to choose what's best for your family...
This is what life is like for a refugee. Yes, this story is tragic but there is redemption. There's is hope, reconciliation, and restoration. The missing link of this story is in the power of Jesus and His powerful love that heals.
Yesterday our YWAM staff team, the Spring DTS outreach team, and I went to a refugee camp here in Thessolonikki, Greece. If I am being honest, my perspective and expectations of what I thought of the Refugee Crisis or what the refugees were actually like, was completely skewed. Sure, I knew facts or what the media communicated, but never before had I been invited into a Refugee's tent for coffee, talked with them, laughed with them, or eaten with them. None of this had happened until yesterday, that is. The camp consists of rows and rows of tents that are labeled by number, there are porta-potties, and some electricity. There are kids everywhere and really nothing for anyone to do, except for wait. The moment we arrived, kids came running up to our DTS team (who have been in this camp for a little over a month), hugging them saying "my friend! my friend!". I was so overjoyed to see two completely separate cultures and walks of life, being as close as a family. As the day went on, we distributed supplies that the people needed and also gave them boxes of tea. I was so quickly overcome with emotion caused by this terrible crisis that these people don't deserve, yet I felt the immense presence of Jesus in that place. I expected to walk into a very dark environment with no hope. Instead, I saw nothing but God's glory, presence, and light in every corner of the camp.
The other part of my perspective that was completely off was my view of what the people there would be like. I expected a lot of poverty amongst them. I expected that they were living in poverty even before they came to the camp, when they were back home. I had this view of the refugees as people who were not employed or ones who really struggled with their previous life in their home country before the war even began. The truth is that these people are just like us. They worked 9-5 jobs, drove taxis, stayed home with their children, and had degrees. They were business men, artists, and so much more. They had dreams, ambitions, friend groups, favorite restaurants, and hopes for their future family. But now, here they are, in a foreign land with a foreign language, lacking the money needed to reunite with their family members scattered throughout other parts of Europe. Some not even having enough money to buy deodorant and most of them showering with buckets. The most unnatural and ironic thing about all of this, is that in every tent that I got invited into, they fed me until I was full, and they offered me an abundance out of their poverty. They filled my cup of water every time it was close to being empty for no reason other than to welcome me into their home (even if that means a 10 ft X 10 ft tent). Sometimes they spoke great english and shared about the tragic conditions of their home country, while other times we would just laugh and try charades in order to communicate. As the day went on, I slowly fell more and more in love with these people. Their beauty, their hospitality, and their friendship.
The coolest part about all of this is what God is doing. He is redeeming, restoring, and bringing His children back into His arms of safety, love, and forgiveness. In one tent, a family had a bible and they said they read it every day. She started asking questions about the book of Mark and about Jesus. As you all may know, the countries that these refugees fled from were closed Nations to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Being a christian there would result in an immediate death penalty. But now, these refugees are stepping on new and safe ground to hear the Good News of Jesus' saving grace, for the first time ever. Can you imagine? What freedom! Some are curious about who Jesus is, some have been physically healed, others have become Christians, while some are still against Jesus altogether. The beauty of it all is that God took from the enemy the evil, cruel, malicious things that are happening in the refugees' home countries, and He is redeeming, restoring, providing, and protecting them. God's love is evident through the relationships that have, and are now continuing to be built in the camp. I have had the privilege to see how these refugees respect, love, value, and trust our DTS team here. Our team is supplying them with their tangible needs as God opens up doors to share and fulfill their spiritual needs.
As the day finished, I was walking around the camp with my new 6-year-old friend, Judy. I had just shared a meal with her and her mom in their tent, and afterwards I was giving her a piggy back ride as we walked. As we were walking, we passed a tent with some of our DTS students and their refugee friends sitting and hanging out with a guitar. Immediately a student named Josh says "Shea! Come in and play a song!", so I did! I knew that I had to be careful with my song choice, so I picked ones that were worship songs but didn't say "Jesus" over and over again so that it wouldn't distract them, create aggression, or damage what Holy Spirit wanted to do there in each of their hearts. As I started to sing, the tent grew silent except for the shuffling of new friends entering the tent. Immediately I felt God's presence. I closed my eyes and started to worship over those people, that tent, and the camp altogether. I knew God was moving. As I sang and worshipped, a crowd grew behind me at the entrance of the tent (I had no idea because I was facing the other way). There was a peace. A hope. A new beginning. God wants those people to know Him so badly. He wants them to be reunited with their families. He wants them to be healed and to know that they are forgiven. After a few songs, they clapped, smiled, said thank you, and then we said our goodbyes for the day and left. Yesterday didn't feel like a scheduled ministry time, but just a bunch of friends hanging out all day. I know God is making Himself known in that place. I saw it and it was beautiful.
It's time that we as the western church stop just being "aware" of what we think is happening around the world. It's time we stop viewing this crisis as a statistic or a problem, but instead that we see this crisis as a real and terrible thing that is directly effecting people. Mothers, sisters, brothers, friends, and family are all going through this. These are families that need our help and don't want to be viewed as a project, but instead as a relationship. A journey of transformation. These people as a whole are not dark, unfriendly, violent, evil, or angry. They are kind and welcoming and really just want to be able to have a normal life again. So, if you find yourself reading this and wonder what role you have to play, it's quite simple actually. You either go, you send, or both. This is an opportunity we have to rise up as believers in unity and help them. This is a chance to meet physical needs, but most importantly to share the amazing news that is the victory of Jesus Christ! Imagine if this crisis happened to you in your own city. Your own home. Your own family. What would you want? What would you need? Let's stop talking about being like Jesus and start being like Jesus! What a gift it is that we already know Him and are in relationship with Him. Everyone is worthy of that. You have a gift that the Nations are longing for. Go and share it!
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." -John 1:5
Where will you go? Who will you send?