Refugee Camp Experiences
The last day in the camp…for now. The caravan rolled up to the security gate that separates Diavata from the rest of the outside world. Before I knew it, one of the Kurdish children that has followed me around day by day met me at the gate, pursing his cheeky face as close to the car window as possible. His incessant smile and glee was contagious. I smiled back at him with the same level of excitement, holding a gaze as I drank in that single beautiful moment in time. It was then that I felt all there. It was then that I realized why I came here:
I did not come to these camps to fix, only to love.
The small caddy pulled into the gate and as soon as my muddied boots hit the ground below, I was surrounded by children. Children who’s joy permeates through the traces of agonizing darkness that lies within the cavern of their small chests. If I didn’t know their story, I would think that they’ve never endured the degrees of hardship that they actually have, for their ability to genuinely muster not just happiness but joy, is nothing shy of astounding. This was picture of the serendipity that children exemplify.
The day was full to the brim. For 7 hours straight, I spent time making friends with the refugees who are now living in this camp—Greece’s first official ‘settlement’ camp in response to the crisis that has rocked and reeled the entire nation. The hours went by like minutes, but held the weight of months. By the end of the day, I’d been welcomed into several families’ tents, I’d been fed by Syrians and Iraqis, had the honor of teaching several refugees how to use a professional DSLR camera, give away many polaroids, and had the incredible opportunity to share about Jesus with two of the families. I even had the unbelievable honor of giving one of the Syrian families an Arabic Bible! Most likely their very first Bible ever. The women passed the Bible around, stroking the pages and glancing up at me, reading the words aloud, and even kissing it as an act of reverence and appreciation to have one to call their own. I was so surprised that they were not only open to receiving the Bible, but were extremely appreciative. It was so evident that the Lord was continually softening their hearts for that moment.
All of the families that I’d connected with throughout the week knew that it was my last day in the camp, so they sought me out and ushered me in with the most tender goodbyes. Some of the children, who have very little, went so far as to giving me their beloved stuffed animals stitched with “I love you” as a token of the love that they couldn’t quite express in words. I was baffled. As I prepared to leave one of the families, tears began to stream down the wrinkled face of the two grandmothers. They kissed my face many times, pulled me into their embrace, and held it…this was another loss for them. In such a short time, the Lord allowed for this family and I to connect so deeply. Their tears were a sign of the care and depth. They ushered me out of their meager tent, hand-in-hand and sent me off with “I hope that God sends you back here soon. We love you so much” in Arabic. I walked on with my stuffed animals in my hands and aching in my heart, looking back to see them standing stout to wave me goodbye until I was out of sight. This kind of emotional connection is so undeserved. Normally, this kind of connection with a M.E. family takes a great deal of time to cultivate but I firmly believe that as a result of your prayers, opportunities like this (and many more) were made possible!
As a visual storyteller, I constantly look for moments. At the refugee camp, there are said ‘moments’ everywhere. Compassion saturated even fiber of my being, as I saw these people—not as news reports or pitiful products of war, but as humans. People, with living breathing souls in need of care. Compelled by the indwelling love of God, I pursued these people. It was in the pursuit that the glory unfolded. It was in the 20 seconds of courage to just walk up to a complete stranger with the intention of walking away as a sister and a friend, that created opportunity. This was only possible by the ever faithful grace of God.
This is the gospel: this is the difference. I did not come to these camps to fix, only to love. I’m just doing what I was called to do and that is to simply be a conduit of love. It is out of the overflow that I serve so that Jesus may be made known. It out of the overflow that I am compelled to reach down low and serve wildly, without reservation.