On the Wednesday half of our team was supposed to go out to Skala Sykamineas (the refugee camp) to work. The other half of the team was going to go out later that day to replace us. Unfortunately the weather was too bad to go out; snow was coming down quite heavy (for Greece, it was nothing compared to winter weather in Canada) and it was dangerous to be out driving. The refugee camp was about an hour and half away from where we were staying. Eight of us from the team were planning to go out at three in the afternoon for a 24 hour shift instead of the two shifts of 8 hours each. There would be less driving that way, as they would only go out once. Once again, though, plans changed. That was one thing I learned about Greece, plans and time are fluid! Never make rock solid plans, because they will probably change. The weather was so bad by the afternoon that no one was leaving Skala Sykamineas and no one was going out. Every time we heard we couldn’t go to camp there was disappointment, but I kept feeling that God had other plans for us. Maybe we were there to pray. Praying is not worth less than going out to the camp. God is good, and His ways are perfect. We just had to trust Him. I was having a hard time feeling like I should go to the camp. I didn’t feel scared or anxious about going. I just felt more like we were supposed to stay back.
Boats were still coming across from Turkey. I can’t imagine how awful that must have been. It was so cold that day, below zero at the camp with wind and snow. Those poor people were coming off the boats wet and in the wind it would have been freezing. We were told that in the last 45 minutes (after being told we weren’t going to camp) two boats had arrived on the beach. There were two deaths; one was a little four year old boy, and the other was a young woman. They died from hypothermia on the shore.
Our team decided to go to one of the rooms we were staying in and have a worship time. We didn’t want to just be like tourists while we weren’t at the refugee camp, we wanted to do something worthwhile. We prayed for those stuck out at the camp (there were people there who had just been touring the camp and became trapped there because of the weather), the refugees who were arriving, the organizations working there, and the smugglers. It’s easy to be angry at the smugglers. They are placing thousands of people on boats that are not made for open sailing. So many people are dying because of the smugglers part in their journey. The smugglers are making incredible amounts of money at the painful cost of others. It’s absolutely horrible. I know others on the team were so angry at the smugglers, almost to the point of hate. Somehow I didn’t, and can’t, hate the smugglers. Whenever they come to mind I feel intense sorrow for them. They are so lost and blind. They do not know the saving grace of Christ and their hearts are hardened. It breaks my heart to think of them being so cruel to others and not seeing the reality of their actions. All they see is profit.
We prayed for everyone who came to mind. It was an emotional time, especially knowing that two people had just died. After our time of prayer we sang songs and read portions of the Bible. It was an incredible time of worshipping together, becoming closer, and learning to trust God even in the tough things. It was so good that we were able to pray for the whole situation going on. We were disappointed to be unable to go to Skala Sykamineas, but we used that time for something worthwhile. It was a time of refocusing and remembering that we were in Greece because God had called us there. Even though we weren’t doing what we had planned on, we were doing what God wanted us to do in that moment. And it was worth it.