Food, Faith, and God's Perfect Plan

September 29, 2016 • Greece
Syrian refugees food distribution

A woman who struggled with an eating disorder finds God’s plan for her in working with a Samaritan’s Purse food distribution program in Greece.

Valentini Garoufallidou, Samaritan’s Purse Greece food distribution support staff member, shares her story of fleeing from God, her redemption and healing, and her hope in God’s perfect plan for refugees.

I believe that the refugee crisis is part of a big plan from God. Many Greek citizens say, “What are we going to do with all these refugees?” But God has crazy love for both the people of Greece and the people fleeing conflict in the Middle East. My own life is a testament to God’s powerful, redeeming love.

I grew up in an evangelical Christian family from northern Greece. My whole family believed in Jesus, but I didn’t. I hated Him. I hated God so much that when I was 18 years old, I took my baby daughter and fled to Germany to escape the God of my parents. I wanted freedom.

Greece food distribution


But that’s not what I found. I lived in Germany for 11 years and then moved back to Greece. The whole time, my life continued down a self-destructive path. I married and divorced, smoked heavily, and developed severe anorexia and depression.

My daughter would come to me on her knees saying, “Mommy, please eat something or you will die.”

“No,” I said. “I don’t want to eat and I don’t like my life. I don’t care if I die.”

I felt hopeless.

During this whole time, my family prayed for me faithfully. They prayed even though they saw no answers. My life was terrible. I hated food, only smoked and drank, and harmed so many people around me.

One day in 2012, feeling utterly stuck and depressed, I opened my Bible to Acts 27—the story of Paul, a prisoner at the time, and his shipwreck on the Adriatic Sea. Everyone in that story should have died, but God saved them. He took that desperate situation and used it for good.

That day, God said to me, “This is like your life. You have destroyed everything in your life. It’s like this shipwrecked boat.”

Greece food distribution

A sample of the food Samaritan’s Purse distributes to refugees.

I had nothing left. My life was wrecked, and there were no more lifeboats to escape on. I turned to God, and He saved me.

My life changed dramatically. I began to eat again.

I prayed over yogurt, saying, “I eat this in Jesus’ name!”

I read my Bible every day and slept with it at night.

In the first week, God told me, “You have to go to the people you’ve hurt and say you’re sorry.”

I said to Jesus, “I don’t have this power. If you want me to do this, you have to help me.”

Greece food distribution

Refugees at Idomeni Camp receive food from Samaritan’s Purse.

Without fail, every person I’d hurt forgave me.

For me, it was a big freedom! God brought these relationships back. My private life was a big lie, and Jesus Christ broke all that. I was feeling real freedom in every area of my life.

Even with my newfound abundant life in Christ, life wasn’t easy. The ongoing economic crisis in Greece has left many people jobless. Currently, a quarter of the population is unemployed. I prayed for more than three years that God would provide me with a job. I believed He had a plan for my life.

God Meant it for Good

At Easter, I went to northern Greece to celebrate with my family. While there, my sister suggested I apply for a job with Samaritan’s Purse. I interviewed and was told I had a job and could start tomorrow. It was a huge answer to my prayers. I began working right away to distribute food at Idomeni in northern Greece. I hate food. My life was destroyed by anorexia. And God brought me a job in food! The very thing that caused so much pain, God turned into good.

While I was working there, I met a man who had one page from Matthew 5. He’d found the page back home and carried it with him all the way to Greece. He read that one page for two months—over and over again. He didn’t know it was from a bigger book. During his time in Idomeni, a Samaritan’s Purse staff member got to know the man and gave him a Bible. When he received it, the man began to cry. He couldn’t believe there were more pages!

God had spoken to that man every day using just one page of the Bible. Now he has a complete book full of God’s words to him!

I now work with the Samaritan’s Purse food program on the island of Chios. Daily, my job is to ensure food distributions go smoothly and that the food is up to standard. Each refugee, according to international humanitarian guidelines, is supposed to receive a minimum of 2,100 calories per day. Ten percent of those calories are meant to be protein. I’m present at distributions to check quality and make sure refugees are receiving the food they need. God has been faithful in giving me the authority and strength I need to accomplish my job well.

But dealing with food is only the external piece of my job. Beyond giving people food, I believe that being present in the camps and praying for refugees brings peace and hope. I pray that we can give refugees peace not just from food but also from God. I pray over the food that is handed to each refugee. God brings real life, and this is what I want to bring people. I believe God can give these refugees hope for eternity.

Samaritan’s Purse Greece exists to provide people with emergency physical aid and spiritual relief. I have the feeling that these people aren’t only escaping from conflict in the Middle East. They’re also escaping the oppression of Islam.

I have spent hours talking with refugee women. Many express fear and hopelessness over their unknown futures. I pray with them at every opportunity I get. Some women see nothing in the future. I try to bring hope. I share my testimony. I was totally dark, and God brought me freedom. This helps the women relax.

More than anything else, it’s Jesus who has the power to bring true freedom, lasting hope, and real peace. Bringing Jesus’ presence into the camps is the core of my work.

We can’t see the next step for these people. But God has a plan. I believe this with all my heart. God is in control. God can turn what feels like a disaster into something He uses for good. He redeems and transforms the broken. He saves. Sometimes the political situation makes it seem like the refugee situation isn’t under control. But God sits at the front. All things are under control.

Please pray that God’s life-giving words, spoken over refugees by Samaritan’s Purse staff members, discovered on pages of the Bible, and heard through testimonies, will not come back void. Pray that God’s Word will transform refugees and turn what many consider to be a hopeless situation into something God redeems and uses for good.