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Singing A New Song

A Letter from Nadia Ayoub, serving in Greece

May 2019

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But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…. So in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:20a, 22b

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. Psalms 98:1-2

Dear Friends and family,

I greet you with the Easter greeting: “Christ has risen. Indeed, He has risen.”

I thank you so much for your continued prayers, encouragement and financial support. Thank you for being an active partner in God’s ministry to the refugees in Greece.

It was great joy and peace for me to experience Easter in Katerini on April 28. Though Easter for the Evangelical Church in Greece was officially April 21, the Evangelical Church celebrated Easter with the Orthodox Church on the 28th, which was good testimony of Christian unity for Christians and people of other faiths alike.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works with the Greek government, local authorities and NGOs like Perichoresis (the NGO with which I work that was started by the Greek Evangelical Church in Katerini) to serve refugees and to provide urban accommodation and monetary assistance to asylum-seekers and refugees in Greece. These entities are able to offer extensions of these benefits through the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation Program (ESTIA), which is funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union.

Earlier this year, ESTIA announced that, due to the high number of new refugee arrivals in Greece, the accommodations available under the ESTIA program are insufficient to meet the needs of all asylum seekers. Consequently, many of the new refugees remain in temporary camps on the islands, lacking timely access to services that address their basic needs. Beneficiaries of the ESTIA program who are no longer asylum seekers, who have already obtained residence cards and permission-for-travel documents, or who have been beneficiaries for two years or more need to leave the ESTIA program. This announcement caused fear and panic among refugee families, who began to run in all directions as they tried to understand the announcement and determine ways to get out of Greece.
Soon afterwards, it was announced that an organized group would make its way to northern Greece to cross the Greek border. But the UN and the organizations who are responsible for refugee affairs discouraged this act, advising the individuals and families to seek counsel and help from the Greek authorities and the UNHCR.

The time has come for these refugees to sing a new song. They are citizens of Greece: children can now go to school and parents can find work. Eventually, they will be eligible for social benefits from the Greek government. Below I will share the stories of two refugees. The names of both have been changed to protect them and their families and to honor their privacy.

Fauzi Mansor is the father of a family of seven, all beneficiaries of Perichoresis. He and his family were working hard in the integration program. The children were starting to attend school on a daily basis and were progressing in knowledge of the Greek language and other subjects. Ragia, his wife, was doing her best to care for their four school-age children and the little one at home. Fauzi found a job in a car wash. Though the job was not entirely dependable — when it rains, the car wash is closed — he was proud to be working in Greece. All was going well until the announcement from ESTIA. Like the other refugees, Fauzi was in a panic and searched for the papwerwork he had received last year that granted him permission to obtain his travel documents. He considered moving to Germany, where two of his brothers are living. Requesting an appointment to be fingerprinted by the police for his passport, he was given a date six months out — September 2019.

It was at this time that Fauzi had a recurrence of his stomach ulcer. He stopped going to work, and the children stopped going to school.

He asked the office of Perichoresis to accompany him to meet with a social worker and a lawyer to help him understand the announcement and what he needs to do. I attended to interpret from English to Arabic. When he asked how this would affect his family, they explained in a friendly manner that he needs to consider his situation in a new way. He is no longer an asylum seeker, but a resident of Greece; he will be able to access social benefits in times of need as he continues to work and pay his taxes. Fauzi relaxed, and a smile came to his face. The program manager of Perichoresis ordered Fauzi’s ulcer medication and gave him two bags of food from the food bank. Fauzi went home and rested, reassured that Katerini is the right place for his family. He continues to work at the car wash and send his children to school, trusting that God will care for them in their new homeland.

Masaud is a 24-year-old refugee who lives with his grandmother. All of the rest of his family were killed in the war. As a beneficiary of the Perichoresis-RefuAid branch, the integration program for people who want to stay in Greece, he receives housing and financial support that covers living expenses. Because he could not find a job in Katerini, his friends in Athens invited him there to see if he could find work with them. Masaud decided to take the chance, and he tried living and working in Athens for two weeks. He found a well-paying job in a cafe and decided to remain in Athens to work and earn money. Although he no longer receives assistance from Perichoresis, he is happy to have found work in Greece.

I pray that Fauzi’s family, Masaud and many like them will sing a new song of their success in their new homeland of Greece. More than that, however, I pray the resurrection of the Lord Jesus will bring them better hope of eternal life with God in Christ the risen Lord, as they receive him as a personal savior.

Thank you so much for your encouragement, prayer and financial support, which make it possible for me to share your love with refugees and locals in Katerini. Please continue to support God’s mission in these life-affirming ways.

Yours in the Risen Christ,

Nadia Ayoub

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