My wife and I spent a week in Greece during the Thanksgiving week. We felt a tug on our hearts to go “see” the refugee crisis which we had only been hearing about on the news. We wanted to see how God is working through the crisis, which resulted in the biggest migration since the World War II. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about this trip because of the unknown. But, God reminded me throughout the trip that the enemy always tries to hide God's treasures He wants to share with us behind lies and fear. This trip was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had.
We landed in Athens without a clear itinerary or a network of contacts. Fortunately, a local missionary, whom we got in contact with a couple weeks prior, graciously invited us in and introduced us to various ministry opportunities. My wife and I visited three refugee centers (located in an empty airport, school building, and a community of container homes) and volunteered at various ministries that were faithfully serving refugees and sharing the gospel. While each ministry was unique, they prayed and worked together to serve refugees efficiently. Resources were not something they had abundantly, and they couldn't afford to have any excess or waste. It was beautiful to see different ministries work together as one body.
As I reflect on our journey, I'm aware of three consistent themes: brokenness, faithfulness and hope.
My heart broke as I began to see refugees’ living conditions and hear more about their journey to Athens. One old lady from Iraq has been a refugee for 15 years without a home and separated from her family all these years. Imagine fleeing from your own country, not having a home, not having enough food or clothes, not having work, and not having your family nearby. The worst part of it is not knowing when a life as a refugee will end. The pain seems too hard for a person to bear. As I heard stories like this, I was deeply saddened and couldn't find any words of comfort.
However, the tragic nature of this crisis was not the only thing God wanted us to see. Too often, I am only able to see a part of the big picture God is orchestrating. Through an Afghan brother I met, Paul, God opened my eyes to the miraculous and powerful work He is doing through the refugee crisis. Paul serves as a staff member at the mission center and church that hosted us. He was a refugee from Afghanistan and lived on the streets for the first few years he was in Athens. While he was living on the streets, he was introduced to the gospel and accepted Christ as his personal Savior and Lord. I have never met a Christian from Afghanistan, so I took a keen interest in getting to know him more. After spending a week with him and learning about his story, I was deeply moved by the depth of his love for Christ. It came at a heavy cost. Paul's entire family, except for his mother, did not like or accept his new faith. He has not been able to go back home due to the likely persecution he would face.
My heart was moved when Paul shared that his favorite chapter in the Bible was Philippians 3: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”. Knowing and living for Christ was worth more than the loss he endured because of his faith. My new friend Paul had lived these words and I began to wonder what they meant to my own life.
I asked myself, “do I know Christ like Paul does?” I felt like God was encouraging me and saying, "Here is your fellow brother in Christ who loves me”. Paul serves the church and his fellow refugees faithfully by meeting their practical needs, sympathizing with their struggles, and leading them to Christ.
Paul’s transformation is just one of many miraculous stories God is writing today in Greece and the rest of Europe. Thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria are coming to know Christ. They are arguably one of the most un-reached population groups in the world, and the Holy Spirit is powerful at work right now reaching out to them. What's more amazing is that these new believers are moving throughout Europe (or rather forced to move throughout Europe) and planting churches. Who appears to be the “least of these” in our eyes are carrying out the work of God to remind those who might have lost their first love for Christ. What a powerful story! This is the whole story God is authoring today and wants us to see in the midst of this crisis.
I had a couple of thoughts on my way back from this trip. 'Given what I've seen and experienced, what does this mean to me and my life? How can I use the time, talent, and treasures God has given me to participate in His story - whether that would be in Greece or in the SF Bay Area, where I live? What new perspectives have I gained that I can apply to my work in impact investing?’ I looked back on the conversations I've had with investors on how to give and invest to make an impact. Too often we come up with the "how" without seeking to understand the context around the social issues we are trying to tackle. We only see what is in front of our eyes and ignore to ask "what story is God writing in the geographies and around the issues we care about?" If we don't see what God is doing through the refugees, how can we empower our refugee brothers and sisters to proclaim the gospel all throughout Europe?
Our resources will only go as far as our vision takes us.
Asking this question will deepen our understanding of God's work all around the world and across spheres, helping us give and invest our resources wisely. We must go “see” what God is doing locally and globally.