CRI Team Lead Shares Her Experience in the Refugee Crisis
By Deb Russell, member of CRI, team lead in Greece deployment.
I just arrived home from from Lesbos, Greece after deploying to aid men, women and children caught in circumstances outside of anything we can imagine, something we have called the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
My head is still spinning; heart shattered, Yet…my heart is full.
Shattered at the truth of a people facing such brutal tyranny to the point of leaving all they know; risking escape and venturing across a dangerous sea they have named “death grip.” Mothers and fathers on overcrowded boats, clutching day old babies, small children terrified, elderly couples clinging to one another and many alone on the journey already counting their losses. None having any idea what’s ahead and are at the mercy of those of those of us receiving them.
My heart is also full, having met the most amazing people from across the globe. Helped and assisted refugee men, women and children come to Christ, stabilize and meet basic needs. Along the way I have the opportunity to work with one remarkable individuals, my CRI team partner Deb Rodrodrequis.
Arriving in Greece
Immediately upon our arrival, we sensed the need to extend emotional support to the responders and volunteers. The reality of evil, the depth of emotion it takes to care for so many coming in by the thousands, takes its toll.
Constant prayer became our greatest strength. Relationships were developed immediately with the folks who initially opened the camp and were happy to welcome incoming logistical support. Initially we were asked to revise the logistics for the camp volunteer shifts as well as passage to and from our refugee camp and airport transportation for everyone. Once that was accomplished, the next request was to organize the inventory of three large army tents and two huge containers. The contents were supplies donated to provide food, water, clothes, shoes and blankets, for thousands of refugees. Those were very long days.
There was also time spent on shifts to receive refugees coming in on boats. What an experience to be the first to hold them, cry and rejoice with them. It was the perfect opportunity to extend the heart of God and I took advantage of that often.
Stories of Hope
There are stories of smugglers; smugglers flinging little boys into the sea to hasten the exiting members of their speed boat. A young family coming with the hope of a cancer cure for the ailing mother. A woman in fetal position outside our camp; robbed, left with nothing, but then was met with tenderness from a devoted disciple of Christ named Katie.
A band of Syrian brothers carrying a crippled friend on their backs the entire journey demonstrating a powerful display of strength in unity.
I will never forget the look of hope and desperation on the faces of all, the distant stare of trauma, devastation, as well as the sobbing cries of joy at making it across deaths grip.
Next is a part of their journey that encompasses cold, harsh winter conditions, most don’t even have a coat or shoes that fit. From here they may face others who could take advantage in ways that are horrific and much too familiar to them.
Or they may finally make it to a country with borders now unwilling to extend mercy and will reject them.
Be the Hands & Feet of Jesus
With all this said, waves of sorrow come, crash……….swell, yet my heart is so encouraged as I witnessed the extended hands and feet of Jesus, and of a different look of whom I believe God is calling His church to be.
We are so very fortunate here in America. As scripture reminds us; we are blessed to be a blessing. CRI offers this tremendous opportunity. Don’t hesitate to go. You. Will. Have. The time of your life. I promise!
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