Jesus, the shining star on the canvas (or, lessons learned in a camp)
It was the first time we’d Skyped since they’d landed in Greece. After a 12-hour bus ride, a layover in Athens, more travel and then a ferry ride over, their feet had finally touched land.
The trip itself was an experience. The Temple of Zeus. The Parthenon. The site of the early Games (yes, the Olympics). And, of course, the food. Real Greek baklava that melted in your mouth, all of this before that ride over, and the human flood of pain.
“Talk to me,” I say to our son from our comfortable home in the West. “Tell me what this has been like.” And from an island a world away, he starts to paint.
He paints a picture of a camp, and of tents. Only they can’t call it a refugee camp because it makes the locals nervous. So they call it a “transit point.” A 25-minute drive or a 4-mile walk from the beaches where the mighty hordes are landing, they come in.
“Have you been down to the beach yet?” I say, having seen photos, heard stories, read articles.
“No,” he says. “They don’t want to expose us to dead bodies.”
My Lord. It’s all real. People flee. Boats capsize. Children drown.
“I help load the buses.” Oh, yes. Just arriving on the island is a feat, a miracle in crafts made of rubber, on seas that rage loud. They’re just starting here.
“I look real official.” I’m laughing. Yes, he would love that. “I have a walkie-talkie and a clipboard. We load the buses and then tell them when to go.” An odd little tidbit, I think to myself. And then this: “We try very hard to keep families together.”
Strokes on a canvas, his words, his emotions, and Mother’s seeing the chaos. In the crush of the crowd, hands slipping, throng surges, and a loved one is swept away. Just like that.
His portrait’s emerging, color upon color. Syrian, Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi. Different countries, traditions, ideas. Same needs.
“The volunteers come from all over, too.” Ah, more colors. These are light, white, bright, shining hope. “There are Greeks, French, Swiss, Swedish and American,” he’s saying, and I’m seeing a palette of love, love that’s reaching.
“I met two Afghani boys,” he says. “They were fleeing from the Taliban.” Darkness pursuing. Evil chasing them right to the Light. Oh, there’s Light!
He’s still painting. “I’m seeing that the people we’re (our country) fighting are just people like us.” Aha. The “enemy” suddenly has a face. Like ours. They’re “just people,” these refugee souls.
“They are so hospitable and generous. Some of them come with only the clothes on their backs. Some of them do have backpacks. But they share! I was eating dates with some (Syrians?) that they shared with me. And once, someone reached into his backpack and offered me a cookie.”
I am wordless. His voice is heavy, heart humbled. “And I said, ‘I cannot eat your food.’”
I’m listening. “It was like the widow’s penny.” And on the canvas, a warm glow surrounds and suffuses. The poor, they are giving from their lack. In that camp.
“I’m beginning to see how nice we have it,” says my American boy far away. “When I tell them I’m American, they act like it’s a very privileged (place) to come from.” The eyes of others are new lenses.
“My ideas of the Middle East are being reshaped.” Then this, “Mom, do you remember how I used to tell you goodbye?”
I laugh out loud. “Two cheeks!” I exclaim. He’d always kiss both of my cheeks in farewell. Always.
“A refugee did that to me.” Yes. Yes. Yes!
He’s still painting, brushing strokes, covering canvas. And this word–miracles. They are there in a tent overseas. They’re seeing miracles.
“Families get separated. Then all of a sudden, they turn around, and there they are.” Just like that.
A bright, happy color’s o’er shading. Thank You Lord. And then, oh, then the bus can move. They’re together.
And just one more that he’s heard of and tells me. That refugees have actually seen Jesus. Seen him with their very eyes. In a tent. On an island in the Aegean Sea.
In a desperate time to desperate people in desperate need of His help, He appears. The pinnacle point, the shining star on the canvas.
Our friend, Jesus.
Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images