Today was a pardon me as I go sit in a corner and cry kinda day.
After being told (signed) “God is watching you, you can go to hell.” by a very angry Arabic man, I escaped into the New Arrivals cage, slumped down in the doorway, and allowed myself 5 minutes for my emotions to liquify and escape. I may be an anomaly, but somehow I have gone 31 years without ever being told to go to hell. But it wasn’t actually about my feelings being hurt or my pride being bruised. It was about the news article I read this morning informing the world that nine more Iraqi citizens have drowned trying to cross the Aegean sea to reach these shores. The realization that the three boatloads of refugees we received yesterday (and I was housing today) were actually supposed to be four. It was about the shock of seeing a 19-year-old girl have a seizure and the 60-year -old British doctor I retrieved to help her informing me that he has never volunteered anywhere as bad as Moria. It was about the helplessness I felt when doing my job and trying to move three deaf/mute men out of what has been their shelter for the past three months and into an unprotected tent in camp. Their neighbors rallied around them-
“Can’t you see their deaf?”
“Can’t you understand their situation? They are safe here, if a fight breaks out in camp how will they hear it? How will they defend themselves?”
“How can they get food out there? They cannot speak!”
I was well aware of all these things, as was my supervisor who assigned me the task of moving them.
Everything inside of me wanted to let them be, my compassion for them matched that of the Ethiopian woman who slept in the bunk beside them and could sign/interpret for them. It matched that of everyone coming to their defense and pleading their case for them, but unfortunately, this is the reality of the camp. It’s actually this over-crowded, where being deaf/mute is not enough of a reason to allow them to remain in the New Arrivals area any longer. New people pour in almost every day, and space is actually this limited that these men have no choice but to move into the main area of camp.
After an hour of broken communication, and the men’s continual refusal to pack up and come with me, I eventually had to get the Greek police to escort them from their bunks and out of New Arrivals into the camp. When we were about half-way to the info center (where I was bringing their paperwork in order to get them registered for a place to live), they just stopped walking, grabbed their box of belongings out of my hand, refused to go any further, sat down on the side of the road, and told me where I could go. I had no choice but to mark “housed” on their papers, even though technically they have nowhere to sleep tonight, and I had to leave them there to fend for themselves.
So right now I am laying in the comfort and safety of my bed, but I just keep wondering where they are going to sleep tonight. I wrestle with the fact that I am representing Christ to these Muslim men, but all they see in me is a harshness and lack of compassion for their situation. I wish I could let them stay in the safety of what has been their home these past three months. I wish I could shorten the wait list of the section of camp which hosts vulnerables and special needs. I wish I could speak sign language to truly communicate how much I care and understand their concerns. But I can’t.
Week 2 has been so much more than I can handle, and yet I find myself attached to the camp and these people in a way that is hard to explain.
Walking these streets I have to constantly remind myself that Jesus is faithful, sovereign, and trustworthy. I don’t necessarily feel this way when I hear tragic stories, see way too many families living in a single tent, or stare down at the wet shoes of people straight off a rubber boat. But to the core of who I am I believe it, and I am trying hard to not see God through the lens of how awful Moria is, but Moria through the lens of who I know God to be. I struggle to see his salvation at work here, but then I look at these volunteers from
America, Sweden, Germany, South America, etc and I think, “Oh there you are Jesus!” (In the voice of Thud Butt from Hook, of course ).