We recently heard from church plant partners in Athens, Greece. Here’s their encouraging written update about how God is using the church in the midst of the Europe refugee crisis. (You can click on the video to see a short compilation of photos.)
It’s more than two months now since we first opened our “day center” in Elpidos St. —which means “street of hope”— right at the heart of Victoria Square, the place most refugees make a beeline for as soon as they get off the boat in Athens. Looking back over the past few weeks, we were initially afraid and skeptical about the whole initiative; both the extent of the needs and the transitory nature of the movements of refugees made the whole task seem like something beyond our means.
Eventually, we calmed ourselves down, as we came to the realisation that: “Even if it runs for two months, it will have been worth the risk”.
In a very short space of time, however, “Elpidos Day Center” has become one of the most important venues addressing the needs of refugees, specifically families. This is largely due to its location, being less than 60 metres from Victoria Square. We have an average of 40 visitors per day and many times we have seen more than 80 visitors.
Our main focus has been to give relief to the most vulnerable among the refugees: mothers and children. Mothers find a safe environment where our volunteers entertain and embrace their kids, while they themselves —the mothers— find a chance to rest, sometimes even lying down on the floor to sleep for just a few minutes.
At the same time, we try to meet their immediate needs by providing toilets —literally the only ones near the square available for them to use for free — power outlets to charge their phones, supplements (snacks, toothpaste and toothbrushes etc.) for the rest of their journey, and information about other centers where their needs may be met.
In the last month, we’ve added, gradually, two more services: clothes and a few days of medical care. Both of them have really gone beyond our expectations. We give clothes on a daily basis, especially children’s clothes, and in just two days of providing medical care (general examination doctors, dermatologists and dentists), we served over a hundred people.
Our future plans are to extend the medical care and rent another space —right next to the existing one— with shower facilities. For the medical care we were happily surprised, recently, when MSF (Doctors Without Borders) knocked on our door and asked us if they could run a Health Clinic in our center during the hours that we do not operate. They found our facility and our setup ideal for partnering with us. On the first Monday of February we hosted the first day of this Health Clinic, which will operate every day for four hours. Our hope is that by the end of February we will be able to offer showers in our new space.
We are thankful to God, and to you all, as through the Elpidos Day Center, we were able to address the needs of the refugees in love, but also in a professional way.
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