By Soula Isch
The well-known story of Hagar in the book of Genesis is repeated over and over again today. I have seen the Hagars of our time walking around especially in the cities of West African countries. But in the recent years many of them have come to Europe expelled from their countries because of a war or hoping to find a better future for the babies they hold in their arms and the children they try to keep close to them as they walk around in the cities, looking for help, for a shelter. I have watched them in my home country Greece and my heart goes out for them. Like Hagar in the Bible we do not know their back story but once they were used by their ‘masters’ they were asked to leave but leave and go where? In modern day, in the desert of our modern cities.
They are wandering here and there; they do not know where to go. They are led by trucks to ports of Turkey and Libya, where other people profit from their situation and promise them a great future if they give them some money, often a big amount so they can go to Europe. I have met many of them and asked them their story. They represent a big number among the refugees in Europe.
They come from various countries especially from Syria but also West Africa, many of them settle in a refugee centre provided by the government. My home church in northern Greece has done a lot to help them practically and make their life easier while they are waiting to go to some other European country. I am very proud of my fellow Greeks, Christians and non-Christians who although they still face their economic crisis they do all they can to help these refugees, especially the single women with children. They have provided clothing and hygienic items for them and their children. Though, they do not speak the local language, we are able to connect and make them feel welcome.
I have also visited the Day Care Centre in Thessaloniki where men and women come to get some material help but also have the opportunity to hear about God’s love when there is someone who speaks their language. Free Christian literature and New Testaments are always available in different languages. A friend of mine has provided technical support for many of them, especially in the refugee camps in Northern Greece, so they can have access to the internet through their phones. This allows them to communicate with their families back home or with family members who have already gone to another European country. This has been a tremendous help and a unique way to have the opportunity to share the Gospel.
There are many ways we can help and lighten the pain of the Hagars of our time and the men and women, young people and children who are homeless and strangers in foreign lands. In the story of Hagar in the Bible, God revealed Himself and spoke to that frightened and single mom. I am sure that God wants to use us today to show love and compassion to the Hagars of our time so that they may get up and continue their life’s journey.