I can’t see anything.

It’s 9:32 pm, and I’m standing in four inches of dirty water, bits of wet cardboard and feminine hygiene wrappers floating around the tops of my feet. Wet babies scream somewhere over my shoulder, held in the arms of blank-faced siblings as their mothers struggle to communicate to my teammate, Emily, their hands waving wildly around, foreheads creased with stress. The damp air is a combination of dirty diapers and B. O., and the warmth of a dozen bodies crammed in the tiny tent sticks in my throat.

I make a mental note to search the tent for discarded dirty diapers once there is a break in the line.

Directing my headlamp to one of the shelves inside our tent, I splash towards the one labeled WOMEN’S SWEATERS. My hands feel between the jumbled piles, freezing as I realize that the sweater I just gave away a moment ago was the last one in the tent for the day. Tomorrow, we will restock, but that means nothing to the mother waiting for clothes behind me. I turn back to her, motioning with my hands that sweaters are “all gone”.

“Finished,” I say gently, firmly, my hands hitting each other rapidly, showing her that there’s nothing else I can give her to wear. Her face is imprinted on my memory forever.

Last night, our team had our first late-night shift at a transit point refugee camp with the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers on the coast of Lesvos.

Due to the heavy rain, the clothing tent we were working in was flooded, so several of us stood for hours in several inches of water with our headlamps, going down a line of people – handing shivering parents dry clothes, and getting babies and children on the verge of hypothermia out of wet blankets and dirty diapers.

People died that night. Boats that left the shore of Turkey were lost at sea, and children that came into the camp wore the expressions of soldiers recently returned from war, their eyes distant and empty.

I came back to our apartment sometime around 2am and stood under the spray of the shower for way longer than necessary, hands pressed against the tiled sides. And I cried.

God, where are you?


They told us this was going to be hard. Yesterday morning, fresh off the ferry and gathered in the lobby area of our living headquarters, our ministry hosts told us that we will have moments of shock. It’s okay to cry, they said. It’s okay to step away for half an hour and catch your breath. It’s okay to not be okay. The situation at hand with our brothers and sisters from the Middle East is devastating, and only a robot wouldn’t react with some level of grief at the sight of half a million people displaced from their homes with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

In spite of it all, though, I felt resentment building inside of my chest last night, swelling and pushing up against the bottom of my lungs.

You’re weak.

This shouldn’t be affecting you!

Why do you always feel the need to cry? No one else is crying.

Toughen up.

Inside the food tent, I found my squad-mate Kelly-Anne, and there in the darkness we unburdened our hearts. Jesus, I prayed silently, I don’t want to make this all about me. Get me out of the way so I can serve well.

Immediately, four simple words dropped into my heart.

“Pick up your sword.”

“Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:17

My first response was, Dang. God’s such a sweet-talker.

And then: I’m not actually strong enough to do this. I need to fight, but not on my own. On my own, I don’t have the ability to regenerate my strength. As much as I spend time daydreaming about how cool it would be to be a plant and recycle my own resources, my love is a limited resource; I need to be filled up in order to empty out.

The 2,000 men, women, boys and girls coming through this camp everyday need to see the face of compassion. The Bible even says that Jesus was moved to weep on multiple occasions by the evil and loss he witnessed on Earth. When God created me, He carved out a football field-size area for empathy, but I’ve long preferred to declare that area off-limits to the public. Was it actually possible that I could fight for these people with a spirit of compassion as my sword?

1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

With all of my heart, I believe that God has Y-Squad here for a reason: He has given us grace and a variety of talents that can be used to serve the countless people here on this little island. But those talents are like branches on a vine, and need to stay close to their main source of life.

There are stories that must be told, lives that must receive a fresh breath of hope, and battles that can only be won by wielding Truth as the weapon of choice.

Hey, Jesus – I’m ready to pick up my sword.