(PC: Christine McDonald)
At 4:47 PM on December 8th, I did a crazy thing. With only thirteen minutes before the deadline, I marched into Patrick Henry College President Haye’s office and handed over a $100 dollar bill. It was my deposit to fly to Athens, Greece for nine days over spring break and serve Iraqi and Syrian refugees.
Want to know why it was crazy? Just one year ago, I missed out on this exact opportunity because of my pride and lack of faith. I didn’t want to ask for money. I’d always been skeptical of the practical impacts of short-term mission trips. “If the person traveling is the person most benefitted by these trips, shouldn’t she be the one to cover the cost?” Still, I knew that covering it on my own was out of the question and doubted that the money would come in… even if I did ask for donations. The price was steep. After all God had done for me that year – He had powerfully and specifically provided for my academic, professional, and personal needs – I felt guilty about asking Him for yet another thing.
Well, good news: that’s not how God works. And that’s not how short-term mission trips work. Since last year, my perspective has radically changed on these. While no single person can help everyone, every single person can help someone. That helped person could be a refugee or an on-the-ground member of a mission organization. God works through a practical need met and a heavy heart encouraged. This occurred to me when my team video-called one of the members of the organization I will be working with. She was exhausted and discouraged and shared she couldn’t wait for the missions season to start. She eagerly desired the freshness the teams would bring to the “dark city of Athens.” Since last year, I’ve also learned that God works through informed perspectives on global issues that come from first-hand interactions. Bringing these understandings home helps facilitate appropriate and successful, not just well-intentioned, solutions.
With my perspective on short-term missions readjusted, I still struggled with a question: How could I possibly bring hope to people hurting so profoundly? It’s almost impossible to flip on the news without hearing of the atrocities facing those fleeing their war-torn countries. The numbers are staggering. The tragic and heartbreaking stories are more horrifically real than we like to acknowledge. Refugees from the Middle East view Greece as the gateway into Europe. Men, women, and children risk their lives to sail for the Greek coast, clinging to the hope that it will offer some measure of safety and refuge. However, Greece was ill-prepared for a refugee influx of such scale. The country has found meeting the needs of each refugee impossible. Relief agencies and NGO’s from across the globe have stepped in to partner with Greece. Yet the need remains great. The refugee community is one of the most needy and desperate populations on earth. Last year, my confidence failed me when hearing of this brokenness I would encounter.
Fortunately, Street Lights specializes in delivering hope. It is an organization of passionate twenty-somethings, based out of an abandoned bank in Athens, Greece. Specifically, Street Lights operates in Kipseli, the most densely populated urban district in Europe. Here, the organization houses an English school for refugees and provides professional development mentoring, child care, and clothing and food distribution. Street Light’s mission is to infuse hope into a seemingly hopeless situation. Although it cannot flagrantly proclaim the gospel, it can use relationship to share the hope that only comes from the gospel. Street Light’s vision is to create relationships through media and art. It uses billboards, commercials, dance, and games to communicate its message. PHC’s mission team will be aiding in providing the refugees care as well as participating in Street Lights’ artistic productions. In warning, President Haye, the leader of the trip, has already told my team, “Get ready to go WAY out of your comfort zones!” We will also visit and serve and encourage refugees in former camps that have been recently transformed into cramped government housing facilities.
As you may know, God has placed in my heart a draw to the Middle East. Thanks to my participation in debate, senior year of high school taught me much about the Middle East’s complex social, economic, and political situations. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by the region and have written every possible paper on Middle East-related topics (kafala adoption law, minority Druze populations, women’s rights, and even Palestinian rap culture). On the Hill last summer, my favorite briefings included those regarding complex Middle Eastern questions. Currently, I am a junior majoring in international policy, itching for this semester’s classes on international relations, the history of Islam, and comparative governments of the world.
My attention was more specifically focused on the refugee crisis last year when DC think tank representatives visited PHC and debated the US’s role and responsibility. I attended to enhance my knowledge of the Middle East. But the talk did more than provide me valuable facts – it broke my heart for the people trapped in the turmoil. Ever since that talk, I’ve been convicted to step in and help on a personal level.
Although I chickened out the first time around, I give thanks to God for the conviction that got me to President Haye’s office on that freezing day. I continue to ask Him for increased faith, trust, and confidence to see this endeavor through. As I prepare to travel to Greece in early March, I’m looking for family and friends to partner with me. On behalf of my team, I first ask for your prayers. Pray that we will be an encouragement to the dedicated and passionate, yet often overwhelmed and discouraged, Street Lights creatives. Pray that we will bring HOPE to refugee families. Pray for self-abandonment and forgetfulness as we rush to answer Street Light’s requests. Pray for wisdom concerning what to share and when. And, of course, pray for safety and health in this overburdened city.
Secondly, if you would like to partner with me financially, please see the information below. The full $2,500 (crazy big for me, not big for my God!) is due February 1st. A portion of this money will go directly to support Street Lights.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my heart and for being a part of my trip. I look forward to sharing with you how God is moving among the refugees of Athens.
Go Fund Me Requirements:
1. Name: Hannah Esther from Patrick Henry College
2. This GoFundMe is to raise money for me to go to Athens, Greece for 9 days to serve Iraqi and Syrian refugees.
3. Monies will be spent for travel, food, and some will also be donated to Street Light's ministry through my school.
4. Funds will be withdrawn by me when either goal has been reached or by the due date of February 1st and given to Patrick Henry College who is organizing the mission trip.
- The Lehmans
- Jacob Bogard
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