Monday, June 6, 2016

AN ESSAY ON GREECE

Recently, I had the immense privilege to spend two weeks in Athens, Greece. This, this blog post that seems to go on and on is my attempt to swim through my thoughts and share my experiences with you.

Photo courtesy of Zach Miles
Let me tell you a little about Greece. The country is in economic turmoil, and has been since 2010. If you want to get acquainted with that THIS ARTICLE does a good job of explaining that. Driving through the streets in Athens we saw store after store after store sitting empty, the glass windows fogged over or marked by graffiti. Every day there was some sort of strike or riot in the city because citizens are angry and frustrated with their country. While we were there, the Metro went on strike, leaving countless Greeks out of transportation and clogging the streets with pollution and cars.

The second thing you need to know about Greece is this: they are currently hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees they cannot afford. (SIDE NOTE: there are currently talks about sending refugees back to Turkey. THIS ARTICLE talks about that in detail.)

The most startling thing about my trip to Greece was this: refugees are not terrorists.

Honestly, I’m a ashamed to say that. I’m ashamed to say I thought that way. I’m ashamed I allowed the attacks in Brussels and France and Boston snake their way into my head and make me think there was something to fear.

Photo courtesy of Zach Miles
But walking through the refugee camp at Elliniko, where thousands of Afghans, Iranians and a few Syrians live in the crumbling remains of the Olympic Stadiums, I felt sick to my stomach. Their homes were nothing more than sheets or blankets strung across string or rope. Some were lucky enough to have received tents; some had no privacy at all. To many, “home” was an unrolled rug or corner bordered by shoes and ratty boxes. Their laundry hung in what seemed like never-ending rows along the fence lines, barbed wire rested on the ground beneath them. They had six outhouses to share, only six showers with cold water, and one hose for water.

Most of the children hadn’t been to school in two years or more. Their education was halted abruptly when the Taliban, or another terrorist group, threatened their homeland, and their only option was to run. A few escaped before violence broke out.

Most of these people were smart, educated. They were not poor. I met engineers who had PhD’s, teachers and doctors whose children had seen family members beheaded and felt bombs dropping around their home for weeks on end.

These people, these brothers and sisters from the Middle East were shaken in their faith – betrayed by their religion.

One man told me to thank an American soldier if I knew one because they were fighting the Taliban for them: they were trying to keep them safe. One child drew a picture of a boat on open water with blobs of hot, violent red all around the page. Many children kicked, pinched and slapped one another, yet they also showed kindness and teamwork when they witnessed grace.

Because of Greece, I began to wonder at the state of my crooked heart. Who was I to judge a man? Who was I label millions of people based on the actions of a few? Who was I to attempt to show the love of Jesus to these people?

I believe it is easy for us to step into fear and anchor our feet there. But would I pay thousands of US dollars to cross the sea in a rubber raft, risk the lives of my children (who don’t know how to swim) then live in poverty just to make a political statement?

No. I don’t think I would.

Thank God he forgives us. Thank God he redeems even our worst, nastiest thoughts. Thank God he allows us to see people the way he sees them: as all the same. To God, people are people. They are not refugees, or terrorists, or Americans, or Greeks. Just people. And all people need to feel loved. They need to know why they were created.

Photo courtesy of Zach Miles
To be honest, I’m not 100 percent sure why I wrote this; to reflect on my trip to Greece and share it with everyone? Partially. Perhaps I wrote it to parse out my own thoughts and figure out exactly what changed my heart in Greece.

I suppose my real goal, my true intent was to remind myself and all my readers that it’s alright to admit you have a crooked heart at times. We all struggle with stuff, and we all become upset. I read the news all the time, but having names and faces to this information upset my whole apple cart. These statistics have names and families and stories and they just want to go home. I thought I knew what was going on. In reality, I had no idea.

I suppose my other intent was to remind myself that everyone needs a shot and no one is beyond redemption. No one is too far-gone to be a decent human being. No one is the devil in disguise.


In a way, I’m grateful that I knew nothing about the Greeks, Afghans and Iranian’s backgrounds. They were a clean slate: people with a story waiting to be shared who thought me worthy enough to be welcomed into their hearts and homes and taught a valuable lesson.

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