As I boarded the plane to fly to D.C. for the weekend, I remained in a state of excitement, yet hesitation. I knew my God was a big God who did marvelous and wonderful things, but I doubted what he could do to my heart in one weekend. Trust me, I was foolish to doubt him. He moved in mighty ways, not just in my heart but also in the hearts of the other students around me. Foremost, he provided fearless leaders who led in prayer, love, and conversation. Essentially they were praying for our group to become church plant members and move to D.C., a prayer quickly answered.
As City Life students, we traveled to D.C. to engage with a church plant from the Summit called Restoration City Church. Little did I know, God was going to use RCC’s vision, community, and mission as vessels in reaching and teaching me. Friday night, we spent time with members of the church, walking around the city my heart was so quickly softening for. One of my leaders challenged me to consider moving to D.C. upon college graduation, followed by my boyfriend asking, “So, do you want to move there?” My answer to both being, “Oh, we’ll see.” Saturday changed my “we’ll see” to a reality rooted in a deep desire to see a broken city restored by the love and power of Jesus Christ.
Saturday morning, we attended sessions given by individuals who helped to plant RCC. They explained the process of planting RCC, how God led them to this particular city, and the pros and cons of living in such a large, international, multifaceted city. My college major is Professions in Deafness: Interpreting, allowing me to interpret for deaf individuals upon graduating and obtaining certification. Gallaudet University in D.C. is considered the “Deaf Mecca” of the United States and is home to several deaf students from around the world. It was mentioned in our time Saturday morning that Gallaudet is a campus hostile to the gospel. Christianity is a sour topic of discussion, and Jesus is a name to be ignored or quickly denied. Our City Life leaders planned a scavenger hunt through D.C. and Gallaudet was one of our stops, a nice challenge for my friend and I, both of us being interpreting majors. The goal of the entire hunt was to share the gospel and pray with someone, prayerfully advancing the kingdom of God. We split into two groups, and off we went! Our first stop? Gallaudet.
I could feel the nerves settle in my stomach as we rode the metro to our location, praying for the Lord to use my hands for his will and for our group to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Wow, did God answer! We arrived to Gallaudet, and it was a ghost town. We walked and couldn’t find a single person. Finally, we reached the student center. As we explored the building, I noticed a room called the Chapel. With curiosity peaked, I immediately walked in, followed by my group, and we were approached by a startled deaf man. After encouraging us to stay, he preceded to tell us about his life as a Deaf Buddhist monk as I interpreted questions from my friends. We shared with him that we were Christians and why we were there. For Gallaudet to be an overall hostile campus to the gospel, this man was kind and welcomed our conversation. He listened, we listened, and we all shared. It was beautiful! When it was time to go, my group stood outside and prayed over him, praying for his soul to be transformed by Jesus and for his passion to flourish for this campus and community. The Lord undeniably set that moment into existence. All of our lives joining in such a way that we could meet this man and share a glimpse of Jesus with him. God set up that encounter because he loves us that much. Later, after continuing through Saturday and Sunday, I called my Dad to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. He wanted to hear about D.C., and I told him everything. His response? “Maybe you should think about moving there.” Elated with shock, I realized that here I was, doubting God was going to use this weekend, but how foolish and wrong I was! God totally used this weekend to teach, reach, and restore my life and the lives of those around me. I now have a new, deeper desire for living and ministering in the city, a desire only the Lord could give through His grace.
-Sarah Spivey (City Life Student)
At Mercy Hill, we get excited about church planting because church plants increase gospel presence exponentially around the world. Indeed, the church is God’s plan A for the world. Not only are we seeing the gospel preached, people baptized, and lives shaped by the Spirit here at Mercy Hill, but when a church is planted in a place like Philadelphia, PA, we get to see and be a part of what God will do through their faithfulness in bringing the gospel to their neighborhood in west Philly.
Through the Together Initiative, we are all involved in Mark and Whitney Turner’s efforts. We all have skin in the game such that we all will rejoice when we hear of the salvation that God is bringing to Philly through the word about Christ. But let us not just partner with them financially, but also (and more importantly) let’s partner with them in prayer. And maybe God is already after you about joining them in presence, calling you to join the launch team. Church, let’s never forget the weight of what we get to be involved in through God’s calling. In whatever way we can, let us stitch our hearts to the mission of God through the church plants we partner with, rejoicing when they rejoice and weeping when they weep.
-Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)
Our aim as a church is to be a sending church. In the book of 3 John, the Apostle John instructs the church how we should care for those sent out for the sake of exalting the name of Jesus. He writes, “You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God” (3 John 6). One of the ways we aim to care well for our missionaries is through our Mission Advocacy Teams. Here is an update from one of our missionaries on how her Advocacy Team Leaders help her carry forth the mission.
The first Christian worker to venture to my part of the world did so amongst a great deal of uncertainty. He was the first of thousands who would travel across the ocean to bring light into a country left in spiritual darkness, paving the way for generations of faithful missionaries to come. Before he left his friends and family, a brother in Christ spoke this to him, “There is a gold mine in [South Asia], but it seems almost as deep as the center of the earth. Who will venture to explore it?” He replied, “I will venture to go down, but remember that you must hold the ropes.”
The (Un)glamourous Missionary Life
At the risk of sounding morbid, I would compare the experience of moving overseas to hosting your own funeral. There’s a great deal of excitement and words spoken and hugs given as you leave, but somewhere between the tarmac at RDU and 20,000 feet above the Atlantic it gets quiet for the first time, and you realize that you’re alone. And no matter how many handwritten letters, texts, emails, and videos have been stored up in the suitcase stuffed in the overhead compartment, you understand that there now exists an entire ocean between you and everyone you love.
It’s in these moments that the glamourous imaginings about life as a missionary start to lose their shine. And it’s in these moments that you need to know who’s holding the ropes.
My Advocacy Team Leaders Hold My Rope
From the day that my Advocacy Team Leaders agreed to become my “rope-holders,” it was obvious that they took their commitment seriously. As I prepared to go overseas, they met with me frequently, prayed for me continuously, and were a constant reminder that I wasn’t walking into this new season alone. In fact, they personally rallied an army to love and support me after I left. They helped to establish a relationship with their community group and planned a sweet commissioning lunch to say goodbye to my Mercy Hill community. They reached out to my own family to encourage and support my parents through the process. They even drove up to Virginia on a rainy Wednesday afternoon to attend my commissioning service after my field training concluded.
Fast forward to two months on the field and their support has only become more valuable to me. My Advocacy Team Leaders and I keep in touch weekly to share victories, pray over losses, and to check in on my spiritual health. Living in a place where sound teaching and healthy churches are few and far between can cause many missionaries to burn out or be overrun by sin struggles that go unchecked without strong community or accountability. My Advocacy Team Leaders are here to hold me accountable in holiness, but also in boldness, walking in a manner worthy to that which I have been called. They ask me how my time in the word has been, who I’ve shared with that week, and how their community group can be lifting up my team and our work here. They’re also on standby for moments of homesickness or discouragement, not just to comfort, but to remind me of the gospel when I lose sight of the power of the One who holds me in his hand.
Don’t get me wrong, moving around the world at the command of Christ has been an excellent adventure. New foods, new friends, a new language, and new obstacles to daily living has kept me close to the Lord and assured that apart from him I can do nothing, particularly when it comes to catching the lizard who lives in my bathroom.
Whether I’m accidentally saying something inappropriate to a taxi driver in my broken language or burning yet another attempt at a local cuisine, life is beautiful, messy, challenging, and absolutely sanctifying in this new home. Having precious friends who are committed to holding the ropes makes it possible to stay connected to the body of believers I love at home while investing in those who we’re praying will join the family of faith here.
In a Place Like South Asia, There Are Anything But Small Updates
Just this evening, a few hours before sitting down to write this, my roommate and I went prayer walking out in our neighborhood. We came across a young couple, started a conversation, and after hearing about their new business venture, offered to pray to Jesus for its success. Without any prompting, the woman said, “Hmm. My family is Hindu, but I’ve always wanted to go to church. Will you take me?”
The Lord was not messing around when he said in Luke 10:2 that “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” If we are a church committed to sending laborers into this harvest, then we need to be a church committed to holding the ropes for those who are sent. I will always be grateful that my Advocacy Team Leaders stepped up to grab hold of mine.
Mercy Hill is committed to sending our best and caring well for our sent out ones. To become part of our Missionary Advocacy Teams, sign up for our Missionary Care Training on December 1-2 by clicking here.
Before attending Mercy Hill Church, I thought that mission trips only involved groups of people heading to Haiti to build as many houses as they could in a short period of time. I never thought that it may involve being “sent out” to different corners of the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ. My team and I were fortunate enough to travel to the incredible city of Bangkok, Thailand.
Our mornings were spent doing prison ministry and our evenings were spent teaching English at the Baptist Student Center. My favorite day involved attending the women’s prison, where we bonded with inmates through ice-breaker games, shared personal testimonies and a message from the Bible, and prayed over the women. This was the structure we followed for our time there but at the boys’ juvenile detention center, I was responsible for sharing my own story.
I am not generally one to talk about myself–let alone what I was like before, during, and after dedicating my life to Jesus–so standing in front of 50+ boys, all of whom spoke Thai and were covered in tattoos, made me nervous. I heavily relied on God to keep me standing and mask the speed at which my hands were shaking in order to get through it. After I finished, I looked at the boys and was reminded that although I am a white girl from the United States, our lives are related because we all came from the same God.
Another incredible experience was visiting a refugee prison, where people were imprisoned because they outstayed their visas from Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The only time these individuals were allowed to leave their cells was when people like us went in as a group and called them out to talk with us by name. During this hour of reprieve, we got to hear their stories and pour the Gospel into their lives. Some of the people had fled their home countries for being Christians and were working from the inside to help those who felt discouraged and hopeless after being behind bars for going to drastic measures to flee their home countries.
At night, we helped students practice their English by having simple conversations and explaining why we had traveled across the world to teach English. We had unforgettable conversations with many different people–some Christians, but many Buddhists as well.
Through this experience, I learned that the Lord’s plans are far greater than anything we can picture and we just have to continue chasing after Him to see how He wants to use us while we’re on this earth. If you told me five years ago I would head to Greensboro, New York City, and Bangkok to tell strangers that Jesus is the Way and the Truth, I would have laughed at you.
Additionally, Thailand needs your prayers. After experiencing everything first-hand, I have a newfound appreciation for the people of Thailand and the amazing full-time missionaries. I long for the chance to go back, but until then, I will talk about it as much as possible, so people see the global need for Jesus. My biggest takeaway from this summer was learning how to be bold with strangers across the world so that I might be even bolder with family and friends.
— Olivia Young (City Project Student)
This summer a Mercy Hill City Project team traveled to Greece to work in a refugee camp alongside the Harter family. You can read a previous post from one student’s perspective on the trip here. In this post, read the Harters’ take on the trip.
You’ve seen them in the movies; the discovery of an alternate reality or another dimension, or some kind of time travel that causes a strange shift in the world as we know it; a shift for the worse. Our family experienced this firsthand.
We traveled to a place that was very similar to one of these dystopian realities. A place where wealth doesn’t determine your lot in life. A place where sharing a room with a dozen other people crammed wall-to-wall is the norm, even if it was designed for only 6 people. A place where eating nothing but rice, cheese, and beans prepared in various ways twice a day is considered nutritious. A place where one liter of water per person on a day topping out around 95-100 ˚F (35-38 ˚C) is “enough”. A place where dangerous riots and fires can and do happen at any time due to the high tensions of so many people in such a small place. A place that is surrounded and divided by high fences with razor wires. A place that cannot be completely comprehended until you are standing in the middle of it. This alternate reality was at the Moria immigrant camp on Lesvos Island in Greece. And this reality is duplicated in dozens, if not hundreds, of other locations around the world.
Our family and a small team from Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro, NC spent two weeks working in Moria camp in July. The Greek government relies on a private volunteer organization, which schedules 25+ volunteers a day to keep the camp running and organized. It is job that seemingly should be done by the Greek or EU government. We did things like general repairs, tent building, food distribution, gate monitoring, garbage collecting, housing coordination, census taking, guiding or carrying people to the doctor, and pretty much anything else that was needed. We also had the opportunity to talk to the people in the camp and listen to their struggles of leaving their war torn countries with the hopes of a better and safer life for their family. We also shared our own stories and the hope that we’ve found in Jesus.
The people coming to Moria are from all over the Middle East, Africa, and beyond. The last unofficial count in May showed that over 40 countries were represented by immigrants in Moria. They come by boat illegally from Turkey or are sent across by smugglers who charge around $1000 per person.
The people from Syria are clearly the ones that are being granted asylum and “refugee” status quicker than anyone else due to their ongoing civil war that has no clear or easy solution. The Syrians coming now are more and more women, children, and families as opposed to the prior influx of mainly single men. They arrive in shock, are taken to a temporary camp near the beach for dry clothes, food, and water, and are then taken by bus to the Moria camp. There they are put into a large tent that holds up to 100 people in bunks for a day or two in order to be processed and seen by a doctor. After that, the volunteer organization, EuroRelief, helps get them into housing where they’re added to already full iso-boxes (like shipping containers with doors and windows) or tents. They’re given a sleeping bag, a mat, a blanket, a bag of hygiene items and a set of clothes to get them started.
From there it is a long process of waiting and hoping and more waiting. Each immigrant individual or family group has an interview to determine if they qualify for asylum. This process for some can take months. And for many, they are rejected and told that they have to go back to their home country. This is especially true for some of the African countries that are considered “safe” and has been the cause of some of the riots: the apparent inequality of how people from different countries are treated. And it is true–some nationalities are given higher priority–but how else could it be done when there are such differences in why people are trying to immigrate to Europe? There really appears to be no perfect answer or way to handle the situation. Nonetheless, we were not there to provide answers, only to provide immediate love and support for people who have had their worlds turned upside down in a very short period.
What we saw in this alternate reality is that our daily struggles, concerns for well-being, health, and security are nothing in comparison to the daily lives of these people. It was a hard place to be. Just seeing the difficulty and despair and comparing that to our personal lives was overwhelming. However, we also witnessed great joy and happiness. We saw kids laughing and playing in relative safety. We observed mothers who were so thankful to be off a dangerous boat, escaping untold dangers, and who were just happy to have a place to sleep with their children.
Toward the end of our time there, we got to see a mother and two children, who had been hospitalized with scabies earlier in the week, move past their first major hurdle as they were transported to Athens to continue their journey to Sweden. We experienced something that was dangerous, beautiful, ugly, hard, and joyful all at the same time. Why? Because we believe that God called us to be at that place at that specific time. It wasn’t because we are special and more empathetic than other people. We did it out of obedience and love and because we can see the love that God has for us–and it is enough for us to share with others.
For more information on Gene & Melissa’s ministry in Europe and how to partner with them, click here
My name is Kirk Needham, and I have been attending Mercy Hill Church for a little over a year now. Last February I was talking to some friends about my interest in going international to do mission work. After talking with them, they referred me to a thing called “City Project.” City Project is an 8-week mission trip through Mercy Hill where you get to spend a week in New York City, 4 weeks in Greensboro, and then 2 weeks internationally.
For the international part of City Project, I got to go to Peru. Going into this trip, myself and the five others that were going with me did not know what to expect. The only thing we had were the stories from a few people that went before us in past years. However, it seemed like everyone’s stories about Peru were different. We didn’t know what part of Peru we would be staying in, what we would be doing while we were there, what the weather would be like, or what we needed to take with us. We found out four days before we left that we were going to be teaching English and abstinence at schools in the mountainous jungles to a people group called the Yanesha. Still, there were so many things we did not know about the trip so we really had to have faith in the Lord and know that He would provide.
Once we landed in Peru, we took a ten-hour bus ride through the Andes Mountains. The landscape and scenery was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Being able to see God’s creation and how he had strategically placed things was really cool. We saw animals and birds that you only get to see in movies. We were able to stay in the jungle for ten days visiting schools in three different villages.
Each day we would teach classes from 8-1:30, go get lunch, and then come back to the school and play games with the students in the area.
My Biggest Takeaway
One of the biggest takeaways for me was being able to see how people in a third world country went about their daily lives. I now feel so blessed to have the life that I do. It is a blessing to have food on the table every night, clean and safe water to drink, and electricity among many other things. The first Sunday we were there, we spent the entire day traveling; but on the second Sunday, we actually got to visit a church in the area. Being able to go to that service was amazing. It lasted over four hours because the people there did not want us to leave. People from miles away walked just to be there with us that day. Being able to see what God has done with that small church and the pastors leading the church was very encouraging.
The World is Hungry for the Word
On the ten-hour bus ride back down the mountains, we all looked back and felt comfort in the visible work that the Lord has been doing in Peru and the experience we were able to go through. In just two weeks, we were able to see multiple people come to Christ and surrender everything to the Lord. Many people in Peru believe in spirits and other forms of magic, which oftentimes leaves people living in fear. Because of this, it was exciting for them to hear the gospel because that meant they wouldn’t have to live in fear and could have comfort in the Lord. Looking back, I am able to see how open people are to the gospel and how badly they want to hear the Word–they just need people like us to come and share. That opportunity is the only thing stopping them from becoming Christians, so the responsibility falls on those of us who are already Christians to go spread the Word and bear fruit. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about doing something like this—whether going to Peru or another country—to just do it. Even starting here in the United States is significant! There are people all around the world that need to hear the gospel.
— Kirk Needham (City Project Student)
When it comes to short-term mission trips, a driving conviction we hold is to do short-term trips with the long-term in view. When it comes to short-term mission trips, a driving conviction we hold is to do short-term trips with the long-term in view.
“Can short-term teams really maximize long-term ministry?” was a question recently raised by Carlos and Meredith Block, our long-term field partners who live in Peru. This year, Mercy Hill has sent two short-term teams, one short-term intern, and will send another team in September to work with them. Read how the Block’s answer their own question in their most recent newsletter:
Our answer is YES, but ministry effectiveness is directly related to several factors:
• Pre-trip preparation: Communication with team on site, praying together, getting to know one another, preparing to teach, and planning outreach events sets teams up for effective ministry.
• Attitude: An attitude of service and flexibility focused on long term relationships and goals is the “being” behind the “doing.”
• Ministry: Trusting the Lord and giving Him the glory in all things (even scary and uncomfortable situations) can yield fruit that will last.
Three teams have joined us since we wrote two months ago, and two more are on the way! These friends demonstrated the above qualities, and as the Lord worked, great things happened.
Mercy Hill Church
Mercy Hill (NC) team visited an indigenous school. Casey, John, Caroline and Jack came well prepared to teach in K-12 for four days. Students heard the Genesis-Jesus story, as well as learning their colors in English. The week ended with a pinning ceremony for class officers, a special school supplies gift for each student, and a trip to the river.
Northeast Bible Church
Part of the Northeast Bible team (TX) built the second floor on the first training center building, while others shared in schools, with local women’s groups, and kids’ clubs. They had a special opportunity to visit a community affected by recent flooding. The team was overwhelmed by their hospitality and encouraged them in their rebuilding process.
Mercy Hill – City Project
Mercy Hill’s City Project College Team served for ten days in three high schools, sharing about Biblical Sexuality and using English to build bridges. They had the unique opportunity to be a part of Achievement Day as indigenous students shared what they’d learned this semester. This was yet another opportunity to plant more seeds and pray for future fruit.
How have teams helped us?
• In Numbers: There are only two of us at the moment! Teams bring new faces, energy, and opportunities to introduce our indigenous friends to believers both from the US and other parts of Peru giving a broader picture of the body of Christ.
• Reaching Children: Teams who work with youth show their love by spending time with them, having fun and sharing truth.
• Encouragement: The indigenous often feel isolated and invisible, but when visitors come, they feel encouraged and affirmed, and their hospitality shines.
• Reaching High schoolers: “You attract what you are.” Younger testimonies of salvation and life with Christ have a unique impact in school settings. Women connect with women, as do the men on the construction site.
• Mobilizing Prayer: As the Brooke Fraser song says, “now that I have seen, I am responsible.”
• Strengthening the Indigenous Church: All of this outreach is planting seeds to mobilize the indigenous church to extend His Kingdom.
Are you next?
Mercy Hill is committed to sending teams and individuals to partner with the Blocks to make disciples among the indigenous people of Peru. It’s not too late for women of Mercy Hill to go with us as we train and encourage the indigenous natives this September.
— Bryan Miller (Connections/Missions Director)
To close out our summer doing City Project–an 8-week long internship and training series designed to teach college students how to share the gospel and make disciples–we headed out on our international trips and my team was headed for India!
After over a full day of travel, we finally arrived and began embracing the culture we were going to be a part of for two weeks. Lots of things were new and different: the food was spicier (so spicy one of our team members got 4 nosebleeds while we were there), the cows roamed free all through the street, and there seemed to be no rules when it came to driving. Even though we were thousands of miles away from home, two things were the same, and always will be the same no matter where we go: God’s desire to seek and save the lost and His power to do so.
I had never been a part of any kind of international missions trip before and when I think about my perspective before going to India, I see now that I didn’t fully understand God’s global mission. Until we went to India I unconsciously viewed God as the “God of the United States,” not as the God of the universe. But the truth is there is no difference in God’s power when it comes to saving me or saving an Indian woman. We are both just as dead in our sins and in equally desperate need of a savior.
We explored the city on our first full day, which brought us to the largest Muslim mosque in Asia. We joined a group of about 15 Hindu girls and our leader, Greta, quickly moved the conversation in a spiritual direction. Before I knew it, she said, “Madison, do you want to share with them what we believe?” I was totally thrown off guard but this is what the entire summer had prepared me for, so I shared the gospel with them. Being our first day and first encounter, it really gave me the confidence I needed to share with any woman I came into contact with over the next two weeks. We would later visit museums, temples, malls, and parks–seeking out people to talk to and share with.
Each morning we took turns leading devotions for our team and when it was my turn, I shared Psalm 40, which is probably my favorite passage in the Bible. I really harped on verse 10 which says “I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.” I said that when we get on the plane to go home, when our two weeks there were finished, I wanted us to be able to look back and confidently declare this verse over our time in India–that we held nothing back and shared the gospel every chance we got. This verse became our marching orders and spurred us on to do just that. By the grace of God, our team shared with over 100 people, most of whom had never heard the gospel before. Praise God!
Before this trip, my view of God wasn’t big enough. After hearing of the miracles He is doing in India, I know now that my prayers weren’t big enough either. We claim to believe in a God who is all-powerful, but if we don’t pray or act as if He is, we aren’t viewing Him rightly and we’re robbing Him of glory He deserves. Not only is God moving in mighty ways in India, but He was also moving through the other City Project teams in Peru, Greece, Thailand, and Spain.
God desires to make disciples of all nations, and we’re called in Matthew 28 to go and join Him on this mission. I can do that on my college campus and I can do that in another country. The stories we have from our time abroad are endless, but the common theme between them all is simply this: God is the faithful, loving, all powerful Creator of the universe and He is moving.
— Madison Yates (City Project Student)
At first, when we got the assignment for Greece, we were a little bummed. Our initial thoughts were “Oh great, a trip to Europe. I thought missions was supposed to be hard?” The ego of a 20-something is a beautiful thing, is it not? But when we were told that we’d be working in a refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, it felt like we would be doing real missions. We were educated on the refugee crisis as much as possible by the partnering missionaries there and told to be flexible, seeing as how we had little to no expectations of what we would experience on arrival.
We partnered with Greater European Mission, which operates under the umbrella of Euro Relief, to serve in the camp. Euro Relief is one of the only Christian organizations left working in the overpopulated prison-turned-refugee-camp that has not lost funding. To understand the overall climate inside, imagine a place surrounded by tall fences with barbed wire, guarded gates, exhausted living space, limited funds, volunteer laborers, and desperate people. And amidst this difficult environment exist people who represent every race/ethnicity, political belief, status of wealth, and religion all squeezed onto an island recovering from economic collapse and slow asylum processes. Regardless, this is where Christ had called us to go as his hands and feet.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’” “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew25: 35-36& 40
Our days were broken up into 8-hour shifts where we would pass out basic needs like food, clothing, and means of shelter. Much of our time was also spent monitoring the different section gates to make sure the right people got to the right places, but the language barriers made it difficult to communicate, so we did our best to learn what we could of Arabic, Farsi, French, and Kurdish. Seeing the desperation in a mother’s eyes in need of formula for her child, families sleeping on top of each other in a tent, a man in need of a blanket on a chilly night, or the clever bartering of children to get more food didn’t require a common language to be understood. But even with all of this, it was there at the gates that we built relationships and had spiritual/gospel conversations.
Carefully we began talking about Christ and the message of reconciliation in this majority-Muslim, male population. There could be no record of our conversations or the Greek military could remove Euro Relief from serving the people, which would leave the people without any long-term missions organizations. In two conversations with two different men, we could see the work God was doing in Lesvos. One man who had landed on the conclusion that his labor for Allah would be enough to guarantee his paradise still conversed with us for an hour over the holes in his eternal hopes. The other man openly prayed in the wee hours of the morning with one of the City Project interns asking to learn more about Jesus. Praise God! Lastly, on our second Sunday, we prayed for God to move in Greece and got the chance to worship among the people in an off-site church. We sang in French and Arabic, which was such a taste of heaven.
These explicit glimpses of how God is in control of the refugee crisis sustained us in moments where it felt hopeless. On a day when we were not in the camp, we visited what is known as the “life jacket graveyard” in the neighboring town of Molyvos. In this landfill lay thousands of life jackets, boats, rubber boats, and tires refugees had used to make the dangerous cross by night from Turkey. Suddenly we could see a visual representation of all the heartbrokenness and depravity that had come from this war; how the side effects of sin had brought so much pain; and how our own sin was no better than the sin that had led to this crisis. Looking at those piles of rubble was like staring in our own hearts. In that moment I was grateful for a Savior who has the power to save those who had caused a lifejacket graveyard to exist in the same way that He can save me.
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11:16
Psalm 46 was the scripture we held onto in the many moments of grief. Through ethnic riots, evacuations, fires, ambulance rides, and other difficult moments, we were reminded that our God is sovereign and we were encouraged to see Euro Relief so strategically placed, acting as the hands and feet of Jesus.
Was it safe? No! But it is where we were called to go and I hope we will continue to go to hard places so that Christ may be glorified.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress (10-11).”