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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Answering God’s call to work with refugees in Greece


Mission co-worker Nadia Ayoub sees light in the darkness

July 11, 2020

Before physical distancing, Nadia Ayoub meets with a group of refugee women to do some baking and informal worship. (Contributed photo)

In the fall of 2015, mission co-worker Nadia Ayoub was attending a conference with colleagues in Budapest when the city’s Keleti train station became the epicenter of the refugee crisis overwhelming Europe. She could not forget the images of children sleeping on cardboard, families with not enough to eat and the pervasive fear of what would happen next.

At that moment she felt a strong call to work with refugees.

Then working with the Roma people in Ukraine, she has moved to the city of Katerini on Greece’s mainland to serve in partnership with Perichoresis, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) global partner that works to alleviate some of the hardships suffered by refugees.

Perichoresis provides housing and support for approximately 550 refugees in 115 apartments in Katerini. Initially people were taking refugees into their homes. But it quickly became apparent that was a temporary solution.

“When refugees had to camp out in Idomeni, Greece, on their Balkan route trail in 2015, members of the Evangelical Church in Greece rediscovered their own forced migration story from 100 years ago and decided to organize support,” said Burkhard Paetzold, Presbyterian World Mission’s regional liaison for Central and Western Europe.

Now their expanded programs include a nursery school sports activities, and socio-therapeutic groups for children, adolescents and women. It also supports refugees with medical appointments ad visits with lawyers.

Before forced isolation from the pandemic, Ayoub accompanied pregnant women and children to doctor’s appointments to facilitate communication and be an advocate. Currently she serves as a translator. She speaks Arabic, English, Russian and Hungarian, and her Greek vocabulary is expanding rapidly.

According to the International Rescue Committee, the refugee population in Greece is about 50,000 — more than 38,000 on the mainland and more than 11,000 on the islands. Over half are women and children and of those, about 3,000 are traveling alone.

Ayoub says she sees God at work in the families she assists.

The Fouad family, with whom she has an ongoing relationship, has just left Greece after five years to seek asylum in Germany. Perichoresis helped the family, with five children, find housing, and the father a job with a restaurant. He began by doing cleaning; then the owner trained him to work in the kitchen. Before he left, he was preparing traditional Palestinian dishes on a regular basis for the customers.

Ayoub said refugees lost job opportunities during the agricultural season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many in need of food. The Greek government promised grants, but refugees are not eligible. The Karypidis family, a Greek family she sometimes helps with translation, was disappointed they could not invite refugee families for an Easter celebration. Instead, they distributed food to the 20 families under their care. The grandfather of the family wrote small messages in Greek; Ayoub translated the messages into Arabic to include with the food packages.

“Because most people do not plan to stay in Greece, I wondered if I could create a lasting ministry with impact,” she said. “These examples show me that I can. I really am seeing the goodness of God in this land.”

Her work with Perichoresis, Ayoub believes, is part of the Matthew 25 call. “We welcome strangers into our homes and offer them shelter, food and other things they need,” she said. “They are acting as God’s hands and feet to take care of the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters as Jesus taught in Matthew 25 — what (we are) to do while waiting for the kingdom of God to come. The Greek Evangelical Church has set an example for all.”

Ayoub asks U.S. Presbyterians to keep Perichoresis in their prayers.

“I urge PC(USA) congregations to pray fervently for Perichoresis staff because they are the ones who keep it going in the right direction. Also, I humbly ask for your continued support for me so that I may continue to serve God with this God-founded institution,” she said.

Give to the Peace & Global Witness Offering to support the peace and reconciliation work of church partners through World Mission.

 Kathy Melvin, Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  Nadia Ayoub, mission co-worker in Greece

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Julia Henderson, Office of the General Assembly
Lorraine Henry, Board of Pensions

Let us pray:

Spirit of the Living God, wrap us in your love and make us one. Amen.