Few parts of Europe have generated as many refugee crisis headlines as northern Greece.
Hundreds of thousands of people have passed through the area around Thessalonica and there is a huge challenge to meet their needs.
Riots at Eidomeni, tents erected in windowless factories and families pleading for permanent housing have been broadcast repeatedly around the world.
However, a very different story has been unfolding outside the media spotlight.
Across the city, hundreds of people are committing their time, money and skills to bring more than just food and blankets to the refugees. Across the city, God’s people are at work.
The practical needs of the refugees are abundantly clear but the Christians in Thessalonica recognise that there is an even deeper need for Christ.
The churches have come together across denominations to pool resources and open a ministry centre in the heart of the city – a place that can serve practical needs and provide a safe space outside the camps where relationships can be built and the gospel shared.
With the help of the Greek Evangelical Alliance, as well as gospel-focused agencies such as AMG International, AGAPE and the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Greece, this vision is now a reality.
On April 3, Christian leaders and church members from across Greece gathered together to officially open the Care Refugee Centre, praying that it would be a place for the love of Christ to shine.
The beautiful new space offers classrooms where Greek, English and German will be taught, play rooms for children of different ages, a room for medical volunteers to do check-ups, a laundry and shower facilities.
There is a room for collecting and distributing donated clothes and a larger communal room where Greeks and refugees can sit down together and share a coffee.
In this way the love of Christ can be both demonstrated and shared freely with all those who come.
There are still many challenges if this ministry is to develop. One of the biggest is language, because most of the refugees speak Arabic and have little or no Greek. Christian translators are needed urgently.
Short-term visitors who speak Arabic would be a huge blessing, as would those with a longer-term calling.
There are also opportunities to reach the children of the refugees, by helping out at the Child Evangelism Fellowship’s youth camp in the mountains.
The camp has turned old train carriages into shelters and also has zip lines, climbing frames, a sports field and even a tiny theatre.
As yet, there is no one to run the camp full-time and a vacancy definitely exists, perhaps for a couple.
Many people are already striving to bring Christ’s love to refugees and migrants in Thessalonica — if you’d like to join them in this gospel calling please contact us by emailing Tim Allan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For the ongoing funding of the Care Refugee Centre and its ministry.
That God will call many Arabic speakers to serve in Greece and continue to bring refugees and migrants into his loving family.
Thank God for the unity in Christ so clearly demonstrated by the churches of Thessalonica.