Omonia Church has become a place of refuge for the weary. (Side picture is from a nearby building.) Refugees from Syrian, Afghanistan, and Iraq find their way to this small second story floor for a few hours of food, conversation and air conditioning. They are met by members of the local Greek church and volunteers from a variety of American ministries. Some of their physical needs are met. The food is always good, and there are extra clothes given by Christian NGO's. During our time, the attendance has tripled and this part of our ministry takes nearly all of our time. Our numbers have grown because people bring their friends and neighbors. There are many places in Athens to get food, but we think that people come here because they find that an even greater need is met. Today our good friend from Syrian said, "Every time I come I bring new friends with me, because I want them to be part of the family."
Most often our Greek hostess offers a few words of welcome before we pray for lunch. She has poured out her life in selfless service, so when she talks... people listen. She does a great job balancing bottomless love and bold faithfulness to our Lord. Today seemed like a particularly good example. I have paraphrased some of her words below - words which we then translated into Farsi and Arabic.
"We want you to know how much we care about you. We hope you believe that we love you and we have been praying for you. Not a moment goes by that you are not on our hearts. We want you to know that when you walk through that door the passport does not matter any more. Whether you are Syrian, Afghanistan or American we are all part of the human family. We have one blood. If I was hurt and my Syrian friend gave me a blood donation I could live. We have one blood.
I want you also to know that Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the life. If you are confused and lost and frightened, you can go to him and he can help you. If you don't believe me, you can read it for yourself in the book. We have copies of the Bible in Arabic and Farsi.
Today we welcome our friends from the camp across town. This young woman is here (in her wheelchair) because he mother pushed her across the city so that she could be here. When they fled from Afghanistan her mother carried her on her back. These are people that we love and we want you know that we will never stop loving you. No matter what pictures we see on the news or no matter how many people ISIS blows up, we will never stop loving you. No one can convince us to stop believing that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. And no one can convince us to stop loving you."