This is a free-verse poem that John Malsbury wrote as he reflected on his experience working in the camp. John is a friend I worked with while we were in Greece. He lives in Red Deer, Alberta.
SHOCK WAVE REFLECTIONS FROM LESVOS
Skala Camp’s dawn birdsong and melodic sheep bells fade to the babble of Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and French as we enter the camp’s gates.
Skyblue, yellow, tan and camo highlight camp personnel in the mobile collage of detainees.
New arrivals in travel-worn clothes stand stunned at the wire-fenced mouth of the camp.
Ethnic tensions flash from the tedious friction of the food line as a dove sails above.
Bread, oranges, milk – doled out in predictable, monotonous servings.
Single teens smoulder in U-16 cell blocks, freedom snatched by sectarian violence, ensnared by politics, caged strays from humanity’s inhumanity.
Wooden prayer beads clasped in slender brown fingers cry out to God from the shade of a concrete pillar.
Men gather at the cell phone charging station, intent on cyber pathways to where home used to be.
Expectant faces at the clothing tent searching for the style and class they used to know. Some frown with disappointment, others radiate gratitude for the necessities they receive.
A family of eight burst into smiles when they finally receive tents – shelter from wind, dust and sun at last.
Agents of hope or despair, loudspeakers summon people to lay down their future on the razor edge of an asylum interview.
Grey blankets give shelter from the early morning chill, from dusty wind, rain, and prying eyes.
Family homes have shrunk to walls of grey-shrouded UN bunks.
Laughter breaks out as multilingual pantomime clears clouds of misunderstanding.
Smiles and hi-fives – the housing unit’s sinks are unplugged.
Rhythmic drumbeats and haunting melodies flow from a tent on the concrete.
Smiling men and boys deftly flick a soccer ball around a circle.
A fight explodes into yelling crowds separated by a wire gate and a volunteer in a yellow vest – how long will it take for the police to arrive?
Laughing kids and volunteers do the hokey-pokey while smiling parents watch.
With the word “sarraq” and a slash across his forearm, an angry man demands justice when a boy takes an extra juice box.
Liquid brown eyes look up for warmth and affection.
Young eyes, hardened by the brutal sights they have seen, flash defiance and despair.
Dignified, alert eyes transmit resolve to survive another day.
The confused eyes of a three year old search for the mother and sister war tore away.
Eyes glow with appreciation for small acts of kindness and respect.
Men, women and children move through monotonous days, their patience sustained by desperation – there is no where else to go.
Kids coloring at a picnic table enjoy a few moments of what used to be normal.
A little girl’s black hair glistens beside her mother’s hijab-clad head.
Euro Relief vehicles ferry volunteers from the concrete eddies of the camp on a serpentine river of asphalt to the open rolling hills of Eptalu Molyvos. A brilliant sunset marks the end of another tumultuous day.
The mission to Levsos had made my world larger and smaller at the same time. Larger because these people only represent one sixth of the world’s displaced people – about ten million out of sixty million. Smaller because I have realized that every human conflict happens when the selfish dysfunction of individual hearts grows into collective violence, economic oppression, ethnic cleansing, and religious persecution. Until every human heart, including mine, changes from “Me first” to “We first,” we are doomed to ongoing strife and misery.
In my experience, this happens most radically when people accept the love and Jesus, and give him free rein to recreate their hearts. A powerful example of this is a refugee church in Athens where former members of ISIS and the Iranian National Guard now fellowship with Christians whom they once would have persecuted.
In closing, I invite you to join these people to live transformed lives that will make the world a much better place. In the words of St Francis, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”
Thank you, John, for sharing this with us.