"They Have Adopted Us as Family and Friends"
February 27, 2014
These Syrian refugees enjoy a respite from life’s challenges at a dinner hosted by a ministry in Greece. The monthly meal draws some 100 people for fellowship, worship, and traditional Syrian music.
Syrian refugees who make the arduous, even perilous journey across land and sea to reach Greece often encounter a hostile reception when they arrive. With their slumping economy, Grecians aren’t exactly eager to see newcomers place further strain on the nation’s services and job market. At best, refugees are treated with disdain. At worst, they succumb to life on the streets or end up victims of hate crimes.
As one of the primary entry points into Europe, over 20,000 Syrians have fled to Greece during the past three years. Many desire to continue northward into Germany, Scandinavia, and other parts of Western Europe where they have relatives or friends.
Those who make it to their destination of choice are the few and fortunate ones. Most refugees are detained by authorities as soon as they reach the Greek islands and may spend days, weeks, or months in overcrowded detention centers. That’s if they survive the boat ride from Turkey and aren’t turned back by the Greek coast guard.
A local ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission is one of the organizations that is not turning the refugees away. Despite numerous challenges, they seek to unite separated family members, help individuals find jobs and housing, and connect them with service agencies.
Each Friday they host a fellowship event, culminating with a monthly dinner that draws about 100 attendees. Along with the meal, guests enjoy worship, games, and traditional Syrian music and folk dancing.
Ministry workers also deliver packages of food and necessity items to families and hand out New Testaments and gospel tracts.
Christian Aid Mission received the following praise report from the ministry, demonstrating the impact of their work and the response by refugees who treat the gospel workers like family:
“When we first felt the Lord calling us to serve the Syrian refugees in Greece, we set before Him a time limit. We prayed that by December He would assure us through different ways if this was what He wanted us to continue doing. We were making a big decision for our family and also risking many things. Gradually, and as our vision became “flesh and bone” in our hearts, we decided that our ministry would be called “Bridges.” We would not only serve in Greece, but also in other countries in Europe, mainly the ones where the Syrians relocated. We had no idea how we would fulfill this, so we were praying for confirmation.
“So, a couple of days ago my phone rang and the caller said, ‘Hi, I’m calling from a church in Sweden. We have a Syrian family here, a mother with three children. The father and the fourth child are in Athens, sleeping on the street without food, money, or a passport. I contacted someone in Greece, and they gave me your number!’
“We are so thankful for the way God is expanding His kingdom and fulfilling His promises. Praise the Lord, we managed to find the father with his son in a square in Athens, put them safely in a house with other Syrian refugees, and bridge them with the rest of the family in Sweden.
“The next day we had the opportunity to meet with a Christian couple from Germany. The wife’s origin is Syria and the husband is from Greece. They heard about our ministry and they told us, ‘There is a pastor from Jordan in Germany who is doing what you are doing here. This is his phone number.’ So we called him, sharing our vision. And the voice on the other end said, ‘Do you know how long we have been praying for this kind of ministry in Greece? You are an answer from God!’ I am just thankful and amazed.
“Last time we asked you to pray for two of our Syrian friends who had been arrested because they lacked legal papers. Fifteen days later they finally got released. During that time we visited them. Some of the policemen were very kind and helpful and gave “M” the opportunity to share the gospel with the other prisoners. The policemen could not believe that “M” was sharing the gospel with Muslims and no fights were taking place. We kept providing him with New Testaments to give to the prisoners. When both of the men were released, the other prisoners asked “M,” ‘When are you going to visit us?’ It’s incredible how God turns everything into a blessing. “M,” as a person who loves God, goes along with us everywhere, visiting families, informing us of needs, introducing newcomers, etc. He will be a great help and coworker until he leaves to be reunited with his family.
The ministry delivers clothing and food to needy Syrian families.
“The Christmas meal took place on December 16, where at least 150 Syrians were present. Some of them we knew and others had just come to Greece. During this meal, which had been beautifully prepared, we had the opportunity to have with us a pastor from an Arabic church in Qatar. He shared the good news during the meal, and he was a great encouragement for us. This pastor stayed with us and joined us in visiting hundreds of Syrians, as we went house-to-house ministering to them.
Despite the Christmas holidays, our phone didn’t stop ringing. In addition to the ongoing needs, there was something else that really touched our hearts. You see, for the Syrian culture during Christmas and the New Year, the family members, both core and extended, and friends pay visits continuously without calling or asking, as it is expected. They kept calling and asking, ‘What is your address, so we can visit you?’ We felt so blessed as we realized that they have adopted us as family and friends.
“Pray with us, as joys and disappointments are served in the same ‘dish’ for us. Greece keeps getting flooded by Syrians who get trapped here. Lately we have started to notice homeless Syrians who lose their money, who have been deceived, or have had possessions stolen. The needs are growing in number, but we are thankful to realize how many people get blessed, helped, restored to a point, and exposed to Jesus. Pray with us, as we follow the milestones that our Lord has set in front of us so that we shall serve Him through these precious Syrians.”
- For the ministry to help the refugees find jobs and shelter. Many Syrians cannot get out of Greece and run out of money. The need for housing will increase this summer when a greater influx of Syrians is anticipated.
- For the refugees to experience the love of Jesus Christ and to see God work powerfully in their lives. Pray that new believers will share the good news with others and invite their friends to attend the fellowship meetings.