2017 Greece Missions: Final Reflections
This is the fifth and last Greece Missions trip update by Crystal Hsieh, Rebecca Suh, Vanessa Lam and Sharon Tang.
Hello Lighthouse family!
We are so sorry that this final reflections email is so much later than we wanted it to be. It’s been almost a month and a half since our team has come back from Greece…so crazy!! Here are our final thoughts and takeaways from the trip.
Throughout the whole trip, I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the amount of hospitality we received from the long-term missionaries, Greeks, and refugees. The missionaries were eager to serve us and show us around when we thought we were the ones coming to serve. They were gracious as we adjusted to the culture and honest in sharing their own struggles in their missionary work. It also gave us a greater picture of what it would mean to one day become a missionary in the future, which was something I was really hoping to see. The Greek locals and the refugees serving in the church were filled with so much joy as they embraced one another and embraced us. Both Greek and Muslim culture strongly stress hospitality, and it was awesome to hear how church members were having dinner with a refugee family and seeing how God was opening doors for good conversations about Him.
Another major takeaway was learning what it meant to “put on Christ” in any situation during the trip. Watching over all the kids sometimes became mentally and physically taxing, but it was interesting to see how preparing my heart beforehand really affected the way I approached the situation. By coming with an attitude rooted in being obedient, I could relax and let God handle the fruit! Even though I wouldn’t hear any “crazy stories” of the refugee situations from the kiddos, I got a chance to sow seeds into the early lives of kids who are still in transition to their next home. And I pray that He will continue to work in these kids’s lives, wherever they end up. Additionally with the Greek Christian camp, God definitely showed me areas of improvement in regards to “put on Christ” when the job isn’t the most glamorous. Wiping the tables and serving the food in our smurf-gear was quite a humbling experience… Talking it out with the rest of the team reminded me of our true purpose to serve, to serve in whatever capacity faithfully and joyfully. And that’s definitely something I’ve taken back home with me.
I’m thankful that God was able to help bring this trip into fruition, and that I had the chance to be a part of it. God is doing SO many things in Greece and the refugees, and I pray that more resources and willing hearts will be coming to help according to the needs of the church.
I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to serve in Greece. It truly is a beautiful but broken city. It was surreal, and really difficult at times, encountering two people groups (refugees and Greeks) in one place but what a blessing it was to serve both. God showed me his heart for the refugees and he broke my heart for them. Prior to this trip, I honestly was so ignorant about the refugee crisis and just grouped them into one unit, placing my own judgments onto them, but after encountering them and hearing their stories, I realized that they are actual people with actual stories. This seems like a really “duh” realization but the refugees are like us in so many ways. They have dreams, interests – they had a life until the war broke. One of the girls we talked to was studying to be a lawyer in Syria, but was unable to finish her last year, because she and her family were forced to flee the country. Being with the refugees helped me to humanize them and really see them as people who are in desperate need of the gospel. My first instinct is always to provide for their tangible and immediate needs, which are definitely necessary, but being there and now reflecting back on it, it’s made more apparent to me that their #1 need is always to hear the love of Christ. That is the only thing that will truly save them. Although my heart is broken for their current state, I am thankful that our God is still GOOD and He is SOVEREIGN, that even amidst the devastation of war, the gospel is still moving and God’s will is still being done.
Getting to serve at the Greek Youth Camp was also a huge blessing that I never expected. It was so awesome to be able to worship with the Greeks, even though we didn’t speak the same language or come from the same culture. There was a oneness that I experienced that week and throughout the trip, that really moved me. For myself, I was so used to mentally separating Christians by their denomination or whether or not they identified as conservative or more liberal. But God really showed me that, although those things are important to identify, we are still one family, saved by the blood of Christ, believing in the same gospel and the same God, and ultimately that is the most important thing!
All are created in the image of God. All people, Muslim or Christian or atheist or Asian or Greek or Arabic, are all created in God’s image and are loved deeply and infinitely by our Creator. When His children suffer, God’s heart breaks, and He showed me just an infinitesimally tiny portion of the giant love that He has for all of His children, and the need for me love them with the love of Christ. And just as all are created in God’s image and loved by Him, all have sinned and have fallen short of His glory, and are in need of a Savior. Whether or not they shared my belief system or cultural background, the Greek people and Muslim refugees that I spent time with showed me so much grace and love, despite the incomprehensible horrors they had seen and experienced. And whether or not we said hello in the same way or dressed the same way, each person I encountered needed Jesus just as much as I do. I was incredibly blessed to have seen how much of God’s grace and love was reflected in all the image-bearers I met and served (and was served by), and I am constantly challenged and encouraged to continue, here in America, to love all in the same way.
Saying “God is faithful” and believing it are two different things. I think the difference lies in experience. It’s easy to hear that God is faithful, but to truly understand it is to experience it for yourself. During our trip to Greece, I experienced His faithfulness, His complexity, His wisdom and more. The truths about God that I’ve read in Scripture and heard in sermons came to life as we taught English, washed tables, and chopped vegetables. Every moment was a lesson of grace, to learn how big and how sovereign our God is. Praise God for all of it.
Sorry this was kind of long…but please feel free to talk to any of us about the trip if you have any questions, or if you would just like to hear more! We are so thankful for ALL of you who faithfully walked alongside of us in this journey. Thank you for your generous prayers and financial contributions!! We are so encouraged by your faithfulness and obedience to the Lord in being a part of His missions work!
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:7-8b
Crystal, Vanessa, Rebecca, and Sharon