Emptied – Saturday

The plan for today was originally designed as a decompressing visit to Athens for a few more sightseeing stops. However, late last night, Mihalis offered a few Taylor students the opportunity to skip free time in Athens to spend all day in the Syrian refugee camp.

Every seat in his van was full.

Having said goodbye to us the night before, each familiar refugee we greeted glowed with surprise. Parents quickly invited us into their camp cabin homes and gave us the best they had to offer in the most selfless display of hospitality we have every seen. The eight of us, including Drs. Rediger and Timbie, shared many stories over countless cups of tea.

Two mugs of tea and a cup of sugar crowd a gracious host's saucer.

Two of dozens of cups of tea offered to Taylor students this afternoon, accompanied by fruitful and challenging conversations.

Massan, who sang with us in the children’s choir, and her older sister, younger brother, and mother talked with us as we sipped tea and played with Jimmy, their puppy. Her 17-year-old sister has been working as a translator in hospitals for 9 months and hopes to become a nurse soon. One of her dreams is to train to be a heart surgeon.

Sounds member Evan Shaw plays with a refugee family's puppy named Jimmy.

Meeting people (and their puppies) was a major focus of both today’s excursion and our whole trip.

It was a cloudless day in Lavrio, so we went with the children to a nearby beach to play. The boys ran straight into the crystal calm water and swam out as far as they dared while their brothers played marbles in the sand. When half our group got tired and left, Mazim, Mohammed, and Elias suggested that the rest of us should go to “The Jump.”

Twenty minutes later, Sounds members were cliff diving twenty feet into the chilly Aegean sea with a dozen refugee daredevils cheering them on.

Mohammed swan dives into the sea while onlookers cheer him on.

Twenty refugees crowded these cliffs to spend an afternoon leaping into the sea outside Lavrio, Greece.

Exhausted, brined, and sunburned, we returned to camp for conversation in the shade. Many of us didn’t eat lunch but snacked on biscuits and tea with whoever invited us to chat. Renae sat with a wise and gentle older Syrian man for nearly an hour, touching conversations from the purpose of literature and music to the fate of Syrian culture. The man was kind, receptive, and articulate and though they disagreed on a few points recognized her ability to represent her perspective well.

Howard, Evan, and I returned to Camp Bacchus for lunch, which Mahmoud and our French friend had been preparing since 11. The seven of us, including Mahmoud, Mohammed, and their mother, shared a Syrian-French fusion meal around a table barely large enough for a card game. Despite a three-language barrier hindering conversation, we could point, signal, and charade well enough to offer gracious thanks for our hosts’ extravagant hospitality.

We had a performance tonight in a church across from the Acropolis in central Athens, so our time, while it felt like an eternity, came to an inevitable end. We made elongated goodbyes and met Mihalis in the van.

On the hour drive to Athens, we reflected on how profound our unscheduled day was. As I’ve mentioned before, the point of our trip was not to accomplish a specific mission but to aid in a greater mission’s efforts. We were tasked to love the people we met by simply being with them. If they remember our visit today, it will be because we loved them with the simple gift of time.

Our final performance in the First Evangelical Church of Athens allowed us to express a small portion of the week’s activities to our audience. Despite the fatigue settling into our joints and voices, we felt the Holy Spirit move through our unique gifts one last time. Our evening was cut short by the announcement of our early flight tomorrow, but that didn’t stop many people from debriefing and planning until it was nearly time to leave.

There is truly too much to say about how this trip and these people have changed each one of us. We will return to school and process our experiences in different ways, but every one of us has a story to share. Please approach us with questions about who we remember, what conversations impacted us, and how this trip will continue to change our lives.

Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for engaging with us and this ministry. Please continue to pray for AMG, CosmoVision, and the refugees in Greece.

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