Coming home after a life-changing experience serving in Greece


By Halle Smith, Go Now missionary and student at The University of Texas at Tyler

During the seven days we were in the refugee camp in Greece, we helped out quite a bit. Some of the things we did were help house people, distribute food three times a day, distribute clothing and blankets to new arrivals, and clean out tents for new people to move into them.

There are many stories that could capture the essence of the work my team and I did during our journey to the camp. A big part of me didn't want to write about my journey to the Greek island or about while I was in the camp; thinking about it makes my heart ache and tears well up in my eyes.

Not many people think a lot can happen in the span of seven days or even within eight hours on a shift, but God changed my life and my heart in exactly that time.

When people think of Greece, they often think of beautiful hills and mountains, clear water, and amazing food and culture. When I think of Greece, all I see is the life-changing work of the camp and the people in it.

I see the Afghan children running up to grab my legs to get a hug with huge smiles as they say “hello” to me for quite possibly the fifteenth time that day. I see the women shedding their head wraps so that I can brush and braid their beautiful long hair at Women's Day. I see them gather in the middle of the room to dance and sing to their heart's content.

I see and hear the men yell, "Halle, my friend! How are you today?" with the biggest smiles on their faces. I see and hear people who are living in one of the saddest situations smile and laugh more than anyone I've ever met. They risked everything they had to leave their home or family to travel in a boat in the freezing cold.

Some didn't make it because of the coast guard, or in some cases death. Yet, they still smile and laugh. They still persevere. They still have hope.

There is no way for me to put into words everything that happened in those seven days I was in the camp, but I can give you some words that gave me the courage to leave. God is very present in the camp and He has not abandoned the people in it. The living situations are not ideal, and some days the electricity doesn't work and it gets very cold at night.

Some days they don't get the option to shower because the tickets have run out. Sometimes water soaks the inside of their tents because the tarps aren't enough. Some days it's just hard.

But God is there. If He has taught me one thing from this journey, it is that there are people out there with big hearts who can teach you more than you can teach them. I went across the world to serve refugees and instead I was served.

I couldn't understand a single word they said sometimes, but the amazing thing about my God is that He is in no way limited to words or writing on paper. I didn't verbally share the Gospel one time on this journey, but the Lord has made it known to me that Gospel was being spread in abundance. It hurt very much to leave that camp, but in the words of Brenda Sanders, "I think it can take more faith to leave than to go. Before you left it was just a place. Now it is faces, names, stories, and people. Now you must have faith that God will continue to care for them as you have."

I firmly believe that He is doing just that. God changed me while I was over there in that my view of people changed. Before going, I was a girl who grew up in a town of 400 people and who lived in the Bible belt. My view of the world was very limited to America, and even Texas. But God showed me that we are not the only children of God and that He is everywhere in every culture.

God calls us to love everyone, and I want you to know that I got to experience the good in them. They are beautiful and wonderful people.

I pray that you get as much encouragement from this as I did and I pray that God will be with you. Please continue to pray for the refugees in the camps in Greece. More boats and more people arrive every single day. There are 6,000 people in camps right now and that is over capacity, so housing them and providing clothing for them is getting more difficult.

They need your prayers. God hears every word and He acts on them. Also, please pray for me as I get accustomed to being home again. It has honestly been very hard dealing with leaving them and coming home.  

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