Trevecca alumni reflect on ministering to refugees in Greece

Jacob and Dorothee Morris, along with their two children Elias and Miriam, are currently working with Courage for the Journey, a partnership between the Church of the Nazarene's Central Europe and Western Mediterranean fields, to assist refugees fleeing unrest in the Middle East. The Morris' arrived in northern Greece in last summer after living in Serbia for five months.

The couples’ primary job has been to provide educational and recreational activities within the refugee camps, with a particular emphasis on children.

“We teach English to adults and English and general knowledge, [including] math, geography [and] science to kids and organize activities [such as] sports, crafts [and] movie nights,” said Jacob Morris.

In addition to this, a substantial portion of the Morrises’ ministry has been relational. The family regularly spends time with refugees as they process loss and trauma in the camps and wait for the opportunity to rebuild their lives in an unfamiliar place.

The Morris family sees the refugees’ situation as comparable to the plight of Job in the Bible, a man who endured unimaginable hardship.

“A huge part of the work we are doing is what we have come to refer to as ‘sitting on the ash heap’ with our friends,” Jacob said. “In the Book of Job, after losing everything and everyone to violence and natural disaster, Job sat upon the ash heap in mourning. As soon as Job's friends heard about his plight, they journeyed together to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. Upon seeing their friend in an unrecognizable state, Job's friends began to weep and tear their clothes. They took their seats next to him on the ground and sat with him in silence for seven days and seven nights.” 

Jacob and Dorothee can’t help but draw comparisons between their friends in the camps and Job. The couple says they aim to sit in solidarity with the refugees, even when they encounter grief and trauma.

“In the midst of such dehumanizing circumstances, we hope our presence in the camps can serve to restore some measure of dignity by learning the names and listening to stories of our new friends,” Jacob said. “We play chess and cards. We cook. We eat—a lot. We laugh. We cry. We dance. And then we eat some more.”

In the midst of this, the couple says the refugees have shown them authentic hospitality that has inspired their own ministry. Dorothee says the experience has also helped her family to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to open up their home and lives to others.

“The hospitality that we have received here over the last seven months have opened our eyes to what true hospitality really looks like,” she said. “It is the generous offering of everything you have, even when it is the only meal you receive and you share it with your newly gained friends, yet strangers.”

For the Morrises’ young children, the experience has been one they’ve eagerly embraced. They have made friends within the camps and are learning Greek and Arabic.

“Children are incredibly resilient, and Elias and Miriam have proven that to be true again and again,” Dorothee said. “Kids thrive with routine, but ours have done incredibly well in a situation where a consistent routine is difficult to manage.”

The Morrises hope their children will learn to extend hospitality the way it has been extended to them and defend those who are marginalized.

“We hope that Elias and Miriam will remember the generosity and hospitality that we have received and that they will in turn offer it without any conditions,” she said. “May they become voices for the voiceless and stand up for justice for everyone.”

Jacob and Dorothee Morris are Trevecca Nazarene University alumi.

--Trevecca Nazarene University

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