I am now on Lesvos Island, Greece and it feels incredible to be walking the streets of a place that I could only envision being years ago. Here are some thoughts from my time here so far.
If you were unaware of the European Refugee Crisis, let me start by saying that most refugees fleeing their countries to get into Europe have been coming through Turkey via boat to the Greek border. A great number of them, coming through Lesvos Island. As a result of this mass exodus, many have lost their lives at sea. This is one of the reasons why myself and several other teams are here. Our goal is to help any way we can.
I've been here for three weeks so far and I am astounded by the beauty I see in humanity on this Island. I wrote out this newsletter to highlight the lionhearted volunteers I have had the privilege of meeting and working alongside. Some of these volunteers, saw that the need was great and decided to stay longer...like the two Swedish doctors I met who were trying to grapple with the loss of a refugee baby they attempted to revive. With each volunteer I met and stories I heard, my heart swelled at the audacity of each person who made a choice to serve in this time of crisis. I felt compelled to honor them in this way. Put faces to their names. They are real people with large hearts and a call on their lives to help at this time.
Here's a shoutout list to some of the fearless people and organizations that inspire me.
To Bahara, the captivating, young Afghani girl, turned volunteer who helped me translate and direct people when she noticed the language barrier when I spoke with refugee families. She reminded me of Malala. I told her that her future was bright and that she will be a great gift to Austria, the country she hoped to settle in.
To individuals like Sandra who left her home in East Village, New York to give two months of her life to serve anyway she could.
To Billie, an audacious 20-year-old, from the Upper Eastside in New York and the fun loving and brilliant Yasmeen from Singapore. I salute your hearts. I don't even remember what I was doing with my life at 20 years of age.
To the full-time lifeguards and firefighters I met from different parts of the US, using their vacation time to be a beach look out for incoming raft boats filled with refugees. Y'all are CRAY, in the best way.
To the volunteers at the refugee camps we work alongside day in and day out. I see your smiles, I see the way you carry babies and the heavy bags of incoming families as you try to find a warm room for them to sleep for the night.
To the organizations like YWAM, who are committed to sending teams every couple of months to help and transform this land, it's people and those passing through. To the YWAM Newcastle team I was given the privilege of supporting. You guys are rock solid people who love God and love people WELL. To the local churches from the states I saw sending teams out to find out how they could help, this is the beginning of a great movement of churches partnering with organizations to change the world.
To International Rescue Committee, an organization that pours countless resources and hours into searching for and rescuing refugees.
To the "I AM YOU" organization from Sweden that reminds refugees that we, the volunteers are the same as them and that their lives are valued.
To Garges, the amazing man who makes our tasty giros diligently twice a day and never allows us to pay for our drinks. Thank you!
To ALL the shop owners who stay open for us despite the fact that it's winter AKA their vacation time. You are top people and I see the character of God in all of you.
To the hotel owner, who despite the economy in Greece, is renting out his hotel rooms for almost 50% off to volunteers. You're CRAY too but thank you!
To Muhammad, my Lebanese friend who is half my height and complains about how tall I am. Muhammad is an Arabic volunteer translator and every time I see him around camp, I tease him by asking him for a high five knowing that he couldn't (Don't judge me). In his Arabic accent, Muhammed would run after me saying, hannah you can't do this as he attempted to high five me. The funniest guy ever but you could just see that he loves what he does.
This is just a portion of the phenomenal people I have met here. I should also note that there are people doing these beautiful acts of service in their hometowns...I salute you too. You don't have to hop on a plane to be of service. Our own communities need help just as much as crises like these.
With that said, In the midst of this crisis, I pause for the people who have lost their lives in efforts to have a better life. But God, causes me to lift my head again and SEE the BEAUTY all around me. Put faces to the names of these volunteers. See them in your minds eye and keep them and all the people in transit in your prayers.