Greetings! The following are excerpts from Charlie’s recent visit to Moria Refugee Camp in Lesvos, Greece.
January 26: “I saw an Afghan man get beat up pretty bad this morning by the police.
The police needed to be here as the crowd was quite desperate and unruly. You could feel the situation ramping up through the breakfast distribution.
As a dozen (out of a thousand) were trying to exploit the situation and causing havoc in a very tight space, the Afghan man was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was doing what he was told, following orders and waiting his turn. He wasn’t part of the problem.
When it was over, the police officer was sobbing with regret. When the shoving got out of hand, (the Afghan man) was caught in the middle and bore the brunt of the police frustration. The aid group was in shock, some of us in tears.
The rest of the distribution I walked the line and begged the refugees not to argue with the amounts of food given or to do anything to make a scene.
At the end of breakfast I stood with the beaten Afghan man who was standing by the gate sobbing. All I could do was put my hand on his shoulder and say I’m sorry and tell him it will be ok.
But no one really knows if it will be ok. This is a scene that plays out daily here.
Pray for the refugees. Pray for the police. Both are enduring this crisis from different sides of the same goal. Pray that patience, gratitude, grace and peace will win the rest of the day.”
January 25: “With temperatures hovering around 40F (5C) during the day and dipping to freezing at night, a quarter of the kids I’m seeing are walking around without socks…”
There are many other stories and reflections to tell. We encourage you to check out this video page to see all of the video updates Charlie made leading up to and while working in the camp during his trip in January: https://vimeo.com/album/4426931
TMS-Global also reported on Charlie’s time in Moria, which can be found here: https://www.tms-global.org/story-details/inside-moria-refugee-camp
We want you all to see these videos and read these stories because while the refugee crisis is no longer front page news, it is still ongoing. And in many ways, because of the minimal attention conditions are getting much worse.
For example, an experienced representative from Doctors Without Borders recently stated that the harmful conditions in Moria Refugee Camp had now surpassed those of refugee camps in Mosul, Iraq. (http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2018/01/08/monika-gattinger-how-can-europe-be-more-traumatising-than-mosul/)
One is in a war zone. The other is in Europe. It is a hard situation to fathom. But we have witnessed the European reality ourselves.
In the past few months, it feels like things have changed. Miki and I believe that we in the Church are at a pivotal point. It is clearer now than ever that we are witnessing a generational crisis resulting from this mass migration, and that the global impact of this situation will not go away anytime soon.
We can feel the Spirit moving. Friends of ours from all over the world are in transition. Some are moving on from one location and expanding into others. Some of them are transitioning to refugee aid as we have. Slowly the focus is shifting towards this massive movement of people wandering the earth without a home. Change is upon us as well.
On Tuesday, Charlie will travel to Torino, Italy where he hopes to finalize plans to move our family there by the end of March.
Miki talked a bit about this in a recent Facebook post:
“This may not come as a big surprise to most folks, but after almost a year of discussion and prayer on this, our family has decided to make another international move. We will be leaving Estonia in March, and will head down to Northwestern Italy. Many refugees have died attempting to walk through the mountains along the northwestern border of Italy into France, and many continue to reside in that region, including many unaccompanied youth. We also feel this move will allow us to be better positioned to support the ongoing work in camps and with partners in Greece and Serbia.
This was not originally a part of our long-term plan in Europe. For a few years there we had imagined that we would raise our kids in Estonia. And we have enough experience with international moves into new cultures and languages and visa processes to know how much of a toll they can take. So this is not a decision we have made lightly. But there just comes a point at which the convictions and guidance of our own meager conceptions of God’s work of grace and faithfulness in our own lives can no longer be ignored. We know very well the risks of failure in this move. But our fears and worries are no longer able to drown out the small, unrelenting little whisper that has been building inside of our gut: “We have to at least try.”
We are hoping to gain residency in Italy by moving Charlie’s studio down and starting a business. Of course, we will have a lot of expenses through this process and are only beginning to learn of the new struggles we will face in this new place. We know that we are not able – nor are we meant – to do this on our own. We hope that some folks might be willing to come and see us once we get established to learn more about the work there. We hope others will decide to become more directly engaged in helping us develop and implement resources and support for the refugees and workers there. (And for those who are wondering, I have a quiet hope on the ways this move is going to play into the work God has been continuing to do in the development of a place for prayer and retreat with Him, in Estonia and throughout Europe.) Thank you very much for your continued prayers and support, and for your love for us and our kids. We are looking forward to what God is doing in this next season of our lives together. With love in Him…”
Because of your faithfulness, we have been pretty secure with funding for a few years now. But as our work has expanded, the financial needs have been ramping up as we have tried to do more and more in these difficult situations. We believe that we will need to raise a bit more monthly support to offset the higher living expenses in Italy and as we begin to focus more on fundraising specifically for our special projects account.
It is hard to describe how often our special projects account has been able to make a difference in the last few years. Even with this recent visit to Moria: when we saw that kids had no socks, the special projects account gave us the ability to buy the needed socks. Additionally, the floor inside Moria’s food distribution tent was rotting and moldy from years of harsh weather and foot traffic. With special project funds, we were able to replace the floor with a more sanitary material that will last longer and give the refugees a healthier place to eat.
So if you have ever been on the fence about financially supporting this work, we would love for you to join us now. If you’re already a supporter, we’d love for you to help us by telling others about these needs. Tell family members, pastors, co-workers, and friends. Tell your Sunday School Classes and Civic Clubs. As this work expands, so should the number of partners. And as our posts and newsletters have attested, these problems are too big for just a few of us to take on. We’d love your help in the spreading the word.
Finally, during the months of March and April, would you please pray for us? Pray for this move and for the transition for our family. Pray for connections to be made and for smooth movement through unfamiliar bureaucracies as we move our residency from Estonia to Italy. Pray for an abundance of resources, patience and rest while we grieve leaving one home and celebrate learning about a new one. We promise you, we covet each and every prayer.
We love you and thank you for all that you do for us and for the Kingdom. Hopefully, our next update will be coming from our new flat in Italy.
Every Blessing to you and yours,
Charlie, Miki, Isabel, Jasper, and Celia