A year has passed since we first became aware of people walking through Macedonia in desperation, searching for hope. When God’s will became known to us, we had to obey and become a beacon of light on their perilous journey.
This was a tsunami of unparalleled proportions! Café Mercy (our project providing dedicated aid/help to refugees) contended with wave upon wave of people arriving at Tabanovce, and we could barely cope with the demand at times. When we started serving food, coffee and tea, we were the town’s ‘official’ disaster recovery plan. Serving hundreds of thousands of hungry, scared people was a huge challenge!
The government and formal aid relief agencies were totally unprepared for this sea of humanity. Café Mercy, and a few other non-profit organisations (NGOs), were responsible for food and drinks, providing approximately three thousand food parcels daily since September 2015. Without them there certainly would have been more deaths.
Every refugee we met just wanted validation, love, security, joy and hope for a better future. We had to find ways to relate and communicate with them. All of us at Café Mercy had many, many meaningful conversations – truly priceless moments!
Contributions via World Outreach International and others helped provide sustenance to 29,000 unaccompanied children. To date, Café Mercy has brewed 69,000 litres of tea and coffee, used 4,800 kg of sugar and 30,000 kg of fruit. This operation required immense logistical coordination between team members, and to keep Café Mercy running, we’ve covered more than 90,000 km.
Most days we started as early as seven and worked until three the next morning serving up to five trains daily – the record was serving ten thousand refugees in one day. It was tough going most of the time and the temperatures – ranging from minus 15°C to 39°C+ – didn’t help.
The world is calling it a ‘crisis’, but that word suggests a problem that will end. Clearly, the refugee crisis is here to stay. European politicians may not want to admit it, but they are struggling with the central problem of twenty-first century global politics. Political instability and other factors virtually guarantee that this century will see many more people made into refugees or economic migrants.
Today, our nearby town of Tabanovce is a refugee camp that offers no work possibilities; refugees receive a daily portion of food and water and are asked to wait, hopelessly, passively. This isn’t living – it’s just existing! With no prospects for permanent relocation and the basic necessities for sustaining life in short supply, it’s no wonder that displaced people attempt to continue the dangerous voyage to Europe even with closed borders.
The constant miracle we experience is equivalent to the five loaves and two fishes Jesus fed the multitude with. The donations we received made it possible to be a blessing to 787,384 people! We are so grateful for the kindness, generosity and sacrifice of friends of WOI, for such donations made our desire to help possible and they allowed us to continue to make a difference in the lives of displaced families.
In the meantime we continue to depend on cash gifts / donations to provide ongoing aid and to help meet the day-to-day needs of the refugees still here. Thank you for your prayers and partnership.
By Danie and Esther van Niekerk
Ministry leaders equipping church leaders and members.