BY MARK WEBER
A group of local residents are about to embark on a life-changing mission to help refugees arriving at Lesvos Island.
“We have to be on the island ready to work on April 1st,” explained Lacombe resident Tina Bale during a recent interview. The trip is being organized through a partnership between the Greater Europe Mission and Euro Relief, which provides volunteer assistance and care for 3,000 to 4,000 refugee and Greek homeless monthly.
Bale, who manages the Ten Thousand Villages store in Red Deer, said it was a couple of years ago that she was first inspired to explore the idea of joining a mission trip to Lesvos.
“Someone in our church came back – she’d gone over with a team through CrossRoads Church and it had really impacted her. She also said that she wanted to go back again – she explained that with everything that is happening there, you never feel like you’ve really completed it because it just still continues.
“She didn’t even hardly get down the aisle of the church afterwards, and I was thinking that I wanted to go,” said Bale with a smile. As it turned out, Bale wasn’t able to go on an earlier trip but her husband Bill did go.
This time, they are both going as is their son-in-law Franco Matina of Red Deer. Their youngest son Caleb is going as well.
Other team members include Rob Clark and Daryl Dyck of Red Deer, and they will also be joined by Darci Escandon from El Paso Texas on the 24th of March and will fly out together on March 30th.
“Along the way we will be connecting with three other team members and meeting for the first time! They will consist of a father-son team and another woman.”
Planning for the trip started last September. “It was last fall that Bill and Franco went to our pastor (at First Baptist in Lacombe) and said they would like to put together another team,” explained Tina.
“When Bill contacted Greater Europe Mission, they said that Lesvos Island was in greater need than ever,” she said, adding her team is the first to be deployed their in 2017. “They really need people to help – it’s for just whatever is needed. It’s really about being ‘hands and feet’,” she said, adding some of their work will include building tents, serving food, handing out clothing, providing hot milk during the day, clean-up and really just providing emotional mental support to folks who have been through so much hardship already.”
“They’ve been living in such war-torn instability for most of their lives, if not all of their lives,” she said. “I can’t even imagine it.
“If it were me there, crying, hurting scared and completely displaced – what would I be crying out for? I would hope that somebody like the people I know who are going on these teams would have the heart to treat people like human beings and really just care for them. I would hope that that’s who would come.”
She knows it of course won’t be easy.
“I know there have been people who have come back with some post-traumatic symptoms because it’s so hard,” she explained. “But you think about the people who are living there and not just going to serve and then to leave. That displacement is just so hard.”
But she’s looking forward to, as she mentioned, being those ‘hands and feet’ in a place where the need is so great.
“I hope to be changed,” she said.
“I’m also looking forward to living beyond myself. In our country, in Red Deer, Lacombe and Blackfalds, we think okay, I need a jug of milk. Let’s go to the store. And even if you don’t have a lot of money, there are still resources here,” she said.
Other members feel the same way.
“I feel we all have a responsibility to help those in need,” said Dyck. “My faith asks that I actively work toward helping those who are in need, regardless of their social or economic standing.
“I also feel that those with the greatest need are most often those with the least power. It is my hope that by doing this, others will see that Christianity is not about nice cliches, but about taking action on behalf of the disenfranchised.”
Meanwhile, they could use donations as well. The link to donating online is https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/greater-europe-mission/ and their team number is 58140 – ‘Lacombe to Lesvos’.
This can be found in the drop down window – ‘Apply your donation to a specific fund set up by this charity’. Tax receipts are available as well.’
For more information, folks can also call Tina Bale directly at 403-341-0178.