So I went to Greece a few weeks ago and have pulled a classic Taryn move of avoiding doing any sort of real processing until now. Just a fair warning, this is a rather lengthy post, so read it when you have time, and remember, as always, I would love to talk with you about any of this.
I worked in a refugee camp in Athens, Greece. The project I was working with did a lot and instead of wasting your time trying to poorly explain it, here is the link to the website.
You should actually go and look at it, not only will it make the rest of this post make sense, but it might also inspire you to hop on a plane and go to Greece to volunteer. If that’s the case, take me with you.
Anyways… my days looked exactly like what the website says (see what I did there, now you have to go look). Each day looked a little different as far as the jobs I was doing and whatnot, if you want those kind of details, let a girl know and we can schedule a coffee date. There are a lot of amazing stories and incredible people that I would love to tell you about. As I was trying to decide how to write about this experience, I decided not to publish those details because 1-this post would look more like a book and less like a blog and 2- I think it important to talk about the questions that it raised.
That being said, I will tell you again, go back and look at that website, it will give context to my questions.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Did you know that we are in the midst of a global refugee crisis? Chances are, as an American, you know the something is happening somewhere, but do you really understand what is happening? People, human beings, just like you and me, are being forced to flee their homes and communities. They are being exposed to unspeakable violence and taking treacherous journeys to try in find a safe place. Eventually, hopefully, they get to a refugee camp. There, the bare minimum needs are being met. For many refugees, they are stuck here for years on end. There is minimal access to education. It is illegal for them to get jobs. The days are just spent waiting in limbo. If you are the right nationality, you can apply for relocation. This is not a fast process, as it can take at least months, if not years. For other nationalities, this is the end of the road. As of right now, there is no hope of being granted asylum. They can’t go back, they can’t go forward, so they have to stay at the camp.
These are actual people, like you and me. A huge reason they are not being granted residency is fear. Many parts of Europe and the United States are afraid of refugees, so our governments put tight caps on the number of people that will be allowed in. Never mind that the very people groups that we are afraid of (ISIS, the Taliban, etc.) are the same people who the refugees fled from. They are the direct victims of the atrocities, yet we as a culture, tell them they are not welcome because they are the people who they are most afraid of. We are telling the son who watched his father get killed by ISIS that he is in fact a part of ISIS. Do you see how messed up that is? We stereotype them into the group of people who have killed and tormented their friends and family and destroyed their home.
What makes me even more mad are people, followers of Christ, who study His teachings and call Him Lord who turn a blind eye to the suffering. As Christians in America we have been granted a lot of comfort. We don’t fear for our lives on a daily basis. We can eat whatever food we want. We have access to education. We get to live predictable and safe lives and we are afraid of loosing that, so we scorn the persecuted and leave the Samaritan laying in the street. We walk by because to stop, look, and help is uncomfortable. How are we okay with this? We blindly except the messages of fear and don’t dig deeper. We ignore the suffering of thousands. We stay comfortable.
you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these. -Mark 12:30-31
My question to you is this. Who is your neighbor? Is it really just the Anglo-American who looks like you or is it ALL people? Is the Gospel just for those who are like you or is for all people of all nations?
For more on this, I would encourage you to go read 1 John, the whole thing. It’s 3 and a half pages, I believe in you.
Okay, rant over.
Another thing I have been wrestling with is what does it look like to respond? Yes, we are each called by God to fulfill a specific purpose. We must respond. How does that factor into a crisis? Do we wait until we are sure we are called to respond or do we go and serve? Is volunteering to help distribute meals and clothing something we should just do because it is a refugee crisis of great magnitude than WW2? Part of me says yes, of course. I should go and run hard and never look back. This is a need that must be met.
On the other hand, this crisis and the aftermath will take years to figure out. There is no simple solution and honestly how much does distributing clothes and food help. Is it better to stay here, in my comfortable American life, get education, raise awareness, etc. Is it enough?
In all of this, I also have to consider my cultural biases. I come from a generation who has been told that we should do what we feel passionate about and if something is hard or doesn’t “feel right” we should quit. What is the balance between going immediately and completely disregarding myself- my mental, physical, and emotional health, after all why should I have all the comforts of good health when so many more are suffering; and staying and waiting and taking care of myself and serving here, where there is still need, but it looks so different?
I was talking this through with someone who I went to the camp with. We came to the conclusion that we don’t know and we must pray. For discernment in our own lives. For people who are willing to go. For our dear friends stuck in limbo. For the policy makers.
If I’m being honest, that answer is frustrating and not satisfying. Praying doesn’t always feel like helping to me. In fact, I feel helpless when all I can do is pray. The reality is though, God is bigger, and if I really trust Him to be who He says He is, then I should be on my knees in prayer because He is our only Hope in this dark world.