Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Imagine that you are a 12 year old girl in Afghanistan. You come home from school one day and are told that you will soon be married to a man who is much, much older. You are frightened but you have no choice but to obey.
Imagine that you are a young man with a good mind and dreams for the future. Because you belong to the wrong ethnic group you are not allowed to attend school beyond the elementary level.
Imagine that you are a young woman 18 years old. Your father is dead and you and your mother and 2 sisters live with your Uncle.
You desperately want to attend school but because you are a girl your Uncle won’t allow it. You are only allowed to be in your house or in your own yard. You know that you will soon be forced to marry as men are willing to pay your uncle handsomely for a beautiful girl like you.
Imagine that you are a Christian man who is holding a bible study in your home. Imagine that the police break in and drag you away and you know the punishment for following Jesus is death. Imagine that on the way to the jail the police get into an accident and in the confusion you manage to escape. You hide all night under a bridge before you go back to your house. When you arrive your house is empty and padlocked and you have no idea where your family is or if they are even alive.
Imagine you are a teacher of 6th grade students. You love your students and you love being a teacher. One day the Taliban comes and sets fire to your school. Your arms still bear the scars of where you were burned trying to save the children. Then imagine that another day the Taliban comes and tells you that if you do not give them money they will kill your students. You don’t have any money so they slit the children’s throats in front of you.
Now imagine that because things are SO bad in your country you decide to run away. You know you will never be allowed to leave so you hire a smuggler to take you. You believe that if you can just reach the west you will be safe.
Imagine that you and your husband and little girl are walking over the mountains. You have been walking so long that your feet are bleeding and you begin to cry. Your little girl takes your hand, looks up into your face and says “Its okay Mama Nee, don’t cry, it’s okay”.
Imagine that after many days of walking you come to Turkey. There you are forced to live in horrible conditions sometimes up to 40 people sharing a room. But Turkey is not Western Culture and you believe if you can just get to Greece things will be better. Imagine that you don’t know how to swim and have never seen the sea. And yet because you are desperate you climb into a small rubber raft with 20 other people. It is night and you are very afraid. Many people have died when their boats have turned over. Your wife and children and even you begin to cry as the waves grow higher.
Imagine that just as you almost make it to shore the police boats come and you are forced to stand in the cold water at gun point. You are put in a camp and your husband is put in a jail. The camps are filled with rats and very dirty. You go for more than a day with nothing to eat and nothing to feed your children.
Imagine that after you are released the police give you a paper and tell you to go to Athina. But when you get there you have no place to sleep, nothing to eat and no where even to go to the toilet. You and your children are living in the park. The park is dirty and crowded with others who are just like you. They don’t want to be there either but they have no where else to go.
Imagine that people yell at you and throw things at you. Imagine that when you go to renew your paper you are told that you didn’t follow the instructions correctly and you cannot get a new paper. You cannot read even your own language, how do they expect you to read a paper written in Greek.
Imagine that you are a father who stands every day in the square hoping someone will hire him for a few hours. Or imagine that you are one of the lucky ones that find work in a sweat shop for 1 euro an hour. Because you do not have papers, you cannot rent a house so you are forced to pay someone who has taken over an abandoned building. Imagine living one room with a tiny bathroom. Imagine sharing that room with three other families totaling 20 people. Now imagine that you have to pay 600 Euros a month for that room.
Imagine that everywhere you go you feel unwanted and ashamed. You have lost hope and sometime even think of taking your own life.
Now imagine that all your life you have been told that Christians are bad. But one day you walk into a building where you are greeted as a friend. You are offered a cup of tea, or maybe a plate of macaroni or rice. Some days there are even packages of food given that you can take home to feed your family for several days.
Imagine that these same people love your children. There is a baby room where little ones are cuddled and toddlers play with toys. The older kids have their own room where they hear stories, make crafts and watch videos. Sometimes there are kid’s parties with games, puppets and good things to eat. Over time you see your children lose the frightened look in their eyes and begin to smile again.
Imagine that these people offer you a shower, clothes, and a place to sit down and rest. They might provide school supplies for your children or invite you into their homes. Maybe they come to visit you in your home or take you on an outing. Maybe they play chess or backgammon or basketball but they treat you as a friend and hope begins to grow in your heart.
These people listen to your story and cry with you. They ask if they can pray for you and then they begin to talk about Jesus.
Imagine that you know Jesus was a good man but you have never read a Bible or been able to ask questions about Jesus. You are given a chance to watch movies about Jesus, and given literature and Bibles to read in your own language. You can attend a Bible class or sometimes in the midst of chaos a little group gathers around a Bible and some of your questions are answered. Maybe Jesus comes to you in a dream or maybe you just see him in the lives of these people, who love you, but suddenly you see Him clearly and you want to know him for yourself.
This is how lives are transformed. This is what God is doing in Athens. This is a place called Helping Hands.