I’m sitting here debating how in the world to sum up a 214-hour long day. The day in which nights bled into day bled into night again, hours blurring into mass expanses of awake-ness… waiting, laughing, napping, cooking, cleaning, more waiting… until the waiting came to an end and the soaking wet, desperate, driven people arrive by raft-loads and bus-loads, seeking asylum. Seeking the beginning to the next leg of their journey… where leg after leg, hurdle after hurdle, wave after wave tries to match their audacity and determination to live. And for their children to live. And not just live… but live with dignity and without fear.
Where do I begin to describe the intersection of eleven students, myself, and two other leaders with these exhausted but undeterred people on their journey to freedom? Do I begin a little over a year ago when they began flooding into our neighboring villages? Do I begin when the service teams were assigned and our names listed under “Lesvos, Greece?” Do I begin with our weeks of meeting and training and preparing for what we really couldn’t be prepared for? Or maybe it’s on the flight when it began to register that we were actually going to Greece? To live first-hand the images splattered all over the media?
I’m letting you into my writer’s block. I’ve been staring at the blank screen, wondering where to begin. I could go as far back as when we began fostering children. When God began acting upon our desire to look after the stranger as his/her parent. Or when we adopted the strangers. Or when we invited a sweet 8th grader to live with us for a year. Or when the Peruvian woman moved in for three weeks off the street.
God has been growing in us a ministry to the foreigner. The stranger. The outcast. The lonely. The alien.
And we get it. We are aliens, too… both in this world as believers awaiting eternity and as foreigners living in “strange” land (Germany), where our ministry directly impacts other foreigners on their journeys.
Was it any surprise that I was assigned to this team, then? A team dedicated to spending more time awake than asleep in order to meet any need the refugees or their aid might encounter?
I think not.
So I am dedicating the next week to sharing what our daily life was like on the island. The moments of joy when we put warm socks on a baby’s naked, cold feet. When we handed hot tea to the shivering. When we listened to their stories. When the tears filled our eyes and when laughter flowed from us to them and back again.
When we filled the gaps.
And when gaps found us… cracked into our hearts, our souls, our minds… our prayers. Cracks in our pride, self-righteousness, and entitlement as we grappled with their great need and our true lack for want. As we fought through feelings of uselessness and exhaustion, and discouragement in light of what the true need in any moment might be… whether sleeping when we wanted to be awake, bagging a landfill so people could live in dignity, or spending hours blowing bubbles for children fresh off the most dangerous and life-threatening part of their journey… crossing the sea.
And lest it appear as if I alone was assigned to this trip on the part of my family… I could not have gone if Jeremy hadn’t supported, encouraged, and sent me. If he hadn’t been willing to single-parent the two littles during another week of school and his own conference to attend (and speak in). He was as much assigned to this task as I… me on the field, and he at home-base, making it possible. This was indeed a team effort.
So be looking in the next days for detailed “journal” entries of our time on the shores of Lesvos as I try to give a day-ish by day-ish look into what many, many volunteers are doing every day.