05 NOV, 2015 | GREECE
Atefah* sits at the heart of Victoria Square in Athens and keeps a watchful eye over her three other children. Singaporean Eliza*, 24, a worker with OM, sits down beside her and starts a conversation with the Afghan refugee. Atefah speaks only a smattering of English, but enough to express her heartfelt desire and fears about migrating to Germany.
Every year, thousands of Afghans like Atefah escape to Greece from their war-torn country, with its turbulence and insecurity. Many refugee camps in Athens are also makeshift homes to throngs of Syrian, Sudanese and Eritrean families arriving on Grecian shores. Almost everyone wants to leave for northern Europe, yet many are delayed in Greece due to the lack of funds and access.
Part of Eliza’s service is being a volunteer with a group of Christians who cook and distribute meals to refugees sleeping in the square and at the transit camp in Galatsi Olympic Hall. With the refugee migration intensifying across Europe, Eliza also notes that the local evangelical churches in Greece are stepping forward to partner with OM, providing volunteers and resources to support growing mercy initiatives.
Eliza cherishes building relationships with her newfound friends. Beyond providing hot meals and clothing items, she feels the best part of serving in the relief effort is sitting and talking with the refugees, getting to know their stories and hopes for the future. Yet, she knows she has to cope with the loss when her friends move on.
“I do feel sad when they go; we’ve built friendships, and it is hard to keep in contact once they leave. But I know they are going to a better future and I’ve learnt to commit them to God,” she says.
On another hot and sticky evening, Eliza sits with Reha*, a young Afghan mother, and holds her seven-week-old baby, while the mother feeds her other two children from the dinner packs that have been distributed. As they chat and gesture through the language barrier, Eliza takes out a New Testament extract in Dari, an Afghan language. After explaining what it is, she asks Reha if she would like to take it with her to read.
At first, the Afghan woman is hesitant to accept the book. But later, she says, “Yes, I will read [it].” To Eliza, for all the immense challenges she faces in the refugee work in Athens, these five words simply make her day.
What can you do?
Please pray that God will give OM workers in Greece the words of hope to speak to people who have left everything. Pray for more volunteers throughout Europe to give of themselves to show Christ’s love to the arriving refugees. Visit https://om.org.au/refugee to give to the Refugee crisis appeal
Credit: See Keen TAN · © 2015 OM International