Students Return to Lesvos, Greece, to Serve Refugees

The Cairn Team stands in Euro Relief vests as they prepare to rebuild tents Amidst the beautiful Aegean sea and the picturesque Greek isle of Lesvos lies what is often called “the world’s worst refugee camp.” Meant to be a temporary holding place for asylum-seekers coming to Greece from all over the Middle East, Moria Refugee Camp has become incredibly over-crowded, playing host to a varying population of between 5,000–10,000 people in a space about the size of a Costco.
team group photoThis May, Cairn University took a group of 15 students and staff to serve in the camp for the second consecutive year. Since it is illegal to share the gospel within the barbed wire walls of the camp, they worked alongside other organizations to exemplify the love of Christ through action and deed.
Together with other volunteers and staff, the students helped renovate an entire zone of the camp (home to about 50 families) by tearing down old, moldy, and unsafe tents, spreading over 30 truckloads of gravel, rebuilding tent platforms out of pallets and plywood, and installing new UNHCR-donated tents. Additionally, students were able to find housing in the camp for about 100 new arrivals, all of which made the harrowing journey across the sea from Turkey by rubber boat during the students’ time there. Other ministries included giving out vaccination tickets, supplies, diapers, and the students’ favorite—giving refugees their tickets to Athens.
image of life jacket from the "life jacket graveyard"“I saw God’s grace, mercy, and love through His constant presence and provision for both our team and the refugees in the camp,” said Casey Handzlik, sophomore and president of Student Missionary Fellowship. “I left with my heart broken in a new and deeper way that reminded me that I can’t do everything, but God my Father sees everything and will make it all right.”
At their debrief, local camp staff encouraged the students that their “preaching without words” was truly part of an incredible evangelism surge happening in the Muslim world. They learned there have been over 1,200 refugees baptized in Athens, most of which credit the testimony of believers coming to serve them in this refugee camp. The Cairn team was honored to play a small part in this big story God is writing.


Stephanie Bernotas is the coordinator of student ministries at Cairn University and was the trip leader to Moria in 2018 and 2019. She can be reached at sbernotas@cairn.edu.

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