It was my first day working at Sikaminia, the transition camp run by Euro Relief on the island of Lesvos. I didn’t know what to expect, but I do know what I imagined- hundreds if not a thousand refugees walking through our gates.
We didn’t even see half that number. Only fifty refugees made the 10km journey from Turkey to Greece that day. It was a slow day at camp. I thought it was a blessing.
Only fifty people meant only a handful needed to cross the sea that day. Maybe, the end of the refugee crisis is in sight.
Only fifty people meant our team which had just arrived had time to learn the ropes and develop relationships with each other and those who have been on the island longer.
Only fifty people meant we had time to go deep instead of wide.
Certainly, a slow day at camp is what you hope for in the wake of trauma and disaster. Empty camps, isn’t that the goal? An end to this suffering.
Continuing under my faulty assumptions, I moved with a lilt in my steps. I squinted through the mist at the Turkish shore and imagined the snow-capped mountains and the shore lined forests the refugees trek through empty of sojourners.
I took extra time to learn about each station and job at the camp. I learned how to work efficiently and why each role is crucial.
I spent long hours asking questions, diving head first into relationships, discovering people’s stories. I wanted to know what brought them to work on Lesvos with this group at this time. I asked about their experiences and gleaned the things that had most touched and changed them.
I mentioned numerous times what a joy it was to have a slow day at camp. The more experienced volunteers simply shook their heads. They knew I would learn.
I lingered with the fifty refugees who entered our gates. I listened to their stories in English and through a complex game of charades. I played with the children. I sat with the mothers. I even had the chance to hear from a few of the men.
I went deep instead of wide.
Deep is good. But I still did not understand that time to go deep on Lesvos is not necessarily a good thing. I did not understand what a slow day at camp means. As the day progressed though, I learned. I discovered a hard truth about this refugee crisis.
The rest of this story is on Adventures in Missions Greece Refugee Crisis blog where I and others serving on Lesvos are sharing many of our stories. Please subscribe to learn more about what is happening in Greece and even more so, what God is doing through this crisis.