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Outreach: When Words Are Few
On her DTS outreach in Greece, Bridget saw them sitting on a park bench in the crowded Victoria Square of Athens. They were a couple in their sixties with vacant eyes watching pigeons in the waning evening light. And Bridget felt that quiet voice in her heart tell her to go sit with them. Nervously obeying, she immediately discovered their English was almost non-existent and in discouragement considered leaving.
But with a few more attempts she was able to determine they were from Syria and had been in Greece for 10 weeks or so. When she mentioned the word “children,” the woman held up five fingers and then burst into tears as she listed off the names of several countries. Bridget reached over and embraced her, realizing that she also was now weeping with the intensity of the woman’s grief over her fractured family. The husband continued to impassively stare at the pigeons as if he had already used up all his emotions and had nothing more to express.
Bridget’s heart was breaking. She desperately asked God what she was supposed to do, feeling even more frustration over the language barrier. The thought that she should show the woman pictures of her own family passed through her mind, and she quickly rejected what felt like a very insensitive gesture. But when the woman finally stopped crying and Bridget could think of nothing else to do, she hesitantly pulled out her phone and scrolled through some photos. The man and woman were instantly animated with smiles and obvious interest. They laughed out loud at the video of Bridget’s seven-year-old sister and expressed special delight and approval over the one of her grandmother.
As the sun was setting, Bridget knew her team was waiting for her. Attempting to pantomime that she had to go, she then stood and simply said the word “hope.” She was abruptly grabbed by the shoulders and kissed twice on each cheek by the woman. After a bit more emotional display, both the man and woman reluctantly said “Good-bye,” a new light glowing in their eyes.
Bridget walked back to her apartment reflecting on what she had experienced. She was struck by how the language problem had been overcome. And she suspected that even some of the gospel message had been communicated with minimal talking. For just as Jesus was sent by His Father into the world to communicate with His physical presence that humanity was loved, valued and not forgotten in their brokenness, so Bridget realized she had been sent to this couple to communicate the same thing. And God had accomplished it with very few words.