RUF Serving in Athens, Greece

Alyssa Taylor, RUF student at Johnson & Wales University  |  February 07, 2019

RUF at Johnson & Wales University was able to go on a mission trip to Athens, Greece last year during our spring break. It was a great opportunity to serve others across the country. Throughout the trip we worked with the Damaris House, which has a program that helps women who are sexually trafficked get access to resources such as housing, work, food, and helps to heal these women's pasts. The women at the Damaris House were there because they fled from nearby countries and wanted help. It is dangerous for these women to have pictures taken or their names revealed in media because the men from which they fled are looking for them. A few of the women had small children who they cared for as well. They are some of the strongest women I have ever met. They were dealing with intense emotional issues, caring for their kids, learning skills to work, and working to provide for their families. Each day someone shared part of their story with us before we got started on class work. Part of their work was learning the english language, learning skills that could provide them income, and learning how to communicate their emotions well. The program is a minimum of 2 years which make sure the women have a smooth transition into normal life.

Each day we got to spend time with these women who came from different countries and spoke many different languages. In the evenings we got to spend time and serve other people groups. These included a group of refugees from Syria, refugees from Albania, and a subculture of gypsies who live in the outskirts of Greece. The need for resources is great for these people.  Being able to see God working in a different part of the world was transformational for all of us who were able to go on the trip!

My favorite part of the trip to Athens was meeting the refugees from Syria. It felt like we stepped into a different world the moment we walked through the gates into their little world. These people lived in the worst conditions I had ever seen. They all lived in an abandoned school house that was in bad shape. At a minimum there were 5 family members living in a single classroom together. They had a communal water source outside but no running water inside the school house. They got food rationed out to them for dinner, probably less than we would eat for a snack here. It was such a sad picture and made my heart break. You would expect these people to be sad, hopeless, and down. These were the happiest people I had met in Greece.  As we walked in they smiled and waved. We couldn't speak to one another because we didn't speak the same language but we played basketball with them and soccer. The kids ran around us playing tag, wishing they could play basketball like the older kids. A little girl came up to me with a bear and we played making it dance as she giggled and smiled. We learned from our host family that these people were so happy even in the conditions they lived in because they came from way worse. Not knowing if their lives would end any second living in Syria.

I would encourage students to take the opportunity anytime they have it to do a mission trip whether here or in another country. The mission trip got me to think of others, not myself, and to be aware of what conditions are like elsewhere. When all we've ever known is our culture and people it changes your entire perspective on the way that God is working and how you can be part of his work in other places even if that's by being convicted to pray for those in other countries.