Smoke rises as it blends into the orange, pink and grey clouds above, backlit by the setting sun. This is the final sunset for Kari McGhee, Lindsey Mayberry and Karen Davis here at a refugee camp in Idomeni, Greece along the Southern border of Macedonia. Thousands of people who have been forced from their homes because of terrorism, civil war, pressure to join extremist organizations or overwhelming economic depression do not know when they will see their final sunset.
"Where should we go? Should we wait? Do you have any extra tents?"
"There are two little trees the refugees walk through in order to cross from Greece into Macedonia," Kari said. "As they turn north to head across the railroad tracks there are usually tears in their eyes as they cross from one obstacle in their journey to another." Some families were finally allowed to cross today but many others are beginning to be all too familiar with their surroundings.
Kari told me, "Those who cannot currently cross the border have been here for 4 or 5 days. With the cold temperatures and lack of supplies and food, they have not eaten or slept well at all." The most frustrating thing for the volunteers is the lack of answers. They give bad news all day as people continue to ask, "Where should we go? Should we wait? Do you have any extra tents?"
"These people are forever etched in my heart"
Karen Davis said she will never forget her new friends, all from countries she had never spent much time thinking about. "The people I had heard about on the news for so long but had never given a second thought about are now my friends. Friends from Syria, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. These people are forever etched in my heart and mind and I will pray daily for them as they seek better lives for themselves and their loved ones."
Kari said, "Everyone here just asks that we share their stories. They are mothers and daughters, fathers and sons." They had normal lives in cities like ours until they were overrun with extremists and violence. "They want people in America and Europe to know that they are not terrorists."
Karen met a young man who had been imprisoned and beaten because he began attending a Christian church in Iran. "As a high school graduate he was expected to join the military. He wanted to study at the university instead so he is trying to join his mother who has found asylum in Germany," Karen said. "He felt there was no way he could join Iran's military because he was not ready to die, he had no other choice but to flee. He later told me, 'now I am free to worship God.'" Karen was able to pray with him and encourage he and his family and friends to remain clam even though they were cold and frustrated after having waited five days at the camp.
The women said their goodbyes tonight to their new friends but this will not be the last time they think of them. They have been forever changed by their experience and they have certainly made a lasting impact on many of the refugees' lives as well.