Kearstin Bailey, Global Mission Intern
Serving with: Perichoresis NGO, a refugee response organization related to the Evangelical Church of Greece
Describe the mission of our partner where you serve.
The mission of Perichoresis NGO is the alleviation of human hardship regardless of ethnicity, race and creed. For all of us who share the vision of Perichoresis and work towards its realization, we EMBRACE our destitute fellow humans and encompass all people, both native and foreign, in the SPIRIT of INCLUSION.
Perichoresis, funded by private donors and in cooperation with strategic partners, has undertaken programs to provide humanitarian assistance and protection to refugees. They have implemented a wide range of projects, including food distribution, protection, logistics, housing, health care, legal aid, and education projects.
The goal of Perichoresis is for every refugee, who seeks a better and brighter future in Europe, to be given the best possible hospitality during their stay in Greece; to be provided with a safe haven, food, clothing, medicine and health care, psychosocial support, social and educational activities, and legal assistance.
Through these actions, staff members at Perichoresis are committed to facilitating the social inclusion and integration of the refugees into the European community, which is an essential process whether they decide to remain in Greece or resettle in another European country through the relocation/reunification program. Staff seeks to assist refugees in establishing a daily routine, achieving self-sufficiency to a certain extent, and restoring normalcy in their lives.
You can read more on the Perichoresis NGO website: https://www.perichoresis.ngo/
What is your role in their mission?
Perichoresis has two different programs: a “short-term” accommodation program and a long-term integration program. I currently serve as the Administrative Officer for the Perichoresis integration program. I spend about half of my time in our office, writing reports, helping to keep our family information data up to date, assisting visiting groups who come to see the programs, etc. The other half of my time is spent out and about in the city of Katerini with our families – doing house visits, accompanying beneficiaries to doctor’s appointments, helping to register children in local schools, and more. My days are a wonderful blend of structure and chaos; each day is different and I never know what exactly to expect.
What led you to want to serve?
I knew that I wanted to be a GMI from my sophomore year of university, but before applying for the program I took a year to participate in the UCC’s YASC program in order to better discern my call. After becoming a GMI, I spent two years in Budapest, Hungary with the Reformed Church in Hungary and it was here that I continue to hone in on my call. My time was split between working at the church’s national offices, serving Roma youth, and also working with refugees. Before long it became quite clear that human migration was a topic that caught my heart, and holistic refugee integration was where I was being pulled.
During my two years in Budapest, I spent vacations volunteering with Perichoresis NGO after meeting a member of the Board of Directors at a church conference in Hungary. I visited twice as a volunteer (during my holidays) before realizing that this was where I was being called to next, and then visited again for a longer job-training once it was decided that I would serve with the Evangelical Church in Greece following my term in Hungary.
Looking back now, I’ve realized that human migration and all of its complexities have been weighing heavily on my heart since my sophomore year at Heidelberg University. I took a service learning class about life on the boarder of Texas and Mexico and, after a semester of complex background studies, I then volunteered with a group at a children’s summer camp in McAllen, TX. That summer trip before my junior year truly opened my eyes to the intricate realities that people on the move face in their daily lives, and it stayed with me. Hindsight is 20/20, and given where I am now, I see that class and that trip as where my whole journey to holistic refugee integration work began.
Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
First Corinthians 2: 1-5 (NRSV)
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
For me, this passage is a daily reminder to practice radical vulnerability in my context and pray with my hands, letting my service and the relationships that I build speak to my faith.
What are some of the challenges facing the people where you serve or our partner?
People continue to stream into Greece as of June 2018, through both sea and land routes. The situation is uncertain as to how long the UNHCR will continue support work in the region and the eventual transition to government-supported services for refugees when the UNHCR leaves.
I pray that everyone at Perichoresis be blessed with wisdom as they interact with so many people and difficult cases; a spirit of sensitivity towards their beneficiaries from around the world, all seeking shelter and safety; clear minds to make loving decisions in matters big and small; and a spirit of inclusion not only in their work but in their daily lives.
What is a lesson you have learned from our partner that should be shared with churches in the U.S.?
In Greece I have continued to learn the importance of praying for God to show me the way forward, but even more so, I have been reminded that it is just as critical, if not more so, to also pray for an open heart to follow the path that God shows. Sometimes the direction we are called to is not the one we expected or prepared for, and so an open heart and a sense of flexibility are vital.
What are some ways that churches can show support to the people where you serve or our partner?
Advocate for increased refugee resettlement in your own country. Contact your representatives and local politicians and tell them how important it is to you. In addition, do some research and support refugee-owned businesses in your area. Making the world a more welcoming and caring place helps us all!
Which books have influenced your understanding of your country of service, work, or theology:
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck
- No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan
- A Hundred and One Days by Åsne Seierstad
- The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
Kearstin's Blog: https://hungaryfortransformation.wordpress.com/