6 Years of War

by igreecec

Of the 60,000 refugees now stuck waiting in Greece’s refugee camps, a large percentage are Syrians fleeing the war. If we ask them about their life before the war erupted 6 years ago, we hear stories of a rich and beautiful culture. We hear women remember the normalcy of teaching at the local schools, baking baklava for their friends, and sewing new curtains for their homes. We hear Fathers tell of beautiful markets, feasts of meat and vegetables, and of the days when their children lived free from fear and the sound of bombs.

 A resident of Aleppo described it well…  A heavenly place. The richest place on earth in terms of culture, heritage, civilization, cuisine, architecture, and most importantly love.”

Aleppo was a place where children ran and played without fear.

It was a place where feasts were prepared and enjoyed with laughter and conversation.

This month marks 6 years since violence has erupted in Syria. The effect of so many years of brutal war has left it’s mark. As we walk into the refugee camps we see it’s aftermath in the faces of the children, in the tears of their mothers, and in the bullet scars and bomb wounds of the brothers and fathers who are fortunate enough to be alive.

We think of the Syrian people as refugees, as strangers without homes and a culture of their own. But they are people like us, forced to be displaced and grieving the loss of not only the lives of their family and friends, but the loss of culture, identity, and dignity.

We see their tattered bags and crying faces and don’t realize that just a few years ago they were teachers and lawyers and Mothers who lived busy and normal lives in prosperous cities.
On this 6th anniversary, let us not only remember the shocking brutality of an seemingly unending war, but let us engage in loving and serving the Syrian people by giving back to them in some measure the dignity and respect they have lost.

One Year Ago Today

by igreecec

Just one year ago today, the EU/Turkey deal went into effect.

The i58 team was running all night in Camp Moria, as hundreds of people arrived on the Lesvos shorline. On the Turkish border, the handicapped were trampled as a mass of refugees mobbed to get on the rafts to make it to Greece before borders closed. 

 Babies drowned that night, and Mothers cried. They came through the dark of that night, streaming into camp wet and traumatized. That day, the police took over the camp and any volunteer organizations were forced to leave. Many other organizations pulled out of camp, not willing to work in a detention facility.

Gates were locked and the family compound was closed down. The people were desperate to know why they were locked up, and in need of blankets, milk, and food.

On the second day, we were able to enter to pass out blankets and take care of basic needs. Hundreds of people cried out in frustration and anger, not knowing what their future held.

Two Mothers sat in shock, having lost their babies in the water.

Widows sat in mourning remembering their husbands who had been trampled on the Turkish shore. A family of 6 with two handicapped boys and a set of twins all had heads crawling with lice.

The next months in Moria were a series of protests and fights, as refugees were locked with in the camp and the grueling process of paperwork began to apply for asylum in Greece. Many panicked as rumors of deportation circulated through the camp.

But instead of the flow of refugees stopping, they kept coming in a slow trickle. The camp started filling more and more and hundreds were smashed into tents.

Mothers bought pots and burners and set up small homes in their tiny corners. They pounded fufu, drank chai, and tried to make life as normal as possible for their children. The children splashed in puddles and passed the time stringing beads. 

It’s been a long year for the occupants of  Moria camp, but in the midst of the frustration of paperwork and detention, we watched the resilience of these beautiful people who make life as normal as possible by setting up tea stands, barber shops, and always inviting us for tea and food in their small corners of the camp.

In the midst of the chaos, our team has met so many strong and beautiful people from all over the Middle East and Africa and as far away as Haiti and Nepal. We have been richly blessed to be able to work in an environment of rich culture and diversity.

The Oasis, A Haven of Rest

by igreecec

Word must be getting around within the camps that The Oasis is a child friendly place. We know this by the steady stream of families frequenting The Oasis each week.

After spending a long night with little to shield them from the relentless cold and wind, they are welcomed into The Oasis each morning with a warm smile and offered a cup of hot chai and some basic snacks served at low tables where they can relax and thaw out a bit. No need to worry about their children wandering off here. The parents let their toddlers crawl around on a clean surface and be doted on or happily entertained by friendly, child loving, volunteers. They know they are welcome and wanted here, so of course they will be back. 




Tuesdays & Thursdays finds young men lined up, sitting against the wall busy with their phones, while other men play chess, checkers or have interesting looking conversations in low tones.

It’s a comfortable place for them to escape the pressures of the camp, even if for a little while.

But even on a day designated primarily for men, a Syrian grandma doesn’t miss her chance to head to the privacy of the back room for the usual time of getting her feet soaked, followed by a good old fashioned back rub.

And no day at the Oasis is complete without her many kisses of gratitude. This is her ministry to each of us; to demonstrate the beautiful art of thanksgiving. 





Zaina, No Zaina

by igreecec

“Zaina, No Zaina.”

I first noticed you when you were standing on the edge of the crowd of children clamoring around me. I wanted to scoop up each one of you but my arms were full and my skirt was being tugged in all directions. I spun around and laughed to see smiles break loose on the little faces peering up at me. My heart was overflowing. But I kept noticing you, standing on the fringes of the crowd.

By yourself.
Quiet. Observing.

You just stood there, with your deep eyes looking inquisitively into mine. Darling curls framed your face and your eyebrows were knit, questioning me.

Your face told a story.

In spite of you reserve towards me as a newcomer, you were expressive, letting your eyes tell what was going on deep inside. You were quiet in the midst of chaos. You were taking everything in, your eyes wide to the world around you. You stood with your shoes on the wrong feet on this dirty concrete floor; the only place that’s been left uncrowded in camp for you to run and play. As I kept looking at you, I couldn’t help but wonder how it will affect you, growing up and realizing the irony of your childhood play happening within the confines of makeshift safety. Clanging gates and barbed wire fences frame your little world.

I couldn’t leave you there on the fringes of the crowd. So I went over to you, bent down on your level and looked you in the eye before scooping you up and putting you on my back. You nearly fell asleep that afternoon, as I walked around carrying you. But just before your eyelids closed completely, you jerked awake and quietly started scratching my back. Humming to yourself, humming to me as you ran your fingers over my back. Your mom stood by and smiled shyly and invited me to sit with her. She served me tea and fruit and welcomed me into your room with the warmth of friendship.

You were fully awake now and sitting in my lap playing. You said something in Arabic to your mom as we sat there together and she handed her phone to you. You smiled brightly as you pointed to pictures of your life before the war.

My heart broke for you, for your mom and dad and for all you’ve lost.
Home. It is just an illusion of the past now.

But Zaina girl, as I sat there with you and your parents, I was happy to realize that even in the middle of this overcrowded camp, you are loved. I see it in the way your parents delight in you.
They gave up all they knew to give you peace. Ran from war so that you would be safe.
I know they must struggle to know how they ended up here in an over-crowded transit camp. This place that’s so full that you could slip out of sight among the crowd and disappear in a moment.

A few nights later I saw the desperation, as your dad came running up the hill looking for you. “Zaina? Zaina?” He didn’t know the words in English to express how he felt at not knowing where you were. But his panting breath told me that he was frantic to find you. “No Zaina,” I told him, regretfully.

Later I saw him with you, dancing and laughing under a street light.
I was relieved to know that you were safe.
I know that leaving your homeland turned your whole world upside down. Your parents watched as brutal war crumbled all they knew and loved. Except for you, Zaina. They rescued you from that awful hell.

Zaina girl, I wonder if you know that because of your laughter, your parents laugh.
Because of your smile, they smile. Because of you, they have hope for the future.

But they see the questions in your young eyes.
And I can see the bigger questions in their eyes.
They want to answer those questions for you but the truth is, they have questions too.
Questions that loom like heavy backpacks on their backs.

I walked into camp one day last week just like I had so many days previous, but what I hadn’t counted on is that you would be gone.

No Zaina.

I wanted to be able to tell you goodbye. To hug you one last time. I still remember how last time I saw you, you came running down the hill to meet me just like you always did and then you motioned for me to come and sit by the gate next to you. You smiled up at me and then opened up your hand to reveal little treasures hidden inside your chubby fist. A whole handful of thin plastic hair bands. You grabbed my hand and slid them onto each of my fingers and insisted that I keep them on. And then grinned up at me with your infectious smile.

My heart sank when I heard the reason why your family left so unexpectedly; that your mother is ill. How could one more thing go wrong in your life, Zaina? I grapple with the questions your little heart must be asking, with all the changes.

But Zaina, I’ve had to realize that the weight of your pain is not mine to bear alone.
I’ve had to let God carry it for me.

I think that’s one thing I learned through loving you, Zaina. That letting go is part of the process of loving people here on earth and loving them well. We must open our hearts to love. But we must be willing to let go. It’s difficult, I know.

I think the reason we fight against it so hard is that we weren’t created for this. We weren’t meant for loss, for separation, for war or death.

God created our beautiful world and called it good. Peace reigned on earth.
But then sin entered the world and ruined everything. The fighting and killing started way back then and it’s continued on into today. You know that far too well, Zaina.

You long for peace, for the life you used to know. You want safety, security. You miss home.
Zaina girl, I wish that I could protect you from all the pain of this broken world. I want to shield you from realities of war and hatred attached to the headlines in the news. I want you to be able to grow up in a world of peace. I want you to know a happy childhood.

But more than that, I want you to come to know the peace that passes all understanding. A peace deeper than any peace that this warring and angry world can offer. A peace that can live in our hearts even in the middle of war.

That’s the reason I feel peace in letting you go, because I know that God is going to hold you. He’s going with you. Zaina, His presence will go with you. He will give you peace.

Keep your eyes open, Zaina, wide open to all that is around you. And you will see, woven into the threads of your story, His intricate love for you.


Written by i58 Volunteer: Gretta

We Remember

by igreecec




We sat with them today, and let the tears fall.

We remembered with them August 3rd, 2014, the fateful day when their life on Sinjar mountain was brutally disrupted by the sudden crash of bombs and guns and the yells of hundreds of black-masked men.

They sat in safety once, and drank tea from small glass cups with their neighbors. Women in beautiful hijabs baked their nan in brick ovens and their children picked wild poppies in the fields.

 But on that day, the 3d of August 2014, their lives were shattered.

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 They watched bodies fall, and homes crumble. 

 They joined the screams of hundreds as they ran for safety. <

 They saw blood that day, and heard the anguished sobs of women who were captured.

 Their children were beheaded on the streets. 

 Women clutched screaming babies and ran wildly for the mountains as their husbands were killed in front of their eyes. 

 Today, widows in black are mourning. 

 Children are falling asleep only to awake with terrorizing memories surfacing in their dreams. 

 Sisters and mothers are held in captivity, forced to be sex slaves at the dispense of ISIS militants. 

 Fathers and brothers are buried in mass graves outside the city. 

 They cannot forget. 

 Today, August 3d, 2016, we weep and clasp the hands of our grieving Yazidi friends. We sit with them, and we remember. 

We too can never forget.

{Photo Credits: Grettagraphy}

i58 Is Looking for Volunteers…

by igreecec

join our team

i58 is looking for individuals interested in serving in specific positions for three month terms, starting this month!

i58 is working in a crisis environment, and while incredibly rewarding, the work is also often very taxing. Because of that each, position requires individuals who are spiritually mature and emotionally stable. 

Many of these positions overlap and are often combined, though for the purpose of easy reference we’ve broken each position down into more contained areas of work.

If you’re interested in one of these positions or know anyone who might be, please contact us at: 


  • Administrator:

    Responsibilities (include but not limited to):
    Communications between i58 and partnering organizations
    Team Orientations
    Implementation of board decisions on the ground
    Overseeing the overall work i58 is involved in at Moria
    Overseeing the Oasis and making sure the programs fulfill the vision of i58
    Setting the general direction for i58 on Lesvos
    Overseeing, empowering and working together with other staff members on the ground
    Hosting regular meetings and delegating responsibilities amongst the team

  • Skills needed:
    Organizational (business or ministry) administration experience
    Leadership experience
    Good interpersonal skills
    Strong ability to communicate clearly
    The ability to handle stress well

  • Team Coordinator:

    Responsibilities (include but not limited to):
    Organizing lodging and transportation coordination for volunteer teams
    Tracking and paying rent on lodging and securing rental cars
    Arrival and departure transportation

  • Skills needed:
    Basic spreadsheet experience
    People skills
  • Team Scheduler/Finance Manager:

    Responsibilities (include but not limited to):
    Tracking expenses
    Distributing reimbursements and making purchases
    Communicating with i58 Treasurer regularly on financial topics
    Working alongside of Euro Relief on scheduling volunteers for shifts in camp


  • Skills needed:
    Basic computer comprehension.
    Basic spreadsheet/accounting experience
    Communication competency via email/messaging/phone
  • Oasis Program Manager, Host/Hostess:

    Responsibilities (include but not limited to):
    Delegating tasks to volunteers – including regular maintenance and upkeep of the facility
    Purchasing supplies as needed/inventory
    Making adjustments as needed to the schedule of activities
    Being at the Oasis during open hours
    Overseeing hospitality


  • Skills needed:
    Leadership experience
    The ability to see what needs to be done and take action
    Attention to detail
    Good interpersonal skills
    Good communicator
  • Teachers at the Oasis:

    Responsibilities (include but not limited to):
    Preparing for classes
    Teaching basic English classes at the community Center
    Facilitating children’s activities
    General hospitality at the Oasis


  • Skills needed:
    TESL or other ESL training
    Teaching experience
    Flexibility and the ability to improvise
    Works well with Children
    Calm and not easily stressed
  • Public Relations:

    Responsibilities (include but not limited to):
    Writing updates for the board
    Sending updates to i58 stateside PR member for the weekly updates, social media and website


  • Skills needed:
    Writing experience
  • Teacher:

    Responsibilities (include but not limited to):
    Preparing Scripture studies

    Hosting and facilitating Scripture studies


  • Skills needed:
    Experience Scriptural teaching
    Cross culture ministry training
  • Personal for Vulnerable cases:

    Responsibilities (include but not limited to):
    Individual case management – being a “go to person”
    Taking individuals to the UNHCR and asylum offices
    One on one counseling and support
    Trauma care


  • Skills needed:
    Experience needed with sexual assault and/or trauma
    Emotional stability
    Interpersonal skils
  • Personal for Minors:

    Responsibilities (include but not limited to):
    Activities and games with minor boys aged 11-18
    Personal one on one connections and support
    Planning schedules and implementing structure in the units
    Working with officials to gain approval and support to take the boys outside of camp for specific activities


  • Skills needed:
    Experience needed with teen boys with traumatic past experiences.
    Emotional stability
    Interpersonal skils

A Week of Peace, Riots, Joy, Sorrow and Organizing

by igreecec

It’s been a full week of mostly peace and a night of riots, moments of chaos and moments with finger puppets and laughing children. There is always so much joy interwoven through the stress and sadness of life in camp. In the midst of the rock fight this week a happy Kurdish couple was dancing and celebrating their engagement on unit three in the family compound. They drowned out the yells with music and laughter as rocks sailed overhead from the angry men outside. 

These people teach us to live well in the midst of despairing circumstances by lifting their heads and smiling through the odds, making the best of the difficulty. 

We are still overflowing with 3,200 people and although the refugee flow has gone down drastically, we still have some coming in and the tent camp outside keeps expanding.


The camp has been much more peaceful and happy since many people are given a paper that allows them to walk outside of camp and go to the city.


 It’s wonderful to see refugees walking by the sea and shopping in the city. We have been actively working to secure a community center to invite them in when they walk past. We hope to do kid’s activities, English classes, and serve tea and coffee and the living water that truly satisfies. We want lots of rugs and middle eastern floor pillows to create a relaxing environment.


On Wednesday night a fight started in the food lines and the anger heightened until it exploded in a massive rock fight. We called for lockdown again, and refugees ran for cover as rocks sailed above the wires into the family compound. The doctors were busy stitching that night. 

 Since then it’s been quiet except for the scream of fire trucks today when the boys in the minor’s unit set their mattresses on fire.
Please pray for the 200+ boys in the minor’s unit in Moria. They are locked into 2 units and as you can imagine they are frustrated and bored and do anything for some action. They are often kicking balls and yelling and getting into all kinds of mischief. There is a huge need for an organization to take these boys out of camp and help them work hard and also reunite with their families.


 Abby and Grace have been really busy organizing and labeling in the clothing inventory rooms. For the first time since the camp turned into a detention facility we have clothing distribution Monday-Thursday, and it’s really working! As always, we still have a huge need for shoes, sandals, and t-shirts. We are also running out of hygiene items this week. Anyone interested in funding these specific items can donate straight to our paypal and make a note what you want it used for. 

Thank you for your contributions and support to i58 this week! 

Tents Have Been Bought!

by igreecec

Thank you!! 

On behalf of the i58 team and the refugees here in Moria, we extend a BIG THANK YOU to each individual who generously donated for tents this week! 

We received above and beyond our goal and were able to buy ALL the tents we needed! (Any excess will be used for other needs in the camp.) 

We are incredibly thankful for your quick response and support! 13119995_1141085799256855_3980773814238191671_o

Tents Needed – Today!

by igreecec

Post Riot Needs

Last night there was a major riot in camp which left many tents ripped to shreds. This morning we have 100 new
arrivals and no room to give them. 

We need 50 tents by tonight. If you’re able to help the refugees today by donating funds for tents via PayPal it is much needed (add a note “For Tents”). Thank you so very much!
(more updates coming soon) 

Supporting Those Engaging in the Crisis

by igreecec

Want to Get Involved? 

Many of you can’t go personally, but have asked how you can support the ones who can go…
Here’s how! 

Ben Meet Ben, an i58 volunteer from Michigan who is doing an incredible work with the children and young men in Moria. Ben has worked with us over the most hectic time the last 2 weeks and helped keep everything running and manageable. 

He’s willing and able to stay longer to continue serving on Lesvos, but he needs financial support to do so. 

We’d love to offer you the opportunity to partner with the work here in Lesvos, by asking you to consider helping Ben stay longer through financial gifts.

If you’d like to support the work here through supporting Ben, contributions, of any size, can be made to the i58 PayPal add a note in the memo line for Ben.

Click here to Give

(It costs approximately $20 a day for a volunteer’s living expenses)


 The i58 team extends a great big THANK YOU to New Heart Fellowship from Iowa for supplying us with funds for breakfast groceries for the long term staff!

Your gifts of love supply us with the boost to embrace each new day with energy and joy! Thank you! 


If anyone is interested, there is a need for funds for groceries to cook dinner for the i58 team every night.

If you’d like to get involved in this way please send checks to i58 PO Box 280, Caldwell, Ohio 43724 or donate through PayPal making a note on the memo section “Funds for Dinner”. Thank you!!