Athens Week…. Helping a church that is helping refugees

Ten of us visited Athens in Early February for a week to help out with the refugee crisis there.

There are many charities and organisations helping the thousands who have become stuck there since the borders into Europe closed. We worked with a church there, hosted by their members, to see what they do and how we could help.

Our job was to support them in the work that they do week in, week out.

Piraeus

Everyday many refugees arrive at the immigration office in Piraeus, some have travelled for hours to queue for many more. They are making their applications to help them to either officially stay in Greece or move further into Europe to be reunited with family members. The church provides childcare facilities within the building in order  to relieve the parents for a few hours, to spare the children the trauma of reliving the stories as the parents go through events for the authorities and to share some love with them, as they play, read stories and generally interact with them. Three of us went everyday and took over the running of this facility under the supervision of Kaye & Dyah.

The Warehouse

Ellinikon Airport was Athens main airport 1938 – 2001 when it was replaced by the new Athens International. It is now home to a massive warehouse run by volunteers who collect food, clothes, blankets etc. from all over the world and distribute it over Greece as required. The church sends volunteers out to help, we all visited here at least once and were able to help with unpacking donations and sorting/packing orders to go out.

The Hotel

 

City Plaza is a hotel which stood empty for many years until activists and refugees took it over. It now houses 400 refugees, who live in community. Read more about it here https://best-hotel-in-europe.eu/

The church often goes to cook a substantial meal for the residents and we were able to do this one evening. Headed up by an Arabic chef we helped make 1,000 meatballs, rice and salad. We prepared, served and washed up. It was challenging in an ill-equipped kitchen and after a full day’s work in the other places, but it was eye-opening and rewarding, and much appreciated by the residents.

The Church Centre

We also helped at the Church Centre. This building not only hosts the church meetings and the church offices, but a school, a warehouse and meeting facilities. Kelvin, Andy & Will did an amazing of job of painting and creating in the main entrance room to make a beautiful welcoming area. Some may feel that this doesn’t impact the refugees much, but by getting this work done and giving them a clean and bright place to work from they have helped increase the output from the team working there.

The Gypsy Camp

We also visited a Gypsy camp. Two churches work together to bring love to this settlement of about 1000 people.  They visit regularly doing activities with the children, taking a few snacks, building relationships and sharing some gospel stories. Through the relationship building they are able to offer lots more. They have taken a medical and dental team in and are shortly taking a team to carry out a vaccination programme. We just got a glimpse of these precious people as we joined in with the activities.

To Summarise

We heard some harrowing stories from families hoping to be reunited, and we saw how people are living, some are losing hope, but some are looking to the future. The Church is sharing the love of Jesus in practical ways. They do not proselytise, they just love and serve and are seeing Jesus build His church as He said He would.

We just saw a tiny part of what is going on, and did the minutest things to help, but we are pleased to have been, all of us took something away. It was something completely different, taking us out of our comfort zones. We have a very privileged life here while people living there are in dire need and that really makes you think.

Lots of help is needed, we hope to do some fundraising events to support the work of the church, some of us (and some of you) may visit again one day. We feel very blessed to have been there.

PS we also had lots of fun and laughter together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lauren Coates wrote the following poem whilst over in Athens serving these people.

No running water,
No bricks for a home,
No clean clothes,
And feeling alone,

Through the smile,
There was a broken soul,
With desperate eyes,
And a heart un-whole,

Their skin so damaged,
And unclean,
Only matted hair,
Could be seen,

Being abused,
And taken out in the night,
The children, unwell,
Such a desperate sight,

But when all brought together,
And enabled to play,
The smiles on their faces,
Came out for the day,

They coloured, made jewellery,
Sang songs all together,
And brought warmth to the room,
Despite the cold weather,

Though to witness,
It’s so heartbreaking,
It’s important to smile,
Even if you’re faking,

For they do not need,
The added sadness,
They need to be filled,
With hope and gladness,

They need for love,
To them to be shown,
And just to know,
That they’re not alone