Syrian refugees who fled predominantly Muslim countries amid ongoing war and terrorism are embracing Christianity and teaching their children about Jesus after experiencing firsthand the love and compassion of believers in Greece.
This year alone, more than 126,000 refugees have entered Greece, and last year, more than 500,000 refugees arrived on the island of Lesbos, according to the BBC. Still more refugees more are traveling to Macedonia, which was allowing entry to only 250 refugees per day and has turned away more than 6,000.
Thousands are expected to be stranded in Greece or Turkey in the upcoming months, as several European nations recently announced caps on the numbers they will take. Even worse - more than 3,770 migrants were reported to have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015. Most died on the crossing from north Africa to Italy, and more than 800 died in the Aegean crossing from Turkey to Greece.
According to a report from Christian Aid Mission, Christian relief groups are working tirelessly in these regions to help provide food, clothing and blankets to such new arrivals, and they distribute groceries weekly to more than 100 families.
One ministry team leader told the outlet that their volunteers are able to communicate with the Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish refugees in their own languages, allowing them to share the love of Christ with those traumatized from their experiences.
The ministry leader shared one particularly compelling story of how one refugee, who will go by the name of Saddam for security reasons, embraced Christianity after witnessing the kindness of the Christian aid workers.
Saddam appeared to have been a man of authority and wealth in Syria, and told the ministry that he found out about them because everyone at the hotel where he was staying was talking about it.
When he first arrived, he asked a ministry worker if he was a Christian or a Muslim. Uncertain of why he was asked such a question, the worker asked him why he wanted to know.
With tears streaming from his eyes, Saddam said, "I need someone to talk with me about Jesus."
The workers summoned the ministry co-directors, and the Muslim man told them, "All the Muslim countries have turned their back to us. All the Muslim nations have ripped us from our treasures. They taught us not to trust the Christians, and that they are liars. I come to Greece and I find myself in the best place with the best food for me and my children. I find love that I have never seen. Please teach me."
He wept even more as the ministry leaders led him to Jesus as Lord and Savior, then he said,
"Now, you have to teach my children. These are the future. They have to be Christians. Our time is short. Please teach them."
The co-directors reported, "Yesterday, our friends from the Sunday school prayed for two of his children. He was smiling so much despite the pain in his heart."
The ministry leader recalled the story of one volunteer, "Hassan", was a chef in Syria who lost his wife and two children in an air strike at Yarmouk Camp, in Damascus, two and a half years ago. In his first visits to the ministry, initially he sat in a corner and avoided interaction.
However, after two months, he asked to speak to the male co-director: "I have never seen something like this in my life," he told him. "I do not understand how you can love and work all together. I must know more about Jesus."
They prayed with him to put his trust in Christ Jesus that day. The ministry notes that since then, the joy of Christ is evident in Hassan's daily interactions.
"During our discipleship meeting, when we discussed about forgiveness, some were complaining about the hardships of their life," the female co-director said. "He picked up a plastic coffee cup, and he said, 'I picked up the pieces of my children's bodies in a cup like this! And look how I am now!'"
As aid workers attempt to provide spiritual, medical and emotional aid to the millions of refugees, there remains a great need for practical items, such as food, clothing and blankets.
"Greece was not prepared for this, so some sleep at stadiums, at squares, at beaches, at fields next to the highways, everywhere," the co-director said. "Some Greeks are getting angry and feel in despair, while some others come out and from their houses offering water and food to the refugees passing by. The elderly ones remember when they came as refugees to Greece, and tears fill their eyes."
There is also a great need for prayer: The future of many of the refugees remains uncertain, as several European nations recently announced caps on the numbers they will take.
"Entering the big reception venue of the port, which now was serving as a big bed for hundreds of refugees, the smell was bad," the co-director recalled, adding that she caught sight of a woman who appeared to be hyperventilating. "You could see she was just about to have a nervous breakdown. I asked her if she was okay. Immediately she started to cry. She was so scared."
She learned that the woman had come from Iraq with her husband and 2-year-old son.
"I kept her in my arms till she relaxed," the co-director said. "She is only one; there are thousands around."
To learn how you can help, visit the Christian Aid Mission website.