I am not sure what to say about today. It would be easier to simply go to sleep and ignore the turmoil many of us experienced in the last 18 hours. But these roiling emotions do us no good until they have been shared, and my job is to share them.
We checked out of our hotel at 9:30 to visit a Kurdish refugee camp outside Volos. The road was rocky and dusty, the camp comprised of an abandoned Mercedes-Benz dealership and garage. A few families met us outside their makeshift warehouse apartments whom we recognized from the performance in Volos the night before. They greeted us warmly and talked about their families as we waited for others to wake up so we could perform inside. On the slowly warming pavement, Sounds sang the Greek national anthem for the four soldiers on duty at the camp while Playback Theatre students woke up refugee children with games.
Once inside, Sounds sang three pieces, including “Do Not Be Afraid,” in one of the main living spaces, watched by as many phones as people. Unwarmed voices rang up over the drywall divisions that separated one family from another and hung between the steel beams supporting the wide roof. To start the morning with such a surreal experience only foreshadowed the gravity of the rest of the day.
Our next stop was four hours away, back in Lavrio. Six Sounds members left with Mihalis to visit an Afghan refugee camp while the rest of the group went ahead to the other Lavrio camp, which is becoming more familiar every day. AMG has refurbished a space only a short walk from the Afghani camp that will help refugees with everything from photocopying to barista training. After singing two songs in the stairwell of the cramped apartment complex where 80 refugees were staying, we moved to this new space, which is called “Home Spot.” There, we performed “Do Not Be Afraid” once more to inaugurate the ministry center while several Afghanis picked out reading glasses from Wes’s collection.
We traded places with the Playback Theatre, who heard and played back Afghani refugee stories at Home Spot while we organized a transformative rehearsal with the Syrian refugee children’s choir. Until we returned, our directors had spread throughout the camp in loving pursuit of relationships. Drs. Rediger and Timbie shared sliced oranges with a woman whose family is scattered across the continent, and whose husband lives in fear for his life because he deserted from military service. Meanwhile, Taylor students sprinted around the camp’s soccer pitch with their refugee friends. Sounds and Playback met at Home Spot for one last song.
Back at Home Spot, many Afghani refugees had gathered to share their stories with Playback. After settling everyone down, Mihalis explained both what this place was and why it was there. After the Taylor Chorale toured Greece last year, Mihalis and AMG began planning a ministry for refugees and another tour the following year, perhaps with a smaller group of volunteers. The answered prayers and the needs that needed to be met converged in the building that is now Home Spot: a physical testimony to God’s love for refugees.
God did all of this.
Our performances, our witnessing in all three camps, and the ability to forge new inroads with the Grecian refugee crisis are direct results of AMG’s effort to bring Taylor students back to Greece after last year’s tour. He used us for his kingdom and his kingdom is growing.
We sang “Do Not Be Afraid” for the third time, feeling the full weight of our ministry expressed in the faces of those watching us. Our prayers for vulnerability and openness were answered in that small room that nearly shook with the harmonies of just a few singers; most of us were weeping when we got back on the bus.
His kingdom is growing, and although it feels as if we are only scattering pebbles, we are confident God will use our gifts, offerings, and experiences to heal and disciple his people. Continue to pray for energy and healing for those of us who are battling illness and for the concert we will perform Friday night. Thank you for keeping up with us.