It was the summer of 1979. I had originally signed up to do a short-term missions stint in Alaska but was rerouted to serve in the Canary Islands. Alex Deikun (middle of photo) was serving there with Slavic Gospel Association. His mission was to find creative ways to get the Bible into the hands of sailors and fishermen from the Soviet Union and its East European satellite nations when their ships docked in the ports if Las Palmas.

We spent weekends with Dimitri, Nicholas and Jorge – refugees from Romania and Bulgaria that had somehow managed to escape their countries by sneaking aboard ships and hiding in lifeboats. When they were certain they had left Communist Europe, they swam to shore and found themselves in the Canary Islands. The Red Cross gave them shelter as Spain tried to figure out what to do with them.

They were the first refugees I remember meeting.

After 10 weeks in the Canaries, I returned to the US to finish my degree in Social Work. I didn’t have a clue that ministry among refugees would become my life’s calling.

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