Muslims Come to Christ in Greece, Turkey
June 16, 2016
Thousands of Middle Eastern refugees are seeking aid in Greece after neighboring Macedonia closed its borders, while needs have grown in Turkey due in part to an agreement for Greece to ship back arrivals from Turkish transit points.
Though hard-pressed by the challenge of such needs, Greek and Turkish ministries are welcoming the opportunity to serve so many Muslims.
"The need for accommodations is getting overwhelming every day, as more and more people are approaching us, asking for help to find them housing," an indigenous ministry co-leader in Greece said. "These people sit in despair, with no hope, and are lost without information."
More than 53,000 refugees were trapped in Greece after the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) closed its border in March, after having allowed a few hundred per day to trickle through. Many of the refugees waiting to enter FYROM were staying at a makeshift camp in Idomeni, which Greek authorities shut down and evacuated last month, scattering the throngs.
Some of the evacuees from Idomeni are staying at camps in nearby Polykastro, Greece, which like other resettlement points saw services hastily set up in dilapidated warehouses and abandoned factories, many of them without adequate toilet facilities.
"Once more, God had used our bread crumbs to feed these people spiritually and physically," the ministry director said.
"The camps that are provided are not enough, and most of them are very poor," the co-director said. "Some of them do not even have electricity or showers. The food is of a very poor quality, and the lack of information is really sowing despair in these people."
The ministry has been receiving telephone calls from all over Greece asking for help, the co-director said.
"At the beginning we got excited, as we would have the opportunity to meet and influence more and more people, but there are challenges," she said. "Yesterday our Iraqi volunteer, as she was walking at the nearby square, found herself surrounded by a group of Syrians crying, 'Please help us to be registered; please help us.'"
The influx has added to the ministry leaders' congregation, which now consists entirely of Muslims and ex-Muslims, she said.
"Three weeks ago, we had the opportunity to baptize six of them, and now we are preparing the next group," she said.
After a recent church service, she was surprised to see a disheveled refugee come to the front and declare that he was a Muslim but wanted to thank God because Jesus took care of his family. At the ensuing dinner, she learned that he was from southern Iraq. He had come to the ministry center the previous Wednesday, having not eaten for two days.
"My child was sleeping, tired from asking when we shall eat," he told her, adding that when he saw the crowds he decided to come back later. "I came back at 7 p.m., and not only had the crowd left but also the food. They gave me some biscuits that my daughter ate on the way out."
As he was leaving, a stranger approached him and gave him 200 euros (US$225).
"I knew this was from Jesus," he said. "I went to the supermarket, and I bought everything for my family. This is why I came here today, to thank God, who provides. I just knew this was from God, from Jesus."
The co-director told him she didn't remember seeing him.
"When they were giving out the groceries, there were so many people, and it was noisy, and the people who were doing the distribution had to close the door to talk," he told her. "Then you came down and said, 'This door must not close. The door is always open.' While you said this, I realized this is how it is with God – the door is always open. The door to Jesus and to the church is always open!"
She and her co-director husband later agreed they did not recall giving him a biscuit after the day's groceries were distributed.
"Once more, God had used our bread crumbs to feed these people spiritually and physically," she said. "We didn't preach to them, but He used our words; we didn't offer them food, but He multiplied the 'biscuits,' blessing this precious family."
Under an agreement signed on March 20, Turkey receives $3.3 billion in aid to keep refugees from crossing the Aegean waters and resettle them directly to European countries, bypassing Greece. A ministry leader in Turkey said a team visiting makeshift camps near Adana recently asked refugees if anyone from the government had brought them help.
"They all stated that they had been there more than three years with no help from the government at all," he said. "They said, 'If we do not have any individual help from the public and you, we will never get anything. We may die day by day in front of the government.'"
Most of those in the tent camps were women and children, he said.
"Mothers kept showing their newborn babies to us and begged for us to meet their needs," he said. "They keep asking for baby formula, diapers, and medicine. The most important need is also food to keep them alive."
The director said the refugees feel that everybody, including Allah, has forgotten them, and when the ministry workers tell them Jesus said He would never turn from them and offered Himself as the Bread of life, they invite them to explain further. After talking more about Jesus, the workers promise to bring Arabic Bibles for them to learn more and ask questions of God Himself. To help indigenous missionaries to meet refugees' physical and spiritual needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 400REF.