My name is Emma Miller and I am a sophomore at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
Last spring, I joined a team going to serve refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos. Lesvos is located only four miles from Turkey and serves as the gateway into Europe for many refugees. When I stepped into Moria, the refugee camp, I felt like I was stepping into another world. Two thousand people were housed in the camp which was only designed to hold 800. These refugees were of over 40 different nationalities, from Africa to Asia to the Middle East. What was intended to be an overnight camp now houses refugees for months or years at a time. I soon learned that behind all of these statistics were individuals with names and faces and stories.
I met Dominic, a Congolese Christian who cheered everyone up by passing out stickers in the camp. I met Samuel, a Nigerian man who continuously wondered what happened to his wife and children. I met Ahmad, an old Syrian man who gave me his scarf and gloves to keep me warm on a rainy day. I met Abdul-Azziz, a man from Somalia who paced up and down the camp all night, too traumatized to sleep. But one thing united all of these stories: desperation.
In the face of such desperation, I felt helpless to make a difference. I couldn't give these people back their families, their homes, or their countries. All I could do was show the love of Christ as I practically served my fellow image-bearers of God. Every day in the camp, we were assigned to different tasks. Most days, I worked as a gate-keeper, letting people in and out of different levels based on the color of their wristbands. Sometimes I handled food distribution. Sometimes I helped with housing, moving people from tents to more stable living conditions. Yet what made the biggest difference was simply being present, listening, and choosing to love.
I remember this feeling of helplessness one night as I was assigned to work with new arrivals. A small speed boat had just landed on the shores of Lesvos, packed with 47 Syrian refugees. These people had left everything behind, taking nothing more than the clothes on their backs. What could I do to help? As I was wondering this, a 16-year-old boy walked over and introduced himself. This boy, Abdullah, was from the Syrian city of Aleppo. We sat there and talked for a while, Abdullah in his broken English and me trying out the few Arabic words that I knew. It felt strange and yet natural to be talking and laughing with this young Syrian refugee. As we talked, Abdullah begged me to take him home to America. He begged me to adopt him into my family as my brother. It broke my heart to tell him no. In the wake of the Syrian civil war, his home had been destroyed and his family had been killed. Abdullah was now an orphan. He took the treacherous journey from Syria to Greece with only his brother. After telling me his story, he said, "Live, die, no difference… same for me." Abdullah had given up hope. And then he asked me, "Why are you here? Don't Americans hate Muslims?" But I told Abdullah that I was a Christian who served Jesus. I know that Jesus loves Muslims, so I loved Muslims too. And I told Abdullah that I would pray for him, because God wants to hear my prayers. After hearing this, Abdullah told me, "Thank you. You serve a beautiful God."
And I do serve a beautiful God. During my first day on Lesvos, I read Matthew 25:34-40: "'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" Throughout my time in Moria, this passage served as my inspiration and encouragement.
And that's why I went to Lesvos: to love the least of these and point them toward my beautiful God.