Reflections on Refugees

Lauren Graham first shared her reflection of serving at a refugee camp with STAMP Greece on a Sunday evening at College Church.

 Lauren (right) with teammates Lucy West (center) and Brittany Fellowes (left) outside Moria.

Lauren (right) with teammates Lucy West (center) and Brittany Fellowes (left) outside Moria.

I had the privilege of serving on the STAMP Greece team last month. God blessed us with an amazing team as we headed to the Island of Lesvos to work at Moria, a refugee camp holding more than 2,200 people, and where living conditions are extremely poor.  Each day at Moria, we could either help with clothing, housing and distributing tea and soup or spending time on the family compounds. To give a little more context, Moria was formerly a prison that the government turned into a refugee camp. There is barbed wire everywhere at the camp, and it tends to still feel like a prison at times.

We weren’t sure what to expect, but what we encountered was a lot of beautiful people who had endured immense pain and suffering. The stories our friends shared with us were heartbreaking and demonstrated a lot of vulnerability. We all heard stories we will never forget, and my unforgettable story is of a young man I met at Moria. 

Adnan is a 19-year-old Syrian boy, who was on his own by age 14 and by age 16 had been recruited into the Syrian army. After two years of service, he had watched many friends and family members die. He was not allowed to go to school, and anywhere he went in his town, he was constantly on the lookout for snipers, always living in fear. He chose to flee to Turkey, where he was beaten and thrown in jail. He then made his way to Greece by boat where he was taken to Moria, and for the first time in his life, he slept without fear of being killed in the middle of the night. 

When I met Adnan, I asked him how long he had been in Moria. He said, “108 days.” As we continued to talk, I couldn’t help but hope he was a Christian. His character, actions and speech reflected Christ, but I couldn’t be sure and Christians are definitely the minority in the camp.  Still, he had a gentle spirit. He was slow to anger, he was a peacemaker in the camp and he was thankful to be in Moria. He was thankful for food, clothes and shelter. I continued to ask questions hoping and praying that his faith would come up since our instructions were to demonstrate Christ in and through our actions and to only share our faith if asked. I was amazed as he answered all of my questions in pretty good English, considering it is only one of five languages he knows.

When I asked him what he learned from his journey and his time in Moria, he replied, “My entire life changed during my four months in Moria. I learned how to have peace, I learned how to be a man, I learned how to be thankful that God brought me here. I learned how to help, how to love children. I learned how to feel, and I learned how to be friends with everyone. Before in Syria, I lost a lot of my friends; I was always sad and angry. But when I came to Moria, I saw the volunteers, and I saw how they loved people, how they helped them, how they loved children and played with them all the time. I learned many things from Moria.”

I then took the opportunity to ask him what he learned about God through his experience, and I asked him what God he served. Adnan answered, “I believe in Jesus and God; I am a Christian. I know that God brought me to Moria to meet more people, and he protected me from war and changed my life. Jesus, he died for us; his blood went down, down, down on the cross, for us.  When they would hit him, he would forgive them. I didn’t know how to forgive, but since I’ve come to Moria, I can forgive everyone now.”

He went on to explain that he had wanted to learn about the Bible so he studied it for three years when he lived in Syria. After studying the Bible and the Koran, he decided that he wanted to follow Jesus because, in Adnan’s words, “Jesus had peace and good things, and everything was forgiven. It is not important what you have, because he says, "I am the bread of life, if you eat from me, you won’t be hungry; if you drink from me, you will never be thirsty.”   

Praise the Lord! He is at work. Through war, turmoil and pain, The Lord is bringing the lost to him.  People are being displaced and fleeing their homes, but God is using this as an opportunity for refugees to interact with Christians and to see the difference that Christ makes. It was truly a blessing to be able to be some of the Christians they interacted with as we strove to love our neighbors and to be the hands and feet of Jesus. 

It is really difficult to think that our friends are still Moria, unsure of where they will be next, but it is encouraging to hear how some of them have seen a difference in the volunteers, and how God is drawing them to himself through these experiences. Pray for our friends in Moria and for all of the refugees around the world. Adnan knows Jesus,, but my heart remains heavy for the many who have yet to respond to Christ. They are people just like us, and they need Jesus, just like we do.