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Jackie on our trip

Our 2012 ministry among refugees

What a gateway this country is to the nations! In just over two weeks here, we have met people from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Egypt, Eritrea, Comoros Islands, Poland, Romania, Turkey and Afghanistan.

Some had been here for ten years, others for only a few days. But the religious freedom in Greece meant open doors to tell everyone about Jesus, whereas in many of their countries we would not have such opportunity of find such openness among the people.

Our main role here was to gather information on the Afghan community there, but we had plenty of opportunity to interact with many wonderful people, and it was a pleasant surprise to discover how God is bringing the unreached peoples into places where we can reach them for His kingdom and glory. There are roughly 400 Afghan refugees entering Greece each day, more than 100,000 each year. Many hope to get to another country in the EU, but one source said that only 30-40% of them are able to leave Greece.

Before we left for Europe, I knew there were a lot of Afghans in the city we’d be in. But it’s a big city, could we find them?

Yet God put His people Israel in the perfect place to interact with the peoples from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. And He had no problem bringing Afghans and many other refugees and immigrants from closed nations to a country where His people are free to share His love for them. Although some may be scattered, many congregate in public places with an openness to learn and make new friends.

These are people in need. Some might have some money, but most have left their homes and everything they knew in search of a new life.

And what a great opportunity this creates for God’s people to walk them into the new life God has planned for them!

They need to learn about Jesus and be discipled. Ninety-nine percent of the Afghans are Muslim, but most seemed more culturally Muslim than religiously committed.

They need teachers. They want a future and hope for their children, but many don’t have the proper papers to attend Greek schools.

They would love to learn English. Most of them are hoping to leave Greece, and English can be used all over Europe.

They are eager to work. But the unemployment rate is 25% for Greeks, and over 60% for the refugees/immigrants here.

They need food, clothing, and shelter, as they were only able to bring what they could carry.

They need faith in Christ as they lose hope. Some have lost their life savings to dishonest smugglers, and Greek citizens generally resent them, the Greek government can’t help them and other European countries don’t want them.

I am so grateful for the Afghans I met; they are wonderful people facing an incredibly difficult time.

Most walked to Greece from Afghanistan, sometimes with long stays in Iran, although many now are being smuggled in by boat. This as far more dangerous, as boats designed for 5-6 people are often dangerously stuffed with up to 15 people and lives are lost in boating accidents as smugglers seek to evade detection.

I spoke to a lady who walked from Afghanistan with her 4 & 8 year old children—across three mountain ranges, one in Iran, one in Turkey and another to get into Greece.

I visited with a 16 year old girl who came  into Greece from Iran with only her younger brother. She said her dad was gone and her mom stayed in Iran. She is currently studying Greek in the mornings and English in the afternoons, she is very sharp and resourceful, but it is definitely sad to see her being forced to grow up quickly.

I enjoyed the company and warmth of so many of women that with could only communicate with by our smiles.

I was surprised to hear from a nineteen year old girl that her husband is an alcoholic and she was forced to raise her kids without him. She live with her parents, and has their help and support.

I enjoyed listening to some of the older Afghani ladies tell Joelle she is at an age where she should be married. One of them kept bringing a young man around, but he didn’t speak much English and Joelle doesn’t speak Dari, so it didn’t work out too well. (Joelle thinks she wants to get married young, so she enjoyed the encouragement.)

And what a joy and surprise it was to see Dana so comfortable being with the Afghan people. She made many friends and continues to email a young Afghan girl about her same age who speaks very good English (as well as Dari, Greek and Urdu). She told me she loves watching Indian movies on TV, and that’s how she learned Urdu.

The Afghans are very appreciative of the handful of churches and ministries here which are helping them with food and clothing, and in whatever other ways they can. And these Afghans are open to relationships with believers and with Jesus. God has led them to a place where they can be reached for His kingdom and glory, but there are so many of them and so few workers. Please pray with us for the Afghans, for those working among them, and for those God is raising up to go and work among them.


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