Adventist Help in Lesbos

Adventist Help in Lesbos

Adventist Help is a new organization created by the will of ASI Europe.

December 20, 2015 | Bern, Switzerland. | Corrado Cozzi, CD EUDNEWS.

We are on the island of Lesbos, the first island of docking by migrants coming from Turkey.

In reality they are not only coming from Turkey, they have already made a long journey from both Middle East and Asia. Some are also from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. Few come from Africa, they have another access route to Europe, docking at Lampedusa. We are a team of 4 people, 3 responsible for Adventist World Radio, their task is to confirm the situation on immigrants who were forced to face a long 'journey of hope' (a term not original but realistic) who arrive here for the first time after crossing 8 kilometers by sea (from Turkey to Lesbos) on rafts that are full of mostly women and children.

They arrive anytime day or night.  Especially when they arrive at night, there is a volunteer group there welcoming them with a smile, this is wonderful to see; they too feel welcomed. Just imagine what it means for them to leave their own country and work their way to the promised land step by step. Lesbos is an important stop. From here on the voyage will be very long and very difficult. Many of them do not realize that,when they come they think that Germany is about 30 minutes from Lesbos (Lesbos is an island in Greece). On arrival, they are taken to an initial reception center where they can change their shoes. In fact everyone gets on the boat directly from the sea and stays wet during the 2-hour trip with their shoes, feet and trousers completely wet, the water is freezing and they shake because of the frigid conditions.

They are invited to go to the first reception center where volunteers are waiting for them to offer a hot drink, and those who have shoes can exchange them for dry ones, others take off their socks, and somehow try to squeeze them dry.

The second reception center is where they can spend the night, they arrive by buses or local resident's cars.  The locals make themselves available in rescuing migrants, a commendable humanitarian action. Here refugees can spend the night and then catch a ride to one of the  island ports such as Mytilene and continue to Athens. From then on begins the journey on foot or by train, or bus, depending on whether they find the right directions. They are given a map with the location indicated above - but only to the island of Lesbos. These people are not poor (many of them also have a telephone), these are people who escape from an unbearable situation, even if they are not well-off, nonetheless most of them have a phone to try to contact friends who have perhaps preceded them, to show them the way, or if possible, use a Google map of Europe.

At the first landing in Lesbos a bus awaits from the Adventist Church, which is run by a new Adventist organization: Adventist Help. This new organization was created by the will of the ASI Europe.  At the European international meeting they decided to help migrants who come from so far away. The promoter is the ASI director Switzerland, Christiane Theiss.

People in need are invited to get on this bus, where volunteer doctors offer first aid. Dr. Michael-John Von Hörsetn is leading the team. They perform emergency and very urgent interventions, needless to say these are much appreciated. Then migrants go to the second center, another medical site where they receive even further needed care even tough here they deal with minor first aid, but always appreciated by those in need. The people who come are from different walks of life, as mentioned before, but of course everyone hopes to find stability and comfort in Europe. Europe is ready to open its doors, we know which are the countries that welcome migrants, but it is clear that it will not be a quick solution. What is striking to see is the joy in all their faces for having succeeded in this first phase: from the Middle East and entering Europe.

Of course some come in rafts with the burden of stress, anxiety and distress when they leave, especially children who are bewildered, unable to understand what is happening ... we can only imagine how they feel. Then dock at this improvised port - at night - and we can understand the precarious situation they face, and the anxiety.  At this point all they can think of is getting out of that boat and put their feet on European soil, they don't really care about all the other troubles like the cold and wet feet. Organizers recommend and suggest taking the children first to protect them. So when they dock, they are picked up from the boat, held in the arms of the volunteer and cuddled. However, of course, they cry because they do not know the people who speak a foreign language. In the meantime, parents are quick to come out. Unfortunately there are also minors who arrive without their parents. They go with the flow, follow people, get to these shelters where they are given food and drink. And then they leave.

What more can we do than what a lot of volunteers are already doing here? Of course, pray that the Lord will bless these people that they may be able to face all past and future difficulties. We would like to provide them with information carriers that can help them especially during the route: manual winding torches and recharges for mobile phones. This is one of the first things migrants want, they need it and cannot do without,  and makes it much easier to get to where they want to go. We are also thinking of offering them the Mega Voices, instruments where a number of messages can be recorded - mostly about the route they need to take and other useful information. Mega Voices have a cost and we are working on how to cover the expense.

Here on the island we have various voluntary institutions, many that offer assistance to migrants, but there are also various media companies that are here to try to understand what is happening and pass on the information to the rest of the world. There is an atmosphere of extraordinary collaboration, especially among the volunteers, there is no competition between the institutions, who works better or who has more workers. All associations present on site are in direct or indirect contact with each other, together reaching a common goal.

We contacted some of these organizations and we realize that the work done here is an extraordinary work of passion. We also met a number of journalists who were touched by the sight of these migrants, so confused, full of doubt and seeking an answer; some journalists even helped out one evening when a boat landed in the wrong place where there was no real point of docking. They helped to hold the raft steady and rescue the migrants to dry ground. Living through these moments emphasizes the humanitarianism in people. What really pushed these migrants to leave their homes, were the horrible actions taking place in their countries with wars, conflicts, economic crises, and everything that destabilizes their balance. Therefore, for them it is difficult to find trust in man. By coming to these welcoming centers, they won't completely trust again, but certainly gain more hope. I believe that if there's anything more to do than what these volunteers already do, giving their time, their cars, distributing clothes, food... one thing left would be to welcome these immigrants when they arrive in our countries, welcome them with compassion and kindness, because after all they've been through, they need to reconsider their faith in mankind.

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