We began today with no concept of what its end would mean to us.
Playback and Sounds traveled to the Syrian refugee camp for one final rehearsal with the children’s choir. Diana Romeos led the kids in a few warm-up games while Playback students spent time with younger kids outside. This visit was brief and pointed, so after rehearsal, we left for lunch. Evan Shaw and Howard Lee stayed behind at the camp after being invited to play soccer and catch the bus to the concert at 6 when it came to the camp to pick up the children’s choir.
Tonight was the telos of our trip; the culmination of a year’s worth of work on our behalf; the public, musical and theatrical demonstration of all our investments. In the short hour between lunch and call time, Sounds and Playback prepared, rested, prayed, and processed all that had happened since our arrival. Pictured behind everyone’s eyelids and resting on everyone’s hearts were the children we played with: small faces that bear Christ’s beauty.
We love them.
Despite the importance and depth of meaning underlying the performance, Sounds and Playback were only excited to see the kids when they arrived. Dr. Timbie placed them like puzzle pieces on the crowded stage and rehearsed their two pieces. We decided at what point in our program they would sing, then met our audience for a few minutes. In addition to the Syrian choir members and their parents and friends, we shook hands with both local Greeks and Afghani refugees from the camp we visited yesterday as they chose their seats in the Lavrio community center.
Speaking during the performance was an ordeal because each phrase had to be translated in four different languages: Arabic, Farsi, Greek, and English. If our concert Wednesday night in Valos helped unite two divergent denominations, this performance, in which four vastly different cultures were represented, was a powerful demonstration of reconciliation across language, culture, and religious divides. Though we could not say so, The Holy Spirit was at work in the room.
The children performed their two pieces—”Dona Nobis Pacem” and “Are You Sleeping?”—once during the concert and afterward as an encore. Each time they scrambled on stage and jostled each other for the best position, dozens of phone cameras shot into the air, eager to record.
The night couldn’t go on forever, and soon we found ourselves saying goodbye. Our hands couldn’t find the gestures; our arms couldn’t hug tightly enough to express what these generous, expressive, and strong young men and women meant to us. Every one of them is precious, and together they represent a displaced generation forced to learn new languages and comply to systems and rules that constrict their future. We know that we will get on a plane bound ultimately for Taylor on Sunday, but many of them don’t know where they are going from Greece, or when they will move on from the camps we visited.
Mihalis allowed us to bring a few close friends to dinner with us to celebrate at a nearby restaurant after the concert. The Sawan family that Howard and Evan ate with this afternoon and Mazin joined us at a comically long table as platter after platter of food soon filled the space between us. We stayed at the restaurant until nearly midnight, talking, sharing food, and eventually saying goodbye. Our dearest friends piled into Mihalis’ van and sped back to the camp through the clear, cold night.
Howard had talked to Mahmoud outside the restaurant bathroom during dinner. Mahmoud told him that this week—specifically tonight—was the first time he felt truly happy since he left Syria.
For all we know, it was the last time we would ever see him.
Our hearts are heavy after so many goodbyes. Please pray for encouragement for the team as we prepare to leave. Praise God for a successful concert and whatever influence we may have had during our brief stay in Greece. Our hearts are with those who must stay behind as we travel home, especially for those who will never see “home” again.