On the Island of Lesvos, in the town of Mytillini, at the camp of Moriah, is an area called, Olive Grove. To a West Texas kid it is a fully indescribable place, full of unbelievable stories, and inspiring people. I am reminded daily, “this is the epicenter of an international humanitarian crisis, of course God’s hand is visible.” I can’t justly describe all the nuances, and details right now, but know this has been an eye-opening, encouraging, shocking, and uplifting experience, thus far. Sure I have seen and heard some deplorable stories, but doesn’t His grace abound that much more in desperate situations. It is not figurative, God literally shines the brightest in the darkest places. I have been inspired by the response of the Greek citizens that have incurred these costs, been humbled by the long-term volunteers pouring out themselves daily, and revitalized by the relationships I have made.
I have been working in Olive Grove, an area outside of Camp Moriah, that is considered the toughest section of the Island, and I have fallen in love with it. Olive Grove began as an overflow level outside the camp’s walls, but is now the primary housing for African refugees. Because it is outside and away from the Greek Police, Military, and women, it has a “lawless”, dangerous reputation. There are 160 men throughout, 80 staying in a large tent that typically sleeps 110, and 9 smaller tents that house the remaining men. The demographic is predominantly Congolese, and Ethiopian/Eritrean, but Sri Lanka, Cameroon, and Egypt are also represented.
My first 4 hours in OG left me wanting to bang my head against a wall, while questioning God and myself. Those first hours, (still dazed from shock of the conditions and attitudes) I was vainly trying to be pro-active. In myself, trying to be solution-oriented. Head down, picking up trash, criticising the UN, and Greek Military for their impractical way of handing out food, attempting to explain to the men (which turned to arguing), the nature of why things are operating this way, yet not understanding myself. It felt like I was scooping water from a sinking ship, with a fork. Then I heard God say, “That is not why you are here. Go make friends, and show them my Son.” So I became one of them. Now in Olive Grove I am making friends. We bar-b-que every afternoon, we play corn-hole, checkers and work-out, I am learning French phrases and teaching Spanish ones, I find doppelgangers of celebrities to give out nicknames…It really suprised the other volunteers when they came down the other day, and I was playing checkers with Eddie Murphy!
You see, what would make more of an impact in this situation, I come in, hand out some food, and take out the trash, or, sit amongst them and learn the names of their kids, their favorite foods, or favorite Michael Jackson song. A liberating truth: “I can’t solve this, but He can, AND He is already here.”
I wish I could document all I am experiencing more thoroughly, but just the other day several journalists were arrested for taking pictures inside the camp. I also stress the severity of the situation, as well.
These women drowned the day we arrived. The news was not verified until Friday that some were Africans, several in Olive Grove knew. Please keep praying.
One relationship at a time. That’s the practical solution I can offer, that leads to my Father.
Until next time,