In November 2015, nine Virginia Baptists served alongside Croatians in the refugee camp. Last week, some of this group returned to Europe to work in a refugee camp in Greece. These are their stories.
We arrived at the camp today amidst a cold rain. The camp looked desolate as many refugees were huddled in their non-heated rooms hopefully awaiting warmer temps.
We were given several task; putting up a screen and building a shelf in the men’s recreational room, organizing the camp’s supply room, and helping with a variety of other task.
As the weather slowly warmed, refugees began emerging from their lodging. We showed a movie to the children in the camp, and the room was packed. Afterwards, we handed out snacks and small toys as they exited.
As we prepared to leave, a dance party broke out among the young men. They were laughing and having a fine time and they eventually lured us out as they taught us a traditional Syrian dance. We all danced and laughed in a great time of bonding. One young man told me it was the first time he had danced since 2011. His joy was evident.
The refugees are so friendly, many always greeting us with a smile and conversation. We saw this morning, on the other hand, as we watched the BBC, thousands of refugees freezing on the streets of Serbia. Huddled in warehouses, burning whatever scrap wood they could find, complicated by the fact of record snowfalls, over 65 have died.
Throughout several locations in Europe, refugees continue to suffer, facing freezing temperatures and, in many cases, deplorable living conditions. Men, women, and children, young and old, fleeing all they knew, only to meet another war of sorts away from home.
We concluded tonight by ordaining one of our team members as a deacon. We did so because he is going to miss the deacon ordination service tomorrow afternoon at our church in Richmond.
We head out in the morning at 9 where we return to the camp to do whatever task they have for us, and who knows, maybe more dancing. One thing I know for sure, I am sure we will encounter the face of Christ many times.
Deacon Ordination at the Saint Paul Tribune
How many Baptist Deacons have been ordained in Greece on a site where the Apostle Paul actually preached? Not many, I would wager.
But Shannon Harton was ordained as a deacon at the Saint Paul Tribune last night. After spending the day serving refugees awaiting resettlement in Camp Veria in northern Greece, the First Baptist team serving with Shannon ordained him as deacon in the dark, amidst traffic noises at the place where it is believed that Paul preached to the Jews of Berrea.
Deacon Ordination services are always special – a time when individuals are called out in service and leadership – through blessing and the laying on of hands, they are set apart to be the hands and feet of Christ in their congregation. Everyone who was ordained today is living out their faith in ways that are personal and authentic to them. It is exciting to see the way God works so uniquely in our lives.
It is especially exciting for one of our deacons to be ordained in the midst of service to “the least of these” in a place where Paul preached the good news of the hope we have in Christ.
From the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Thessaloniki, Greece (a mere 45 miles from where we sit) this is our prayer for all those who were ordained today:
“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you.”
I Thessalonians 1:2-4