Today, I woke up in Macedonia and drove two hours across the Greek border.
Help Refugees in Europe
I went through the normal checkpoint and had my passport stamped. Once across, we began driving parallel to the border until we came upon a group of a couple hundred refugees.
The group had just disembarked from a train and walked a kilometer or two to where we met them. They were walking along the train tracks until they came to a place to cross. Once they crossed over, they were in Macedonia. There was no one to stamp passports, but the refugees were guided along the way.
Although the news has mostly focused on Syrian refugees escaping a civil war that started in 2011, I found that there were also several refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, and a couple of African countries. People are leaving their homes for many reasons, but it’s not to “take advantage” of the hospitality of these Eastern European countries. Each person I spoke with had a heartbreaking story of why they had journeyed so far from their homes.
Each person touched me in a different way, but as I sit in my room back in Macedonia, one refugee stands out from the rest in my mind. Amena* was a teenage girl with a sweet smile. As she sat on an embankment for a moment at one of the stops, she unzipped an orange bag, and I heard a meow. After a couple of minutes of coercing, she was able to pull him from it.
I was excited, probably because I miss my cat; so I sat beside Amena to pet her friend. As I did, I asked her a few questions. Her English was broken but still better than my Arabic. She told me, with the help of those around her, that she and her family—her parents, brother, and sisters—had journeyed from Syria.
Along the way, they found this cat in Turkey. It was only a day old, and its mother had just died. She took compassion on it and brought it along with her.
As she spoke to me, her father walked up and picked up the cat. He cuddled it. Something about seeing a grown man do that—while he’s carrying all of his belongings and his family across the Middle East and Europe—made my heart happy.
In America, some of the news from Eastern Europe is filled with rioting and fear. I didn’t see that today. I saw a man and his daughter caring for an animal that could not care for itself. I saw her carrying an extra bag, across three countries so far, that she didn’t have to carry. I saw two people who, despite losing everything themselves, still had compassion for another of God’s creatures.
Amena and her father were two of thousands who crossed the border into Macedonia today. Each person has a unique story to tell. Most people left behind everything in search of a better life, and yet I saw tiny acts of compassion like Amena’s everywhere today. Please pray that she and her family are able to settle in Europe, and pray for safety in their journey.
*Name changed for security reasons.