MAKING THE JOURNEY
3rd August 2016
In July, Scottish Mission youth travelled to Greece for their 2016 Summer Youth Camp. When the 34 young people from Scotland and England arrived in Kalamos, just 50 kilometres north of Athens, they were in for a 12 day journey.
The week went by very quickly. The young people spent some time at the beach in the 38-degree sunshine and getting to know each other better floating in the Mediterranean with an air filled tube- here scuba diving and snorkelling were also on the menu. Many other activities awaited the youth, the Greek food and cultural heritage of Athens proved popular, especially when visiting the Acropolis and the new museum. The ancient city of Corinth brought the youth to the place where Paul is believed to have preached, as well as the place where he was stoned. The Temple of Apollo also demands your attention when you stand in this place. The city of Metéora is one of Christianity's holiest places where six monasteries are located, as well as a landscape of outstanding natural beauty.
On one of the days, the youth groups took a very early start and stopped at the Corinth Canal. The Corinth Canal is a canal that connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. This place provided a poignant reminder of a journey that many a traveller has made to reach the islands of Greece in seeking refuge. As the most south-easterly corner in the European Union, Greece has undoubtedly been most hit by the humanitarian disaster. Greece is currently the getaway to over 120 000 refugees who according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have made the journey to the supposedly safe havens of Greece where they find their turbulent journey is nowhere near over.
This brings us to the highlight of the youth camp, the visit to Oinofyta refugee camp that caters for mostly Afghan refugees. Oinofyta camp is coordinated by Do Your Part, while the medical help is provided by Adventist Help. The camp is run much differently than other camps, it is self-managed by the refugees and volunteers simply help coordinate it.
At the camp the youth found that there was plenty of help needed!
Indeed the harvest is full, the fields are ready and many helpers are needed. Divided into teams, the youth helped sort out all the donated clothing and set up games with the children. This provided many laughs. Poignantly, the camp which has about 300 refugees presented the youth with a chance to hear some very moving stories about the journeys some families made from Afghanistan to Turkey and then risked the dangerous passage across the Aegean Sea to Greece where their troublous journey is not over as many of them cannot be housed. News that for most is viewed on screens and experiences of an immigration crisis that would normally be seen on television became a gripping reality to the young people, hundreds of people fleeing their home country to save the lives of their families. A couple of the youth were so moved by the camp activities that they have chosen to stay on to volunteer with the refugee camp for a few more weeks.
This was not the only time we heard of the journey. Pastor Jimmy Botha who was the speaker for the meetings took the lessons focused on 'The Journey'. The theme that took the youth from a personal experience of journeying with Christ in His purpose for our lives through trials and triumphs. Capturing their attention as it was intermingled between the tours and community outreach, it gave the youth an opportunity to hear, discuss and reflect on what it means to journey through love and truth as illustrated by Christ Himself!
Sharri, one of the young people attending the camp commented on her experience saying, "From the time we are born we are on life's journey, with different destinations throughout life. As we travel along it isn't always smooth, and we encounter different experiences which lend to our development and progress. One of the most important journeys in life is our Christian journey, which started long before we even realised it. In this journey we grasp the full meaning of life, truth, faith and love, realising that none of these have essence without God. And despite the uniqueness of each journey, and our journey being our own, we must impact positively on others while sharing what God has done for us."
As a body of Christ we are called to feed the hungry and help those who are poor (Isaiah 58). Audrey, who's been volunteering at the refugee camp for 8 days commented, "My time at Oinofyta Camp has heightened in me the need for us to be the hands and feet of Christ. We work with families that are wounded both emotionally and physically but yet are amongst the most generous in spirit. The love and smiles and friendship the families offer in spite of their circumstances adds sunshine to a troubled world. We live in a world where 1out of 121 people is displaced. The question I ask myself is, 'Are we doing enough, what role are we taking in this humanitarian crisis as a Christian community?'"
Friday evening around sunset introduced a time of reflection when the youth group assembled at the beach where they enjoyed a wonderful communion service, having a foot washing service, right in the ocean. As they paired off for foot washing, the sense of a holy hour arrived. "It was truly a wonderful experience having this service in the sea", reflected Len.
The church service on Sabbath was organized and led by the youth. Some of the young people continued with the theme of the camp, and shared some of their own life journeys with everyone, demonstrating how God loved us even before we were born.
Tarrick, one of the organisers of the youth camp, commented that Greece was an experience of a different culture, and a place that was key to the development of Christianity. "I believe it gave us all a better idea of the climate and the cultural context that the Apostles experienced while preaching the Gospel to the people. We also came into contact with the modern aspects of Greek society that hinders the work of the Gospel in the Greek Mission. The food, people, the culture, the tours and of course the religious experiences of sharing and worshipping God together were truly unique in this phase of youth development for the Scottish Mission."
On Saturday evening the entertainment was second to none. The youth had organized a talent show that lasted the better part of 4 hours. There is no better place to reveal the hidden talents of the youth of your church than a talent show on a Saturday evening in Kalamos! The Scottish Mission can clearly be proud of the talent that exists among its youth. The work done through the week as they practised paid off when they presented their acts.
Now, back in reality, the youth are certainly poised and ready for the next outing. Watch this space.
So long Greece, tósa kairó.