It’s So Hard to Explain

At the beginning of August, I spent time in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. I led a short-term team from California to serve in the camp commonly known as Moria.

There is a common misconception that the refugee crisis in Europe is over, that there aren’t many people coming any more and that means we can stop helping, because the help is no longer needed. My team and I were in camp for 9 days and over those nine days the camp grew from ~7400 to ~8600 inhabitants. That’s an average of 133 new people of concern (POC) per day. According to one number I heard (not confirmed), only 3 people leave Moria per day which leaves 130 new residents every day. The crisis is not over.

Each day my team and I would work on a variety of tasks including putting up new tents, dividing tents into “homes,” clearing land for tents, moving residents from one area to another, etc. There wasn’t a typical day for any of us. You never really knew what you would be doing one day to the next.

One of the hardest things about working in camp is explaining to others exactly what the camp is like and why it changes those who serve there. I mentioned the number of people who live in Moria right now (or at least when I was there), but that doesn’t help you fully grasp the situation.

I want you to try something. Picture Black Friday in a Super Walmart. Do you have a good idea of what that looks like? Have you been? I was told that that is about the same size and number of people as are in Moria. Now I want you to try to picture something else. Picture the roof removed from that Walmart, picture it being close to 90 F during the summer and 42 F at night in winter. Now imagine you and your family living in one of the aisles of Walmart (not the whole aisle, but only part of it) with only blankets separating you and your neighbors. That is Moria. That is what most of the POCs are fleeing too because where they come from was more dangerous for them.

How can you fully explain that to people? How can anyone who hasn’t seen it themselves fully understand? And that is just one of the difficult things to explain. How can you explain the love you have for a person who you just met, have nothing in common with, doesn’t speak your language, but who shared their tea or food.

I won’t go in depth on how I think some massive changes need to happen within the hearts of our political leaders (not just the US) in order to help these people. I don’t want to make this political, but I do want to say that things need to change. We can’t say we follow Jesus and do nothing for these people. We can’t sit by and do nothing.

37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

41-43 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

44 “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

45 “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

Matthew 25:37-45 (MSG)

All the Feels

6 years ago, right before I left for Germany the first time, I probably sat in this exact same seat, writing a blog. I probably sipped my coffee while I sat for hours at my favorite coffee shop in my hometown of Toledo. I probably wondered what to write about and how to convey all that was in my mind as I prepared to do something that I never thought I would do. Shoot only about 8 years before that, did I think I would never leave the Toledo area, and yet I had left Toledo for Maryland only to come back to Toledo before taking the craziest step of my life. I was moving to Germany to do something I never intended to do.  I was going to Germany to be a missionary…weird.

6 years later and I’m writing this blog, thinking about all that has happened over the past 6 years and wondering what the future  holds. It’s weird how much changes over 6 years. While this coffee shop is no longer my “office” it still feels comfortable. I don’t know any of the people who work here anymore, but it is still a spot for me to relax, get work done and feel at peace.

But as I sit here in a place that connotes a feeling similar to what it did 6 years ago, I can’t help but think about what feels totally different. My home is no longer in the US. Though my family and good friends are here, which means part of my home will always be here, my home has moved to Germany. It’s where I feel the most comfortable, where I belong. It’s no surprise when you think about how God called me to this job, but it still seems strange. For a guy who never thought he would leave Toledo, home is no longer on the same continent.

Much more has changed for me, though.  As a teacher, I never felt confident that I was good at my job. I always struggled with confidence in general, except for when it came to my skill for planning events and baking peanut butter cookies. Beyond that, I would never tell you that I am particularly skilled. Now I will. I don’t make a habit of bragging, but I know that my skills are being put to great work helping create and run English camps, and I’m confident that I am doing that job well.

So many things are different and yet with those differences I see things that are the same. It’s crazy how we change over the years and at the same time, how we remain. I’m still the big goofball and nerd who can also switch gears to more serious topics. I’m still the son of Marge and Paul and I take all that they have taught me with me wherever I go.

All that is different and all that is the same makes me think: What will be different and what will be the same, the next time I make this place my office?