The leaders of a local ministry in Greece were trying to help a 16-year-old Bedouin shepherd from the Middle East who showed up at their offices last year, but the boy started crying when they asked him to sign an application form for asylum.
Seeking to reunite with his brother in London, he was growing frustrated with a series of questions he couldn’t answer. No, he didn’t know about the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union; no, he didn’t know what Europe was; and no, he didn’t know what a signature was.
“He had never gone to school and didn’t know how to read or write,” the leader of the ministry said. “He started crying when our interpreter explained to him what a signature meant.”
He was one of many unaccompanied children and other young people from countries in conflict that arrive at the refugee center. Many of the minors are illiterate; most have no inkling of how they’re going to make their way in the world.
“He is tall and big, but his understanding and responses were that of a small child that seemed lost and was trying to get to his family whom he trusts,” the leader said. “He had been homeless in Greece. He couldn’t go back in the streets.”
Nor could he return to his home country, as his life was threatened due to his brother’s actions there, she said. Workers helped him register for asylum so that he could apply for temporary accommodation in a shelter for minors, and meantime they placed him in a hostel to get him off the streets.
They provided him food and emotional support and helped transport him to and speak with a doctor. After getting him placed in the shelter, months later they were astonished at the change in him when he brought a homeless minor to the center for assistance.
“This boy was truly transformed – there was no fear anymore in his eyes,” the leader said. “He had enrolled in English classes and now was fluent in English; we could communicate with him with no interpreter. He had gone through a barber school and computer classes and was about to enroll in barista classes.”
The boy had obtained refugee status in Greece and was making plans to visit his brother in London, she said.
“How wonderful to see how God’s grace opened up all these ways and transformed a lost, full-of-fear boy into a young man with hope and potential for the future,” the leader said. “Your support has been valuable, as you have enabled us to work among the refugees in Greece to provide the practical as well as spiritual needs of the people.”
Path to Recovery
Another shepherd boy, this one a 17-year-old from Kuwait, also arrived at the local ministry’s doors last year. He had started out with his parents, but they had died of hunger on the way.
An Iraqi had brought him to the native ministry, telling workers, “I was sitting with my family in one of the central squares when he approached and asked me, ‘Where am I?’”
In tatters and looking sickly and wide-eyed with fright, the boy told workers that he wanted to apply for asylum as his parents had died, and he had no other relatives, the leader said.
“Coming to Greece,” the boy told workers, “it was about 15 of us that stayed for about 10 days in the forest in Turkey. My parents were unable to withstand hunger and thirst. Some Syrians that were there helped to bury them in the woods.”
Workers helped him with an application for shelter and took him to their storage area to get some clothes.
“He didn’t have any other clothes except the ones that he was wearing,” the leader said.
Help from Above
Many young people arrive in deep emotional pain.
A 19-year-old woman who had been granted asylum approached the ministry for help obtaining a residence permit, but a local worker noticed that her asylum card had expired.
“The young lady started crying,” the ministry leader said. “Our caseworker sent an email to the asylum office asking for an expedited appointment for the young woman to renew her expired asylum applicant’s card in order to issue the new residence permit, explaining about how agitated and upset the young lady had become.”
The worker suggested they go to an adjoining room with an interpreter to pray with one of the ministry leaders.
“The young lady agreed, and so they did,” the leader said. “After prayer, during which the young woman was sobbing, she left.”
The asylum office in Greece was over-extended with refugee cases, but, miraculously, within an hour someone from the office called with an expedited appointment for the young woman, the leader said.
“This almost never happens because of the huge numbers of refugees and the huge caseload of the asylum office, but God is bigger than any of these,” the leader said. “He answers prayers, and He has His own ways!”
Local missionaries are bringing the love of Christ to refugees in various parts of Europe. Please consider a donation today to equip and encourage them.