After almost four years, I finally returned to Greece to spend a week in Katerini (in northern Greece, about an hours drive from Thessaloniki) for a week volunteering with the Evangelical Church in Greece in their vital outreach and support work with refugees.
This journey started a few months ago when I went on a date with a guy from Malta. He told me about a life-changing experience that he had. He was a vet student, and after a late night shift he was heading home, dirty, grimy, and scruffy after a long day at the clinic. He was waiting for his tram when a group of Hungarian men surrounded him and began verbally assaulting him. They started to push him around and became physical, though thankfully the tram arrived and he was able to push his way through to hop on it. He has been in Budapest for years as a student, knows a bit of Hungarian, and is contributing to the economy and international vibrancy of the city – but none of that made any difference to these men because, to them, he was simply someone with brown skin and a beard, who they thought was a refugee from the Middle East.
He was shocked into action and booked a flight to Greece the next week (during a school holiday) and spent a few weeks there volunteering and serving on the Greek islands as boats of refugees arrived each day.
I listened to his story and wondered, in all my work with refugees here in the city, what was stopping me from doing the same – booking a flight and going to help. Many of the people that I work with here in Budapest have come through Greece; some have even spent significant time there, on their journey to safety. After hearing this man’s story, I wanted to know more about the perilous journey that the people that I have come to know have experienced. I decided to go to Greece – not for a vacation, but to serve, witness, and provide support however I could.
Fast-forward a month or two to an international consultation on migration that the RCH hosted (and I got to play a role in the organization of). One of the attendees was a woman representing the Evangelical Church in Greece. I immediately sought her out and inquired about the volunteering possibilities there. She was thrilled with my enthusiasm and soon we were discussing the time frame of my visit.
Sure enough, just a few months later, we had worked out a time frame for my visit and I was all set to leave – not knowing exactly what lay ahead, but thrilled for the journey and growth that would surely come.
The blog posts that will follow are simply my attempt to capture my daily activities during my time in Katerini. I’m sure that the time will fly by and so jotting things down on here is an excellent way for me to remember the events, people, and conversations that left an impression on me during my trip.
I hope you all enjoy following along on my journey! If you have any questions, feel free to write them down in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them!!