The day before we flew out, the school dorms closed at noon.
That meant we had 11 students in our care until our flight the next morning. We all crammed into my living room for a sub-sandwich lunch, the longest game of the human-knot ever, final preparation, and eventually a delicious soup for dinner. We also got out for a walk to get some fresh air and exercise.
When these students met as a team for the first time, nobody knew everyone’s name. For as small as BFA is, especially when you narrow it down to just the junior and senior class, there is still room for not knowing everyone. Many of our first weeks revolved around learning names!
But here we were, as ready as we could be, passing the time until our flight the next morning. I was growing to love these “kids” and their tremendous hearts to give and serve and offer themselves as living sacrifices to these refugees. This group of kids hail from all parts of the world… a few from the Middle East, Europe, Africa, the UK, Asia, North American, and Latin America (I’m not listing nations to protect families serving in sensitive places, as many are). And just as eclectic and unique are the places they (we) call “home” – so are the variety of languages, insights, and experiences among us.
Spending the longest day of my life (all 214 hours of it) with these students was RICH. In a letter to the parents at the end of the trip, one of our leaders said:
Your children were amazing on our trip to Greece. From our team meeting on Friday until each of them left our groups one by one, each of your children was a blessing to Marcy, Sam, and myself. I think Marcy and Sam would agree that we rarely had to worry about anything because of your students’ hearts and work ethic…
We greatly appreciate and love each of the students who was on our trip, and I wanted to say thank you for letting me have the opportunity to serve and lead your child. It was a pleasure and an honor to have such a magnificent group and you should all be proud of your student.
And I completely agree! Little did I know on that simple day-of-waiting-Friday, how much pride and joy I would experience through this group of students.
Seriously. They endlessly inspired me.
So on this day, while we continued blooming and growing as a team… God was already on the other side, beaming over what was yet to come of these students. The ways that new passion would burst into their hearts- passion for the hurting, the suffering, the lost, the desperate, the naked and hungry and thirsty and tired and imprisoned. The way their hearts would steer toward His generosity and kindness, regardless of the faith or culture or situation of another. He knew how our hearts would beat with His, how we’d hear His voice and see His face over and over… and not flinch or cringe or set ourselves above. He knew the through-the-night hours in which He’d either provide rest or His supernatural energy. He knew we were in for a wild ride and He was already there, hands in the air, shouting with glee, as our coaster turned to the right, the left, through the loop, upside down, sideways… sometimes disorienting but never, ever out of His sight.
We had no idea what was yet to come.
Seven teenage girls fell asleep in my living room to My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Right??? Early the next morning, we grabbed our bags and met with the male portion of our team (as well as our other female leader 🙂 ) We were driven just over an hour to the Zurich airport where we flew to Athens.
It began to sink in as we flew over Athens… we were headed to Greece to help the refugees. What in the world will this be like? Who will we meet? What will our schedule be like?
We had heard that we would very likely have 24 hour shifts and that we’d be split into two groups. I began to pray, “Lord… I think 12-hours on and 12-hours off sounds like a better idea… don’t You?” As it was, I’d been dealing with a great deal of fatigue in the last few months and honestly did way more sleeping than living. How would I function for a 24-hour shift? And yet, I knew beyond a doubt, that if He called me to that… He would provide.
Each of us was assigned a day for leading a short devotion. While in the Athens airport (with very little to do but wait some more) we began with our first devotion. Sam led us to thinking about our expectations… how to recognize them when they show up (usually because they haven’t been met) and to see how, through Abraham and Sarah, God is not limited or boxed in by our expectations. Praise God! I heard the students refer to this devotion quite a bit throughout the week.
Finally it was time to board… and this is what they put us on…
Yes, friend, that is a teeny, tiny puddle-jumper. Have I been on smaller? Yes. But alas… this was the kind that typically feels each air-bump. The kind where you can SEE the propellers and imagine all sorts of birds flying right into them, causing a crash landing into the dark sea beneath. But no, we don’t think of those things while we’re flying in a small tin-can in the sky. We don’t think of recent news. We don’t think of famous movies involving spiraling planes or cannibalism. We just picture angels on each wing and keep the conversation light.
We arrived in Mytilene, Greece, on the island of Lesvos, late in the evening. Our friend and contact with Euro Relief was there to drive us to Molyvos, where we would sleep (when we could), eat, and come together as a whole team. The drive was just over an hour. We arrived thinking we’d go straight to bed.
Little did we know of Greek hospitality.
The amazing owner of Orfeas Hotel had a feast prepared for us. We sat down in awe and delight.
Did I mention it was a three-course meal? Oh yes, yes it was.
It was delicious and so unexpected.
We received our room keys and roommate assignments and made our way to our beds. It was dark so we really had no idea what was all around us. That surprise would come with the dawn.
Until then, I could only smile as I looked across the hotel from my patio…
Oh, doesn’t my sweet Jesus know what a castle-nerd I am!!! That this could be my view during all of my times of rest.
We drifted off to sleep, ready to face what the rest of our 214-hour day had in store for us…
[Come back tomorrow for our first shift on the island!]