This morning I was thinking of my trip to Greece. Three and a half months ago I boarded a plane and went on a crazy adventure. It seems so long ago, but almost as if it was yesterday as well. How strange to think of who I was then. My first international missions trip. My second time out of Canada. I was so frightened when I got on that plane and flew away. I had never done anything like it before and I am a shy and quiet sort of person. I love being at home and with my family, and here I was leaving them! It hurt so much to say goodbye to them all, even though I knew it was only for a short time.
I’m glad I went. It was one of the most difficult, most rewarding, life-changing things I’ve done. I was so unprepared for anything and everything and I had to depend on God in a way I never had before. I was completely out of my depth and felt like I was a failure, but how much greater was God in those moments! ‘He will never leave you nor forsake you.’ I had to lean into that truth and find my strength in Him. I certainly had none of my own! The only place I wanted to be was at home, but I was far, far away from there.
As I look out the window at the greening grass, tiny leaves coming out on the trees, and the beautiful blue sky I am struck at how different it looks here than in Greece. It was beautiful there, but nothing like Alberta’s countryside! Familiarity. Greece was so very different and I craved something familiar. This sounds like I didn’t enjoy my trip, but I really did. I was just so far from everything I knew that I felt as if I was adrift. I guess I was able to relate more with the refugees in that feeling. They too are adrift, out of their depth and comfort zone. I was going to be going home, though, at the end of my trip. I would arrive in Canada, go home to my family, and be safe and comfortable once again. Not these people. They no longer have a home, many have lost family members and they long for a place to be safe.
I think of the many people I saw at the refugee camp. Faces weary from travel and fear. The longing for a place to call home and a place to be safe again. The hope in their eyes as they talked about the place they had heard was paradise: Germany. I can’t help but wonder how many of them have arrived in Germany. How many have been told there is no room for them and they must go back to Greece? I cannot imagine their grief. I wish there was something I could do. I can see their faces in my mind’s eye, the faces of their children. I prayed that I would never forget them. I do not want to forget what I saw and heard. Seared in my memory I can see them still. So tired, so afraid, so full of hope for the future.
I did not come back the same. I am a different person. My eyes were opened to the heartbreak of the refugees. I grew in my faith and dependence on God. I learned more about the person I am and became more confident. Sometimes I wonder if this trip that God called me to was more for me than for the refugees. I learned and changed so much in that short week. I was only a small part in the refugees’ journey, but it made an impact on them and a huge impact on me. It was life-changing.