Radical Humans – Greece Pt. 2

by Jeff Saferite on December 1, 2016

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I fell asleep on the couch last night. I’m not exactly sure what time I went down but I awoke to my wife telling my daughter it was time for bed. It was actually my daughter’s frustrated cry that woke me as she was asking me if it was time for us to watch Arrow yet. She loves Arrow and more particularly the Black Canary. She has identified so much with the strong female superhero that she chose to be the Black Canary for Halloween. Needless to say, my daughter was pretty upset when she discovered there would be no Arrow last night.

Safari is not the only one who likes superheroes. In fact, I’m pretty certain that most of us at one time or another have had a favorite superhero. As a child mine was He-man. By the power of Grayskull prince Adam would turn into He-man and with superhuman power defeat Skeletor and all the evil in the kingdom. Recently, I attempted to watch the series with my son a year or so ago but, unfortunately, he was not interested.

The beauty of these superheroes is that they are mostly good while giving of themselves to defeat evil in the world. Throughout my time in Greece I continued meeting hero after hero. These heroes were not superhuman but rather radically human. As I mentioned in my last post, “I have always admired the person who puts their life on the line for another. But when you meet people who put their entire life on hold for others, you’re left speechless.” Lisa, Dimitri, Riki, Jodi, Autumn, and Mohammad are each wonderful examples of this sacrifice. Each of them give of themselves each and everyday to serve and love on the refugees in Greece. Each of them have put opportunity, comfort, and futures on hold.

Lisa is a PhD student who originally went to Greece to do research with refugees. After spending a bit of time in Greece, she put her research on hold to simply serve refugees. In all sincerity, there is no “simply” in Greece. She has made herself present and available at one of the squats, helping with both menial and significant tasks. One day she was looking for transportation to get some furniture to the squat, another day she was looking for baby formula (which is always in high demand), another she was teaching English, another she was attempting to prep a large room in the basement for the kids during the winter months, and another she was holding a young girl while watching ballet on the computer. And in the midst of all this, she was attempting to solve the buildings growing sewage issues. Did I mention she was only 25 years old (give or take a few years). Lisa has not had a day off in months and has no idea how long she plans to stay. She is a giant and I want to be her best friend.

The day I visited the warehouse, which is the old olympic basketball arena, I spent most of it with Dimitri (shown in picture above). When people send supplies to Greece, they go to the warehouse where volunteers sort through it all. Dimitri’s job is to run supplies from the warehouse to the various camps and squats. While we were running supplies I got to know a little more about Dimitri. He owned a restaurant for many years. I could tell he was proud of his restaurant as he showed me pictures. The spark in his eyes and his smile that went from ear to ear told me just how much he enjoyed his restaurant and his employees. They had live music most evenings and his employees seemed like they were family to him. The night before meeting him his band went to one of the camps and held a celebration/dance for the refuges. He smiled another big grin thinking about the joy it put on the faces on all the people.

dimitri

When I asked him where his restaurant was so I could visit and eat before leaving, he explained that when the refugees started coming he closed it so he and others could help. I was dumbfounded. This dude had just spent a good deal of time telling me about his restaurant while flipping through pics he kept with him. All of this created that big smile I keep telling you about. And he just shut it down. Can you imagine closing your family business in order to help the refugees? Later in the day, as we passed by a beach, I asked if he ever went to the beach. He once again got a big smile on his face (recurring theme here as he was full of joy) and said, “Oh yes! At least 100 times a year.” That was until the refugees starting coming in. This past year he said he went twice. When I asked why, he just said the refugees need him. Dimitri has given up his business and his time at the beach to serve and love the refugees. I want to be Dimitri’s neighbor.

Lisa and Dimitri are not alone. I will tell the stories of Riki, Jodi, Autumn, and Mohammad in later posts as each of them have given me an example of what it means to be radically human. To be superhuman is to be something beyond human ability but to be radically human is to be fully human. They have each done something I am perfectly capable of doing as well. Lisa put her studies on hold, even very relevant studies, and Dimitri closed his business. They did this because they saw the need of others and determined it was more important than their own pursuits. This is what it means to be radically human.

A friend of mine,e were all made in the image of God and are meant to reflect his love, grace, and mercy. In Jesus, we discover that God’s love, grace, and mercy is self-emptying and self-sacrificial. Paul gives us a picture of this in Philippians 2. He suggests that if we have experienced the encouragement and love of Christ and/or the sharing of the Spirit than we are to have the same mind and attitude as Christ by choosing the needs of others above our own ambitions. Christ did not die so that we could forgo the work of service to one another but rather that we may have the love, encouragement, and sharing of the Spirit so that we could become truly and fully human. So that we could become radically human.

I love superheroes but radical humans are way more heroic in my eyes. I want to be like them. 

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Rambling Through Speechlessness – Greece Pt 1

by Jeff Saferite on November 20, 2016

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Yesterday I had lunch at Sisters Thai in Fairfax, VA. The Red Curry Chicken is generally gold as long as they make it Thai spicy. For some reason the staff sometimes doubts my ability to handle Thai spicy. I ate alone (kinda) pondering my trip last week to Greece, attempting to collect my thoughts in order to update my friends here at home while honoring my new ones. The seating at Sisters Thai is pretty tight so I was basically sitting in the middle of the conversation going on to my right. I had a good chuckle when the man next to me suddenly realized that he had been talking for a good while without shutting up. He quickly apologized only to continue talking for the remainder of the time. The woman’s words during her lunch might have filled one tweet but not much more.

I felt sorry for the woman but was partly amused as well. Amused because if I am not intentional, I am just as susceptible to dominating a conversation like the one I witnessed. It is rare that I have little or nothing to say. As a child, I was told many times that I have the “gift of gab.” And this has held true most of my life. So it comes as a surprise, even to myself, when I can’t find the words to say something. Spending seven days with refugees from Syria and Afghanistan has apparently stolen my “gift of gab.” I have been left speechless.

How was it? What do you think? Was it hard? Was it overwhelming? These are the types of questions I’ve received since returning from Greece. They are quite normal and definitely the types of questions I would have asked you had you gone and I stayed back. I have been processing the experience a lot since the plane landed back home this past Friday. Yet for some reason I’m struggling to come up with words to adequately describe my thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Maybe it was overwhelming. There are a lot of refugees. Their stories are tragic, their present is unstable, and their future is unknown. But “overwhelming” seems like a false description in describing the refugees I encountered. They were amazing and in the midst of their struggle, they have found a way to smile and be at relative peace. The perseverance and resiliency they have shown in the midst of a nightmare is worthy of all admiration. If anything, I am motivated. Don’t hear more wrong, they are frustrated but overwhelmed just does not seem to fit.

Maybe I am fearful, knowing now that Trump has won the election and that the border will likely be closed to refugees, especially from war torn Syria and Afghanistan. The life of the refugee is pretty mundane. They often sit awaiting interviews with the hope of resettlement. They are stuck in between worlds grasping hold of their phones (yes, they have phones) not knowing when or if their new world will ever call. Until last Wednesday morning (late Tuesday for you) the response building within me was saying we must advocate hard on behalf of these pleasant new friends of mine. My home, my people need to welcome them into our amazing land of opportunity. And then the election results came in and I was lost with them again.

Maybe I have been humbled. The laborers are few but the work is plenty in Greece. Yet the laborers who are there serving and working with and for the refugees are giants. I have always admired the person who puts their life on the line for another. But when you meet people who put their entire life on hold for another, you’re left speechless. These women and men are giants among heroes. Many have worked for weeks and even months on end without a day off. All involved have my deepest and most sincere respect.

Maybe I am searching for a new story line, or a new way of bringing this tragedy to life for all of us. People have lost their home, family business, savings account,and most treasured possessions. They have lost their careers and professions. And when I asked how we could best help, their response was so simple. Visit us. Sit with us. Enjoy our tea and tell us about your family. In the midst of such tragedy, they want friendship. “By coming you have shown us that you care and we are not forgotten.” We want to rescue them while they want us to remember them. Yes, to remember is to rescue but it is much more than a physical rescue. To be remembered is to be known, to be visited.

Maybe I am just not sure how to start the conversation. It is certainly multi-layered and complex. Over the next coming days and weeks I will elaborate on many of these ramblings and more. I have certainly been challenged and inspired by this trip. I have been on many short term mission/service trips over the years and know very well the emotional attachment that can take place in just a few days. The one thing that was different about this trip is the lack of support the refugees in Greece have. Don’t get me wrong, the Greek government and the volunteers are working hard and doing a phenomenal job. Unfortunately there is just a lot of work to do and few workers to do it. But more on this later.

For now, I leave you with a picture of Akropolis. I spent my first and last night staring at it while reflecting on my time in Greece. So maybe it’s fitting that I leave it with you here. 

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Coffee and ISIS: A response to violence and nonviolence in the wake of Paris

November 14, 2015

This morning I’m sitting her drinking coffee and watching my children laugh and play while I’m grieving for Paris and those impacted by the Islamic State. Many who have followed my thinking and work over the past few years know that I am a vocal supporter of the nonviolent way of Jesus. Violence begets violence. […]

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Girl, Do Your Thing!

September 3, 2015

Have you ever made a professor so mad they cried? I have. At the time I thought he was weak and incapable of defending the very things he was teaching. At the time I found this utterly preposterous. But even more preposterous than a man not knowing how to defend his teaching was his teaching […]

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An Open Letter to Conservative Evangelicals: In response to Franklin Graham

July 21, 2015

So…Franklin Graham said something stupid again. If you have not read it, here it is (taken from his Facebook page): Four innocent Marines (United States Marine Corps) killed and three others wounded in ‪#‎Chattanooga‬ yesterday including a policeman and another Marine–all by a radical Muslim whose family was allowed to immigrate to this country from […]

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We’re Not a Post-Christian Culture

March 11, 2015
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Lee Beach, in his fantastic book The Church in Exile, references the distinct difference between the centennial birthday celebration of Canada as a country and the day of mourning to commemorate the lives lost after 9/11. In 1967, at the centennial celebration, 25,000 people gathered along with state officials, eight clergy and Queen Elizabeth to […]

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