November 15, 2016
What Happens When the Money Runs Out
Post by Brittany Tedesco
This week, I want to share a beautiful report with you from an indigenous ministry that Christian Aid Mission assists in Greece.
I feel it perfectly summarized the sentiments we've heard from nearly all of the ministries we help who are reaching out to refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq.
These ministries are small. They are understaffed and overwhelmed by the needs they are unable to meet. . .but they give and give and give. No, not just money (which is constantly running out), but time. Quality time. It's a powerful gift for people as traumatized as those coming from a hellish place like Syria. Just the act of sitting down and listening to a person's story—crying with them, praying for them—can be more nourishing than a meal.
In fact, you'll read in this report that refugees who enter this ministry's facilities—where they receive genuine love and care—oddly lose their hunger or thirst.
As much as the native missionaries we help ache to feed every hungry person—and shelter them and provide them with warmth on cold winter nights—they can't. But they can lavishly provide personal attention and the hope found in Christ. They say with the Apostle Peter, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you."
"Indeed we are working overwhelming hours but also experiencing extraordinary blessings. We are thankful that God has allowed us to be in the middle of such a massive harvest. Last week, in the middle of a discussion, we realized that if we would change something in our life right now it would be to add more time to the 24-hour day.
"Three years ago, we started cooking at our house and delivering food to hungry, newly arrived Syrian refugees. In September, we were able to serve 750 families or 3,750 people. Our team is preparing food bags in the basement of our facilities. Each bag can feed a family for a few days. They are distributed at the ground floor where people are having the opportunity to sit, have a cup of tea, get to know each other, and most importantly, have the opportunity to be heard and share their heart.
"The needs for feeding are getting bigger and bigger. In September, there was an increase of 25% compared with the needs in August. As more people are coming and less are leaving, the number of refugees is increasing. People are cooking the food bag items and are using small camping gas, either at the camps where they stay, or their hotel rooms, or houses they rent with a group of people, or even in the squares where they are forced to spend the night. We set out clothes for them while they are waiting on the food distribution.
"Let me please share one of the stories of the people we serve. We will call him 'Mustafa' for security purposes. 'Mustafa' came to us last week. He is in Greece with his parents, his wife, and their 2-year-old child, as well as his sister who is a widow and her three children. They must stay in Greece even though they would like to travel to Europe. There is NO accommodation for people asking for asylum in Greece and the camps are full. So, he and his family are staying outside one of the camps in a tent. This means that they have no access to any food distribution or shelter, showers, toilets, nothing. This camp is very near to the sea. Policemen are making sure that no more refugees will enter without permission.
"'If I want to get food from the camp, I have to swim around it and get in from the side door where there is no policeman. Can you help me?' he asked us. We spent time talking with him, listening to his story, and trying to find alternatives. We gave him some groceries and entered into more discussions to give him space to relax as he was in such despair. As he was leaving, he stopped and said, 'You are the only organization that has helped me.'
"I thought that he looked tired, but clean and not starving. . .so someone must have helped him. The secret was the time given to him. We are convinced that even when we are in despair for more food distribution, the people get more blessed as they have the time to share their stories, share their concerns, look for direction, find hope, feel that they are not just numbers but humans that have been so traumatized in their country and now they lose even more of their dignity. So, many people are simply coming seeking for direction and counseling, and in an amazing way, they've shared with us, 'When I come in here, when I enter this door, for some reason I feel peace. I am not hungry, I am not thirsty. . .'
"During these long hours of counseling, listening, drying tears, we have an excellent opportunity to let the people be exposed to the presence of God. Again, no matter the religion, people are coming, asking, 'Could you please talk to me about Jesus? How can I believe? How can I be baptized?' So, we spend long hours teaching these people, discipling them, and leading them to the hope that Jesus can give. More and more are receiving Jesus, many are secretly seeking for Him and they come whispering this in our ears: 'I want to read a Bible, do you have any private place here that I can stay and read?' Many get baptized! Hundreds are passing through our facilities every day. What an opportunity to serve them in a unique way."