“Are you coming back tomorrow?” Even after time has passed it brings me to tears thinking about saying goodbye to the men, women, and children I met in Greece. Recently I dreamed of serving in refugee camps surrounding Athens, Greece. In partnership with my church, Crosspoint, a supportive network of friends and family, and a worldwide organization known as “OM”, this dream became a reality.
Kindness and generosity poured from their being. For a short period of time my purpose was to make them feel as if their life is not confined to the barriers of camp, and that it is okay to dream of another life. My own perception of life was altered by the people I met, and I remain forever grateful. I can only hope I contributed to a small part of their happiness.
I met Behassad, age 15, the first day in Lavrio. His family is from Kabul, Afghanistan. He quickly opened his heart to us by sharing about his family and their previous life there. The bombings in Afghanistan only a few days prior had destroyed his family’s home. He showed us the dismal video of his parents, brothers, sisters and 20 others on a speedboat traveling from Turkey to Greece as if it were a part of everyone’s life. We asked if he was scared, “yes, of course.” His father, Samat, made tea for us in their new 12′ x 12′ home. They have so little to give – yet they were willing to give everything they have to us. I saw God in so many, but especially in Behassad. He has seen more turmoil in his 15 years than I might see in my lifetime but he has more gratitude than any person I have encountered.
In Malakasa, an hour north of Athens, I met a man who asked me why I was there all the way from America. After answering him twice – he pressed further, helping me to realize my own intentions: “to spread love.” He grinned from ear to ear repeating the word love. The yearning to feel loved was palpable. This same man unearthed a talent of mine, beginning a long line of portraits I painted for them. I am privileged to have been able to give him, and many of the kids, a tangible image of themselves created during this time of their life. This is a luxury I took for granted, but was a treasure to this man – a steadfast reminder to use our God-given talents to spread love.
In Sounio we played ‘futbol’ with the older boys. In the glaring sun, experiencing the hunger Ramadan carries, their energy grew from the excitement of playing with adults. Talent, or lack thereof, did not matter as we all gave the game everything we had. These boys did not know much English, and we knew nothing in Arabic – but you would be hard pressed to find stronger connections made. When the time came to say goodbye one of them gave me a hug. He didn’t say, ‘goodbye’ or ‘see you later’ – he simply said, “my friend.”
These overwhelming feelings were new to me: wanting the best for someone I had just met, to give them every opportunity that was given to me, and the desperate need to know that when I left them that they would be okay. I will never forget the heartbreak I felt leaving my new friends. They asked, “are you coming back tomorrow?”
My response was, “I will see you again soon, my friend.”
Little boy from Afghanistan in Lavrio
Drawing faces in Malakasa
Playing futbol in Sounio
Sanuda in Ritsona
I had the opportunity to paint on the walls of connect where OM volunteers pass through, hopefully inspiring many to come.
Group serving from Crosspoint Community church
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