‘We must help these people’

As Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees pour onto the beaches of Lesbos, OM Greece and partner organisations offer water, essential items and, more importantly, hope. OM Greece

A speedboat approached the gritty beach of the Greek island of Lesbos carrying around a dozen people. It quickly dumped their luggage into the choppy sea before racing away. After some emotional greetings, the OM Greece team and others offered the newcomers towels, water and bananas. The team soon discovered that they were three generations of Syrian Christians, grandparents to grandchildren, fleeing to Europe's safety.

The team's hearts sank when the Syrians told them that the same boat, which charged them a steep 2000 € per person for the 30-minute trip was to make another journey to bring the rest of the family from Turkey. The team had seen the harbour police arrest the pilot and had to break the bad news to them that their relatives' fate was uncertain.

And so the trials and difficulties continue for the hundreds of thousands fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan making their way to Greece's shores in the hopes of moving onward into Europe. OM Greece continues to demonstrate God's love and compassion there.

The OM Greece team on Lesbos has enjoyed chatting with the refugees—something not many other relief workers are doing.

"A young Iraqi guy approached us and excitedly told us the he, too, wanted to become a Christian," recounted the team leader, heading up efforts on the island, where many of the refugees land.

"Stunned, we immediately gave him a Christian tract in Arabic we had picked up earlier that day, and those gathered around began reading it."

Waves of new arrivals of Syrian and other refugees to Greece's shores are overwhelming relief groups and authorities in the biggest humanitarian emergency since World War II.

Despite the early onset of autumn's rains, more than 2,500 mainly Syrian and Afghan refugees, soaked and exhausted, reached Lesbos in just a matter of hours this week alone. This marks a sharp rise in the rate of arrivals making the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey, aid officials said.

Most refugees traveling in unsafe dinghies and boats, squeezing about 40 to 45 people aboard, came in the pouring rain. Some suffered from hypothermia.

Over 430,000 refugees fleeing mayhem in the Middle East already have worked their way this year from Turkey to Greece. Despite Greece's dire economic crisis, many Greeks have been welcoming the refugees even though resources are scarce and many Greeks are also looking for help.

Gabby Markus, OM Greece country leader, also coordinates humanitarian assistance provided by numerous churches in the Athens area to ensure more effective cooperation and aid on behalf of the fleeing refugees.

Government and local officials have appreciated OM Greece and the local churches' quick ability to organise Arabic and Farsi/Dari translators to help communicate with the refugees as well as the practical provision of badly needed water, clothing and cooked meals. A clothing bank, shower facility, possible WiFi/Internet access points, and a potential campsite for temporary stay by the refugees are also in the planning.

"You tell us and we will get the people," Gabby told an official of Greece's Migration Policy Ministry. As a registered Greece-based organisation and with work in 110 countries worldwide, OM is strategically placed to help the refugees in their hour of need.

This week, the Athens team has helped numerous Afghans, including Harazas, sheltering in a sports stadium after a torrential downpour drove them out of one of Athen's outdoor parks.

Inside the stadium, where colorful pup tents lined the floor, young Afghan men danced to a throbbing, ethnic beat. Their arms sliced the air and bodies spun, enrapturing Afghan and Greek onlookers alike.
Greek doctors were on hand to carry out health checks on those who made the strenuous journey from their war-torn homeland.

"We had 45 people packed inside our flimsy rubber dinghy," 20-year-old Habib told OM. It was a dangerous journey and we were very frightened. Now we're exhausted, but we must continue to move on," said the youth, with dark, intense eyes.

Other OM Greece workers participate in cooking and serving meals to refugees gathered at churches in a food-share project. They also assist in meal distributions in parks where refugees congregate in the Greek capital.

"We must help these people who have left everything behind," Gabby said.

OM Greece needs your prayer and financial support to continue and intensify its aid efforts for Syrian and other refugees fleeing conflict to Europe.

A developing OM project, called Safe Passage, focuses on meeting refugees at their initial entry points, providing information as well as water, food and essentials. To give specifically to projects in Greece, please mark your gift to be given to Greece. To give to OM Europe's general relief efforts, or for more information about how to get involved, please contact your local OM office.


OM exists to see vibrant communities of Jesus followers among the least reached.
 

Gallery

Greece :: OM Greece
Greece :: Persian refugee is baptized into a local church body in Athens, Greece
Greece :: Volunteers clean out a large fridge at the new ministry base for the Athens refugee project
Greece :: Short Term Volunteers with OM Greece make a stop at the beach after a day serving at a refugee camp near Athens
Greece :: Tents where refugees are living in Piraeus Port in Athens, Greece
Greece :: “I had no specific ‘calling’ [when I went to Greece]. I have a heart for young people and Greek people. In the beginning, I thought about doing refugee ministry in Greece but realised that the Greeks were almost forgotten about by a lot of the ministry workers. So my focus moved towards Greeks. Through this crisis, I have had the chance to reach out to young people from all over the world and Greeks and refugees, irrelevant of what they believed. So one of the things that God is teaching me is that I should not be too stuck on an idea. He works in us and, through that, we share what we learn. We cannot place Him in a box, and I guess neither can we put His work in a box. But it is very different for everyone. For denying that, I would just be placing Him in a box again.” - with OM Greece
Greece :: Short Term Volunteers Chris H (USA) and Tug W (USA) take a break with refugees after playing football at a Refugee Camp near Athens.
Greece :: boat full of refugees arriving on Lesvos, Greece

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