To say that this has been an emotional trip would be an understatement. While I am loving my time here and know that these are the moments God has created me for, it is not easy. My days have been an emotional roller coaster and I think I can safely say it has been that way for most of our teams. On Friday all of our teams took a break from what we were doing (and a transition for our teams to switch over) and traveled to Lifejacket Graveyard. Lifejacket Graveyard is basically a dumping ground not far from where refugees first began arriving on boats to Lesvos.
Looking over Lifejacket Graveyard I was so overwhelmed that I wasn’t even able to cry (and those of you who know me, know that is pretty untypical). I cried later on the bus ride home as I processed everything. Every single Lifejacket represents an individual life of someone who was fleeing their country in order to find safety, stability, and (hopefully) a better life. It was a blunt reminder that we often lump groups of people together in our minds rather than remembering that each individual (POCs in this case), has a story and life that is being effected by what is going on around them. Even I struggle not to lump people into groups sometimes, and I was reminded time after time of the thousands of individuals whose lives where uprooted and completely turned upside down.
In the original plans for our time in Greece, we were not going to be in any refugee camps, but working with POC families in outside locations. After spending time in the camp, I actually wish I had more time in here and I am so glad God changed our plans to allow us to work in the camp. Don’t get me wrong…it probably would have been way easier emotionally to not step foot in the camp and to not actually see the living conditions that these families are living in. But the reality is that I will never truly understand what it is like to be a POC. I probably won’t ever go through even a quarter of the trauma that a lot of the people I met are going through. However, working alongside of these families in the camp gave me a glimpse of what their lives are currently like and some of the visible hardships that they are dealing with.
Because lets face it…their situation sucks. Even when people were hugging me or smiling at me, I sometimes had to hold back tears. The situation is so complicated it seems completely hopeless that there could be a good outcome. Camp Moria is only designed to hold 2,000 people and there are currently over 7,000…with more people arriving almost everyday. I met families where there were 5 or 6 them LIVING in a 5 person tent meant for a weekend camping trip. I sat inside a ‘home’ (an isobox-medal container, maybe 8feetx16feet) an held a 1 month old baby girl while her mother insisted on making us hot chocolate and we talked to the other people living in there. A total of 3 families each with a mother, father, 1 infant under 2 months, and one family had a two year old…So there were a total of 10 people, 4 of of them being under two living in a box with only blankets to separate into separate rooms!!
I’ll be honest it could be worse…everyone registered there recieves 3 meals a day and I originally thought that it would smell a whole lot worse. It turns out that there is an organization whose sole purpose is to take care of toilets and make sure the sewage is drained properly… But if the funding was pulled for the food and toilet companies things would go downhill quickly. And yes it could be worse, however….how would you feel to travel all that way to escape violence, bombings, or threats upon your life and then be stuck in a camp where you were living in a box with 9 other people? Or to have no choice who your neighbors were and to always need to be prepared to for fights both physical and verbal or have your things stolen? Or to have 3 or 4 children under 10 living in a tent in 100 degree weather? Or only have one diaper a day to clothe your infant in? Or to not be able to get a job or send your children to school even if you had the money?
Most of you would probably be horrified at the idea…I know that I am. Yet there are thousands of people, who for them, that is their current reality. Despite their circumstances and despite that they have almost nothing…they are still eager to give what little that they have. I was blown away by the hospitality and love that we are shown. Even when we are there to tell them that they need to make space for 3 more people in box that already held twice as many as it should, they still invite us into sit with them. They aren’t happy (understandably) with a lot of the news that we bring them…yet they understood that it isn’t our faults and still invite us to have coffee, chai, hot chocolate, or dinner with them as they try to communicate in broken English. Each family that I encounter breaks my heart a bit more.
Working in the camp we have opportunities to do different jobs, like handing out meals, handing out sleeping bags to just arriving families, setting up and tearing down tents, negotiating with families to relocate them, cleaning up trash, working in the warehouse, or taking census of who is living where. I enjoy having an actual job to do that I know needs to be done for things to go smoothly (as possible). But even more I am moved by the faces I am growing to know, their individual stories that I am beginning to hear, and see a bit of the lives that they are facing.
I wish that I had something really happy to share with you…but as I write this, tears poor down my face and I feel so broken for these people. However I cling to hope…the hope of Jesus. He reminds me that even though I am overwhelmed by the amount of people here that I will never know their names. He does know their names…and he knows each story and each need, and each hurt. He loves them in ways that I can’t even imagine and He will continue to use His other children to care and provide for them and speak into their lives.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7