We are celebrating the beginning of a new year in Greece. Last night, we were ready to celebrate in some small way with the many refugees we encounter each day. We awoke today, ready for our last day of ministry work and hopeful for more encounters with refugees. We pray that God brings us people who know English and are open to his word. Thankfully, we know that he is sovereign over all things, and that by obedience his work is accomplished.
Last night, we put on layers and layers of warm clothing. We knew that the temperature would fall into the 20s and that it may be a long night. Again, we brought around 500 gloves and 500 hats for them, as well as bags to put their belongings in. We eagerly anticipated meeting with them on this New Year’s Eve Night. As we arrived on the outskirts of the camp, we saw at least 25 buses, some double-deckers, stopped at the gas station where they are staged before arriving at the border camp. There was firewood and Doctors Without Borders had a few tents set up. We see people standing everywhere, some playing soccer, and some sitting around fires as they await the next leg of their journey.
We continued to the camp to hear that the border may open later tonight. As the sun sets and the temperature continues to fall, we wonder about who makes these decisions. Why are they keeping the refugees at a gas station. There is a winterized camp, full of tents with heaters and flooring, in Idomeni. Yet, it’s empty.
When the border finally opens and the people come through, we clothe them with hats, scarves, and gloves. We hold their belongings while they put their gloves on. We place hats on the heads of their young children. I met a woman who I thought was carrying a blanket, but in that blanket was an eight week old baby. She was asking for a hat for the baby. I peel back the blanket to see her tiny face, and I see a beautiful knitted bonnet on the baby’s head. When I place the bonnet back on a children’s hat over it, the grandmother starts to cry. She whispers thank you over and over, overwhelmed by the kind gesture. I feel so small that I am only giving away a small hat, one way too big for such a small baby, but in this moment, the woman appreciates this gesture more than I have realized.
This is our prayer. That these small gestures and brief conversations are multiplied through the language barrier, through the border crossings, along their journey to a new life.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all of the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Ephesians 3:17-18