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Scenes From the Refugee Camp

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, what will happen to the Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland? A couple of the terrorists came through Greece – certainly authorities will tighten the borders. Will they shut down the camp? The pressure is building – already an estimated 2.4 million…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, what will happen to the Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland? A couple of the terrorists came through Greece – certainly authorities will tighten the borders. Will they shut down the camp?

The pressure is building – already an estimated 2.4 million people have traveled to Turkey and are waiting for available rafts to cross the four miles of open water to the island of Lesvos where our World Race squad is staffing the first refugee camp.*

About 10 babies are born every day as their mothers journey.*

An estimated 250,000 have died so far.*

An estimated 8 million people are waiting to come over from Syria.*

The scenes at the Lesvos camp, as reported by our workers, are heart-rending:

“I watched three small children around the ages of 5,4, and 3 while others searched for their parents. I could see the fear in their eyes and hear the pain in their cries, but I was unable to console or comfort them. They didn’t speak any English, and I was a complete stranger from a different country. Although we hoped and prayed to find their parents, the reality is we did not know if we would. Some families get separated and are not able to find their loved one.

I held the 3 year-old while the 4 year old wailed and sobbed despite his 5 year old sister’s attempts at comfort. She had to be the strong one.'”**

“The refugees were coming to the tent begging for dry clothes, and mothers were handing me their naked, crying children hoping I could get them warm. That task seemed nearly impossible because we would search for clothes that could fit and then asking them to change in a tent were they were standing in inches of water. The desperation on the faces of the refugees that night is an image I won’t forget.”


Kayla Zilch gave an account of what this feels like: “The situation at hand with our brothers and sisters from the Middle East is devastating, and only a robot wouldn’t react with some level of grief at the sight of half a million people displaced from their homes with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

In spite of it all, though, I felt resentment building inside of my chest last night, swelling and pushing up against the bottom of my lungs.

You’re weak.

This shouldn’t be affecting you!

Why do you always feel the need to cry? No one else is crying.

Toughen up.

Inside the food tent, I found my squad-mate Kelly-Anne, and there in the darkness we unburdened our hearts. Jesus, I prayed silently, I don’t want to make this all about me. Get me out of the way so I can serve well.

Immediately, four simple words dropped into my heart.

“Pick up your sword.”

From updates.theworldrace.org

“Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17

My first response was, Dang. God’s such a sweet-talker.

And then: I’m not actually strong enough to do this. I need to fight, but not on my own. On my own, I don’t have the ability to regenerate my strength. As much as I spend time daydreaming about how cool it would be to be a plant and recycle my own resources, my love is a limited resource; I need to be filled up in order to empty out.

The 2,000 men, women, boys and girls coming through this camp everyday need to see the face of compassion. The Bible even says that Jesus was moved to weep on multiple occasions by the evil and loss he witnessed on Earth. When God created me, he carved out a football field-size area for empathy, but I’ve long preferred to declare that area off-limits to the public. Was it actually possible that I could fight for these people with a spirit of compassion as my sword?

1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

With all of my heart, I believe that God has Y-Squad here for a reason: he has given us grace and a variety of talents that can be used to serve the countless people here on this little island. But those talents are like branches on a vine, and need to stay close to their main source of life.

There are stories that must be told, lives that must receive a fresh breath of hope, and battles that can only be won by wielding Truth as the weapon of choice.

Hey, Jesus — I’m ready to pick up my sword.”

Photos by Stephen Zenner

* As reported by Lindsay Anderson

** As reported by Andrea Burrow


Comments (5)

  • Seth, thank you for connecting us with these incredible blogs from our Racers. What an incredible group of faithful servants. Our daughter is on Y squad – and this our first journey…. or even knowledge of this World Race. It continues to move me beyond words.

  • There’s is great concern about refugees coming to America and being distributed to 180 cities throughout the USA. The government has not told the people what the vetting process is to determine if refugess are truly in need or infiltrated with terrorists. Many have no confidence is what the government is doing. In light of what’s is happening in Europe, and what could happen in the USA, how do you think Christians should approach the issue of refugees in the USA?

  • James, I hear you man but I truly think God will use this to see what the church in America is made of. Over and over in scripture we are told to serve the least of these and to surrender our lives even unto death. There is no way we can know who comes into this country. We are not called to protect America. We are called to lay down all for Jesus Christ. From Columbine to Umpqua our children are understanding what it means to stand up, claim Jesus, and die as a result. Jesus had Judas in his inner circle but He served him and gave him responsibilities of leadership (finances), all the while knowing what Judas would do. For certain terrorists will be among those relocating here. I am sure it will happen. And there will likely be death perpetrated by their hands against Americans and likely Christians. But if we serve thousands in the name of Jesus and some of them come to understand “Isa al Masih” (Jesus the Messiah), then will it have been worth it? More than a million Muslims a year are coming to Jesus. He is showing up in their dreams and they do not refuse Him. My suggestion is run to these lost souls and serve them as Jesus would have you. Build relationships. I have Muslims friends who are here from Damascus Syria, Jerusalem Israel, and Amman Jordan that I am cultivating the love of Jesus into their lives. It brings such joy to have them ask deep questions about Jesus and the Holy Scriptures. This is not the time to fear. I really believe we are here for such a time as this!!! James, Seth can provide you my email if you want further guidance in how to engage this group that Jesus is so radically working to bring into His family. Jump in brother.

  • Thanks for asking the question, James….I think many share the same concerns. And thank you Michael for the thoughtful and honest response. I sort of feel like I was eavesdropping on your conversation, but it was comforting to hear the dialogue. “This is not the time to fear”.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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