Don’t give up now

IMG_0672With over 19,000 POCs (people of concern) living in Moria camp on Lesvos, the crisis is further from resolution than ever before. The camp was designed to house just 3,000 refugees, but each day more people arrive on the island and can go nowhere else.

2019 saw around 75,000 refugees arrive in Greece with roughly 46,000 of those arriving on the Aegean islands. Lesvos received 27,148 of these arrivals – nearly double the number received in 2018.

The Greek government promised to move 20,000 refugees from the Aegean islands (Lesvos, Samos & Chios) before 2020, but 01/01/2020 arrived and there is still no evidence of any movements.

EuroRelief, the organisation co-ordinating the majority of day-to-day life in Moria (the largest camp on Lesvos), released this video in October. It gives a small taste of the horrific journeys the POCs endure to reach Lesvos and their experiences within the camp once they arrive. I would implore you to watch it (or save it for later if you are short on time).

The number of children in Moria has surpassed 6,500 – too many of these are unaccompanied minors who are some of the most vulnerable people in this crisis. Currently these children have the right to family reunification within the UK.
HOWEVER, as part of the Brexit Bill, the government is trying to scrap this legislation. PLEASE, if you live in the UK, follow this link and send an e-mail/letter to your MP to tell them that you support the reunification of children with their families – and then share this with your friends, family and colleagues so they can do the same. It will honestly take 2 minutes as the letter is pre-written and you can just press send!
We have until Wednesday 22nd January, when the bill will be voted on in the commons.

THANK YOU THANK YOU if you do send the letter!

Why now?

These POCs are ALWAYS important and should NEVER be forgotten. It’s been great to see a little more coverage in the news in recent months, however I wonder if this is just a sign of how awful the situation truly is.

In line with the increasing amount of support required in this crisis, I have decided to return to Lesvos this summer.  I received confirmation from EuroRelief yesterday that  I will be working for them again for the month of August. I am humbled to be offered this opportunity to serve the amazing people of Moria and see the incredible work that God is doing in this, the most desperate of situations.

Thanks for reading this brief update, and PLEASE continue to pray for those involved in this, watch EuroRelief’s video and email your MP,

Lots of love,
Esther

P.s. if you’d be interested in coming to Greece with me, do drop me a message – seriously!

[data source: https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/21942/ongoing-refugee-crisis-in-greece-set-to-continue-in-2020%5D

Greece: Seeking God in the silence

My time in Lesvos taught me a great many things; God still reveals new things to me daily. Entering through the camp gates of Moria felt like opening my eyes on a different world, not because of the rows of RHUs (refugee housing units), the multitude of different cultures, or the utter chaos, but because I was forced to see God in a way that I never had before. There was no evangelism, no powerful talks, no spirit-soaked worship sessions, and we were even banned from bringing Bibles into the camp.

Seeing God in a community where we couldn’t even offer to pray for the girls we were becoming friends with was hard. In the 6 months before going to Greece I had experienced the visible power of God more than ever before: I’d been to gatherings of thousands of Christians, done simple Gospel street evangelism in downtown LA, and sung worship songs at the top of my lungs in the Himalayas, but none of this had prepared me for God’s movement in Moria.

It is so much harder to see God in the chaos.

While I was in the camp I searched hard for God, praying each day that He would reveal Himself more to me each time I entered into Moria. Back in Mytilene, it was easier to see the Almighty One at work, I could recognise the familiar signs I had learned over the past months: the Spirit-filled meetings in the little church below the apartment, meeting local fishermen and talking to them about Jesus, and seeing God in the stunning beauty of the island. I could walk the streets of the city at 1am and feel God close at hand, yet sitting playing with a little child in Moria, I questioned where God was in all of it. During the day, I was a tourist on one of the most idyllic islands in the Mediterranean, by night I was testing my year 9 French bartering with Congans about whether I could house even more people in their overcrowded shelter. By day I was the girl who had seen the immense power of God healing, restoring, and much, much more across many nations in the past 5 months, by night I questioned where this ‘God of justice’ truly was. “God please, they need you,” were the pleas on my lips as I fell asleep after a long night’s shift.

“Please listen, God, and answer my prayer! I feel hopeless, and I cry out to you from a faraway land. Lead me to the mighty rock high above me. You are a strong tower, where I am safe from my enemies. Let me live with you forever and find protection under your wings, my God.”
-Psalm 61: 1-4

Seeing God in Moria was tough.

I would get through each day by being useful. After a few weeks at Moria, at the age of 19, I was even left in charge of housing new arrivals at the largest refugee camp on Lesvos, a daunting, but thrilling adventure. I felt needed. I didn’t have the time or mind-space to think of life outside Moria.

But you see, that’s just the thing: my life goes on, I AM outside Moria. Moria for me was an experience, a place of learning, a time of heartbreak. For the refugees, it is their home, their prison, their ‘punishment’. Arriving home after leaving the island, I was hit by this reality. I had suddenly awoken to the horrifying scenes I had witnessed, the tragic stories I had heard, and the desperation of the crisis that is now so deeply woven into my heart.

Being a Christian isn’t about having all the answer, being a Christian isn’t about having it all together. Telling people you’re a Christian isn’t announcing that you’re perfect, it’s announcing you’re a sinner and you know it, but that you know the one thing that can overcome your brokenness- the grace and love of God. I don’t pretend to know all the answers to all the questions I have, but I know one thing:

GOD IS GOOD.

Just a week after returning from Lesvos, I set off for a week at a youth camp to serve on the kitchen team. It was a week of healing and revelation for me; being given the space to process, and the incredible Christian community and fellowship, which has done so much for my faith over the years. I started the week asking the question “why did God even take me to Greece?”, and ended it with a heart of peace, and some answers to this question.

God has taught me to see beyond race, nationality and religion to the humanity behind the façade. He taught me to be humble and vulnerable in my brokenness, sharing with others my struggles, and in turn receiving prayer and encouragement leading to healing and restoration. God was my strength and my comfort on the days when I could hardly face leaving the camp, or returning to it. He taught me patience when it took five hours to house just one new arrival, and He taught me to find joy amongst the carnage. Putting washing up bowls on my back to be a turtle was a thousand times worth it as the shrieks of kids’ laughter rang out across the compound; the sweat dripping down my back was more than welcome when it meant I was playing volleyball with the ‘rebellious men’ from level 1. Personal humiliation was a small sacrifice for bringing a smile to someone’s face, but the best days were when these smiles were brought about by sharing testimonies of God’s goodness.

God was present every second I was in Moria. God is still present every second in Moria.

Looking back on my month away and being able to recognise God in every situation has been vital to being able to see God in the bigger picture. I am far from having all the answers, but of one thing I am certain: God is in control, He has this.

God spoke to me during sung worship one night at camp. The lyrics of the song “Sovereign Over Us” spoke a promise from Him:

There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand Your ways
Reigning high above the Heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You’re the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
And Your promises are my delight

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley, You are faithful
You’re working for our good
You’re working for our good and for Your glory

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

He is Sovereign over this crisis, He has not forgotten them and His plans are still to prosper.

How great is our God?