MLK Jr. Left his Mark on Greece 11/22/2016

On August 28th, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the famous I HAVE A DREAM speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

 

Thousands gathered around and thousands more listened from afar as the speech began.  

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

 

●As the speech went on, it became more of a declaration, a cry….a prayer.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.   But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.   And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Today I felt compelled to listen to this speech. I have heard it numerous times throughout my life. We quote in nonchalantly, make songs out of it, and mention it in passing conversations. But I decided to REALLY listen to it today. And for me, is poses the question, What is freedom?”

As a Christian I could fill up a news feed or blog post on the Theology of Freedom. I could even go as simple as, Free is life in Christ.” Which is true, 100%. But WHAT DOES FREEDOM LOOK LIKE in the natural, practical day-to-day life? Or what does it look like to the person who can’t really seek religious truth in their nation? This is not a question just for America, but for the whole world.

According to • The Bill of Rights” -Amendment 1- Freedom of Religion, Speech, and the Press”

Freedom is the following:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”  

Why is it so important for humans to walk in such a manner of freedom?

I personally believe it’s because we were born to be free in every way. Spiritually and Physically. Never enslaved.  __________________________________________________

 At this point in time America is far from perfect. In fact, we never were. BUT, we are known by a tiny, popular title, expressed as Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.” How blessed are we, as Americans to live in a nation founded on these titles and amendments?

Being overseas and watching this presidential election unfold has been interesting to say the least. Many emotions have occurred as I let my mind wonder into the what-ifs”. From anxiety, to fear, to carelessness, to sadness, etc. etc…..the list goes on.

Then I remember my freedom in Christ and I am comforted to know that whether the natural looks good or bad, I am STILL free in God.

And now is the time where I bring this full circle. Especially since I have spent the last two months with people who don’t have that freedom. In the natural or the Spiritual sense.

In the past two months I have witnessed desperation on a whole new level with these refugees. There is simply no way to fully explain to you the survivor mentality and heartache that has taken place for these people. There is actually no simple way for me to fully grasp all that I have experienced. However, If you could, just for a moment, put yourself into a picture for me. A picture that I have been trying to place myself in since I have come to this refugee camp.

Imagine living with your family, in a country you dearly love and call home, having a daily routine, working a job to make a living, with big dreams for a brighter future…..So are you still following me? This shouldn’t be too difficult considering this is most of our reality too. Now if you would continue to imagine with me for a little bit longer.

One day your country undergoes attack and chaos due to religious and political disagreements. And from that moment on, day after day there are sudden bombings and murders. Your family and friends turn up missing. People you know and dearly love: your mother, father, teacher, brother, neighbor you’ve lived next to your whole life, sister, cousins, best friend, etc. all die right in front of your eyes. You have no home, no family, no food, no refuge…..no hope. Until you hear about Europe, taking in people like you, granting asylum toward the hope of a better future elsewhere.

After escaping and traveling for days on end, you reach yet another leg of travel. Paying a smuggler an exorbitant amount of money, you pile into a risky, inflatable boat (max capacity 17) with up to seventy others, setting sail for the nearest Greek Island, where freedom soon awaits (if you manage to survive the waters). Only when you arrive at this place of refuge,” you are faced with a camp overflowing with thousands of people from over 30 different nations (people who have left their countries for all different reasons), lack of housing and blankets, food that doesn’t sustain you, and hours upon hours of waiting with no answers. And to top it all off, the winter nights have been chilly and you are paired with people from other countries who have been your enemy for the past few years. Riots and ethnic fights erupt unbidden and you realize that safety” here is but a myth.

Beyond the paltry physical conditions, you learn that many of the countries in the European Union have closed their borders, preventing your further passing from this now-turned detention center. With the successful Brexit vote (Britain exiting the EU due to its lenient immigration policies) and still other countries threatening to leave the union if policies to not tighten (including Italy, France, Austria and five others), you begin to understand that your chances of moving on are bleak, your future uncertain and grim.

This is their reality folks!! I would also like to add that the European Union and Afghanistan signed an agreement a few weeks ago to deport thousands of Afghans back to their unstable, war-torn country if they have not been granted asylum. Yet, the desperation didn’t start here in Greece. It started sometime before.

Before I came to work with these beautiful Middle Easterners, North Africans, and Asians, I thought I knew a bit about their culture. But experiencing it first hand is a whole new story. Although many of the Muslims (most of the refugees are Muslim) are indeed peaceful people, their culture is anything less than strict. There is no room to question your beliefs, culture, principles. If you do, banning or death awaits you from your family members or fellow countrymen.

The lack of freedom amongst and for my dear friends has been suffocating and almost intolerable.        


One night I sat guarding a gate at the refugee camp here on this Greek Island. Many nights we have sat just the same and nothing noteworthy has happened. But this night I was accompanied by a friend who couldn’t sleep. He wasn’t a bother and he wasn’t dangerous by any means. He was simply an Afghani brother curious about Christianity and its comparison to Islam.  

I didn’t say much as he expressed questions and concerns out loud. I felt led to listen and let him talk. (You could tell he couldn’t do it with just anyone.) But he kept coming back to Christianity. And because he knew most of the volunteers (like me) were Christians, he would ask me a few questions here and there.

The more he spoke, the lower his voice would get, until it turned into a faint whisper. Haimi” (that’s the name we will give him). Haimi, do you follow a certain religion?” I asked. He paused for a good 10 seconds and said nothing as the silence of the night crept in all around us, filling the void. Then he looked around, leaned in, and whispered, I’m undecided.” I nodded with understanding. It was silent for moments after and then he continued. If THEY knew, they could kill me in the night.” (Stating this as he motioned his finger across his neck like a dead man.) Then he smiled and shrugged as if to cut the tension (no pun intended).

The night trailed on and other topics of conversations came up but it always circled back to religion. As he realized how late it was becoming, he stood up and stated it was time for him to get some rest. He began to walk away but quickly turned back around, looked around again, knelt in front of where I was sitting, placed his blanket further over his head, and asked in a very hushed tone….

Well then, bless Jesus then.”

Then off to bed he went.   I will go back home to America in a few weeks but these people will forever be engraved upon my heart. Dear brothers and sisters, whether you see these people as enemies or people you just don’t know, let us still pray for them.

MLK Jr. Did a wonderful job giving the freedom speech for America and I will continue to proclaim that prayer over the nation I dearly love and call home. Especially now during this crucial era for our nation. But I will go even further and state:

Let freedom ring!

Let freedom ring from the war torn nation of Syria.

Let freedom ring from the mountains of Afghanistan.

Let freedom ring from the deserts of Pakistan.

Let freedom ring from the valleys of Iraq.   Let freedom ring from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Whether black, tan, young, or old, LET FREEDOM RING!

Let freedom ring from every nation and corner of the earth.

Let all God’s children proclaim GLORY to the one and only God, Jesus Christ!

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”