6.29 / Final Weeks of Greece

Six weeks have flown by. It is bittersweet to write this last post as this chapter is coming to a close.

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Our final week started with goodbyes at the church. Families were relocated, and the church left on a retreat for the rest of the week. So for the last few days, our church team helped with construction at another refugee camp outside of Athens. They helped build a shop to give refugees an opportunity to buy needed clothing. The community there greeted our team warmly, with many refugees ready to help work with them! Beautiful stories were shared over food and tea, and the church team got to meet several believers from the Middle East. The Holy Spirit is working in this camp and it was so encouraging to be a part of this ministry.

The team that has been teaching English and leading children’s programs finished up their last day. Over these past 6 weeks, there was a core of consistent volunteers here with whom our team formed relationships. It was bittersweet to play the last round of duck-duck-goose and finish the English lessons, but the Lord has provided so faithfully for this team. If you recall, a few weeks ago this group did not know if they would be able to go back into the camp again. While proper documentation was never received, somehow every single day this team got to go back and teach. None of this was our own doing, but purely a gift from God! We rejoiced in His provision for continuing ministry there.

Now as our adventure in Greece has come to a close, we reflect on the Lord’s provision.

We are so thankful for the accommodations and hospitality of Operation Mobilization. They are doing amazing work here and we had the privilege of being a part of the greater picture. Serving under them was a joy. During our ministry, we encountered people from about 20 different countries. It was such a sweet taste of what heaven will be like! We take comfort in the fact that because of Christ’s sacrifice, we will see these wonderful people in heaven, if not before, like one big family reunion.

The Holy Spirit truly moved across many barriers and allowed us to build relationships with people in the camps and the church. We all come from so many different parts of the world and live such different lives, yet we were able to form deep friendships. We pray that these friendships will continue on.

We experienced the refugee crisis in a whole new way through these relationships. The crisis is so real and the people you see on TV or in an advertisement are real. They are people like me and you who long for comfort and peace. Pray for those who have not yet found the comfort and peace in our Lord.

Pray, pray, pray. We ask that you would continue to pray for the refugees not only in Greece, but also around the world. Pray for the governments and countries receiving refugees. Pray for the organizations going into refugee camps, that the Lord would provide willing and able hands and feet. Pray for the refugees- that whatever their situations are, the Lord would reveal Himself. Pray that the Lord will open the hearts of refugees who are lost, and bring them to Himself.

We are so grateful for the opportunities and experiences we had in Greece. All glory to God for His mighty works there, with and without us. We are excited to see the ways He will continue to work.

Thank you for your prayers during these past 6 weeks. We would not have been able to do anything without the Spirit’s power at work. Now we ask that you pray for us as we return to the States. It’s hard coming back after being in such an intense learning and growing environment. Please pray that we would bring home the lessons God taught us. Pray that we will continue drawing near to our Savior, for He is the same God we experienced in Greece as He is in the U.S.

Love,

the Greece Team

6.8 / Peace from Greece!

Entering the second half of their trip, our temporarily Greek family has been greatly challenged to remember the reason for the trip. That reason is to glorify the Lord and serve Him. At times, it can be difficult for the team to keep their eyes on things that are above because of discouragement and exhaustion that comes. Amidst the chaos and amidst the calm, our Savior is faithful to provide strength and endurance. We know that He is working in Greece, even when it’s hard to see. And we praise Him for the way He is moving.

Here’s more from the Greece team from this week!

This past weekend, our team was treated to a beautiful and refreshing weekend of exploration and real good Greek food. We wandered around a castle. We jumped in the cool Aegean sea. We took four-hour-long naps. Needless to say, this weekend brought so much joy to our team, thanks to one of the long-term Operational Mobilization staff members. Since we are all split up during the week, it was sweet to spend the weekend together rewiring our hearts and minds for the coming week.

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Refugee Camp Team: We have huge praises from the camp team this week! This team has been praying for ways to remain in the camp. Each week, the Lord has provided a little bit more time than we thought we would receive. Excitedly, we would like to announce that we get to spend the rest of our trip in the camp! When the camp seemed to run dry of opportunity, the Lord was actually working in the quiet. We entered each week like it was our last, but now we can be sure that our ministry here will continue! Not only this, but the English classes that ended 2 weeks ago will resume next week! The adults and children will have programs to keep them occupied this summer. This is amazing. There is truly no other way to explain these blessings but that God is in control. He desires ministry in this camp. And He is making that happen.

Also, we’ve seen incredible progress with the children! Slowly, but surely, they have responded to the structure we’ve provided and the love we’ve lavished by the grace of God. Don’t get us wrong- some days are discouraging, but the Lord continues giving glimpses of hope; like when the children listen well to a book or when they play duck duck goose like champs. We are thrilled to have 2.5 more weeks with this beautiful community!

Church Team: The church team has been as busy as ever. They are now developing an English program and a children’s program! The current lessons will continue and this team has had wonderful opportunities to share the love of Jesus in their teaching! People are beginning to ask tougher questions and our team has the great privilege of working alongside them to discover the answers. Families continue to flood into the church, and sweet stories have come from this, such as this one:

“One of our families at the church are from Syria. They have four kids who we have nicknamed ‘the Fantastic Four.’ They had to flee Syria because of the war. There was no school or work anymore and they could hear bombs and gunfire from their home, so they fled. They have lived here in Greece for over a year. This week they completed their interview process, so they get to move to their new country! They should be leaving in about 2 weeks. They are such a blessing to be around.” – M

Prayer Requests:

  1. Intentionality- pray that our team makes the very most of our last 2 weeks in Athens by depending on the Holy Spirit to lead us
  2. Softened Hearts- pray for those who do not know Christ that their hearts and eyes would be opened to Him; especially pray that the Lord will reveal Himself to a group of refugees that is reading through Luke with one of our teammates.
  3. Unity- the enemy has attacked the church’s unity; pray that the Spirit would defend us and strengthen us to fight against these attacks; and pray that we would keep our eyes on Him through all of it
  4. Open Doors- we have had several opportunities to share meals and talk with those in the refugee camp. Please continue to pray that the Lord will open doors for the Gospel, despite language barriers and restricted conversations.
  5. Wisdom- pray that we will be filled with wisdom from above in how to handle situations that arise, and how to boldly proclaim the name of Jesus, even when we cannot say His name out loud

Thank you for praying over our Greece family today. We know that God hears us and will do what is best in His sight and for our good! He is so mighty and all-powerful. Nothing is impossible with God.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21

6.1 / God’s grace in Greece

With week three finished, we continue to sing the Lord’s praises as He consistently provides opportunities for us to minister to Greeks and refugees! We are nearly to the halfway point in our trip, and sweet relationships are being built. We’ve got updates on the camp and church teams as well as prayers and praises as we continue our time here.

First up, we’ve got the team in the refugee camp. It’s been a range of emotions for this team as we continue ministering to the children and adults in the camp. We have some big praises and answers to prayer! With some complications of another organization pulling out of the camp, this team was told that this past week would be their last time in the camp. There was much frustration and sadness last week as they tried to accept the reality of these relationships ending earlier than expected. We prayed that the Lord would miraculously make a way for us to stay or that doors would open if He wanted us elsewhere. And then we received such joyous news! They gave us an extra week!! Instead of finishing up last Friday, we get an entire week to continue loving on these refugees. We rejoiced at the faithfulness of the Lord and that He graciously gave us more time in this camp.

“On the van ride to the camp, we were discussing Ramadan. A volunteer with us had begun to practice the fasting this past week and he was curious about how Christians also fast. He asked further questions about Christian fasting. I was able to talk with him about my faith and he shared his thoughts. We read through part of Acts 17 when Paul visits Athens and talks to the Greeks about their “unknown god.” Paul sums up the Gospel in this passage and we were able to elaborate on his points to clarify. The volunteer with us was very attentive throughout and later made a few comments. It is encouraging to see these visible opportunities and it confirms that God is working in this camp!” -G

“On Wednesday, I had the privilege of sharing a meal with a refugee family in the camp. One of the children excitedly invited me to her home for tea and food. Because this culture shows love through hospitality, it was an enormous honor to be invited into their humble home. Two other volunteers and I got to sit with this little girl, along with her mother and younger sister, while the older sister prepared a beautiful meal. The mother  knew a handful of English, but the older sister could communicate with us fairly well because of classes she’s taken. It was beautiful to experience this hospitality and we are so excited for another week to be able to continue this relationship. Thanks be to God that He provided time for us to get to know these amazing people.” -A

As we finish up our time in this camp, please pray that we would continue to show the love of Jesus to these children. Now, more than ever, we ask the Holy Spirit to change hearts and move in this camp. Since Ramadan is happening right now, more refugees are open to talking about their beliefs. Pray for these conversations, that we will be able to understand them but also have opportunities to show them the hope and joy found in Christ. Please continue to pray that the Lord will give us strength as working with the children can be quite exhausting. He is more than able, and we are so thankful to be part of the work He is doing here.

Next, the team working in the church has been busy at work teaching English and loving on the children! It has been a challenging week at the church as other volunteers have been flooding in. Working in a small space with a large number of people has been quite sanctifying for them as the Lord reveals their need for Him. It has truly been a humbling experience as they learn to coordinate with many volunteers. The Lord is opening doors and building relationships as refugees come to the church for lessons regularly. Through it all, the constant reminder has been that we are here for the Lord’s mission. He is graciously using us as His vessels.

One of our team members has had the chance to walk through the Gospel of Luke with refugees over her time in the church. Her “regulars” were filled with excitement when they found out that Jesus’ death was not the end, but that He rose again! Continue to pray for these discussions, trusting that the Holy Spirit is working and moving throughout this community.

“A new family from Iraq came to the church last week to attend English classes. I got the privilege to teach the dad and form a relationship with him and his wife. Over the course of the week, several of the other volunteers led this sweet couple to Christ! Hallelujah, praise the Lord! They had just found out that they were moving in a week, so they wanted to get baptized before they left! The wife stood in front of a crowd of fellow refugees and said proudly: “Before, I was Muslim, now I believe in Jesus. I believe in Jesus because I can speak with Him, and every time I speak with Him, he hears me. My God listens to me.” What a testament to the Lord. Wow. Seeing me new brother and sister in Christ getting baptized was an incredibly experience. We even concluded with singing Amazing Grace. Saying goodbye was bittersweet, but I know that one day I will see them again!” -L

We ask for your prayers over the team working in the church that refugees will be reached with the Gospel. Please pray that we will be able to truly die to ourselves as we learn to work with all of these volunteers. Pray that we will rest in the Lord’s complete approval of us because of His Son.

Pray for the people we encounter. This team in the church is able to freely talk about the Gospel with the refugees. Pray that conversations will continue to come up with them. God has done such beautiful things through our time here, and we humbly wait upon His timing during the rest of our weeks here!

Recap Prayer Request List:

  1. Camp team- pray that those of us in the camp may have opportunities to love on these refugees and spend every minute for Christ and not for ourselves; and that the refugees will see Christ in us
  2. The volunteer- pray for the volunteer we shared Acts 17 with, that he will come to understand who our Father is and decide to follow Him
  3. Strength- pray for strength and energy for all of us, and especially for those of us working with children
  4. Church team- pray for those who are beginning to learn about the Gospel that their eyes and hearts would be opened to the Truth
  5. Spirit-filled- pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to move and work in the Greeks’ and refugees’ lives and bring them to know Christ
  6. New believers- pray for the couple who just came to know Christ that they will grow and quickly find community in their new home

 

Love,

The Greece Team

5.25 / With Love From Greece

We have an update from our Greece team! This post was written by one of the team members there in Greece, so we get the total inside scoop!

“One week down and halfway through the second, our team is having a blast in Greece! The first week was all kinds of crazy, but nonetheless we are finding our rhythm here. Praise the Lord for answered prayers! Our team continues to grow closer and closer as we learn to function as one unit, and the Lord has swung doors wide open in big ways to serve the Greeks and refugees!

Week two started with a day of rest. The OM short term volunteers and a few staff members all headed out on a sunny and breezy day to spend time in the Word, prayer, and worship. Throughout the craziness of missions, the Lord continues to show us how important it is to rest in Him in order to remain spiritually healthy. From the morning to late afternoon, we sang praises, prayed, and rested in the Lord with a magnificent view of the Acropolis and city of Athens. Our prayers were focused on team unity and functioning as the body of Christ- serving as one for His glory alone. It was a lovely day of restoration and revelation as we continued to learn more about living and thriving in Athens.

This week has been a big one because we have all finally been assigned specific ministries to work with! Jonathan, Greg, and Anna are working in a refugee camp with a children’s ministry, while Jordan, Molly, Lauren, Stephen, and Amanda are working in a church teaching English and helping with the children. We began our ministries on Tuesday and have been hard at work since!

The group working with the refugee camp went in on Tuesday with clear expectations of what volunteering in a children’s ministry would look like. They plan lessons, clean the classroom, and prepare for several hours of fun with the children living in the camp. The children come pouring in around early afternoon, and this team has an afternoon full of games, songs, and giggles! While some are out of their comfort zones and some are not, the Lord has been faithful to bring these children into the classroom to learn how to play and share. Despite language barriers, we already love these kids so much and cherish the relationships being built here!

Specifically for the refugee camp, we know that the Holy Spirit is active, but prayer is certainly needed for this community. Since the camp is run by the Grecian navy, we are not allowed to share the gospel in the camps. Please pray that our interactions with the children would radiate the love of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Please pray that our team truly embodies this verse, that the people in the camp will see how the Lord has changed our lives. Also, we so deeply desire to form relationships with adults in the camp, so please pray that as we get to know their children they would become more trusting of us. Overall, these children provide so much hope and joy in such a hurting community, and for that we praise the Lord.

The team working in the church has a unique opportunity to serve refugees living within the city of Athens, not in camps. The goal of being here is to teach English to the parents while providing childcare so that they are able to take some time to learn. This team has the specific task of developing an English program that will be useful and methodical long after we leave. Since many are in the process of relocating, these refugees have the opportunity to learn useful skills to take with them. This team also has the unique opportunity to explicitly preach the gospel as lessons are taught around reading and comprehending stories out of the Bible, specifically the Gospel of Luke. These refugees come to the church willingly. And hopefully through the love shown to them by volunteers and through hearing the gospel, many will come to know Jesus during their time here.

Please also pray for this team and the people they get to encounter. It is a huge praise that the Lord has opened the door to preaching the gospel openly to refugees here. Pray that this team would be able to settle into this ministry and establish a functional English program that can be used after our team has left. Also, in terms of the children, please keep these sweet ones in your prayers as they have experienced so much pain and loss. Pray that they would not suffer long-term effects of this pain, but that the Lord would provide peace and comfort during such a chaotic and confusing childhood.

With week two almost in the books, we are so thankful for all of the opportunities the Lord continues to provide for us! We cannot wait to see what is in store for the next four weeks!

Love,

The Greece Team”

As a re-cap, here is a list of the praises and prayer requests from the Greece team:

Praises:

  1. getting into a healthy rhythm
  2. doors that God has opened
  3. the children at the camps provide so much joy to the community

Prayer Requests:

  1. pray that the children in the refugee camps would see the light of Christ in this team, since our team is not allowed to share the Gospel in the camp
  2. pray that the adults in the camp would begin to trust the team members so that relationships may be formed
  3. pray that the Greece team would be filled with the Spirit, and that He would provide an overflow of love, patience, energy, and joy.
  4. pray that the team working within the city of Athens would both HAVE and SEIZE opportunities to share the Gospel, since the team is free to share outside the camps
  5. pray that the city team would be able to settle into the ministry and establish a functional English program that can be used after our team has left
  6. pray for the little ones- they’ve seen and been through awful things; pray that they will come to know the Father of comfort, peace, and understanding and not let their pasts hinder them

5.18 / We Summer in Greece

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After a long day of traveling, we have finally arrived in Athens, Greece! Praise the Lord for His faithfulness. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts as we have been preparing and making our way through this beautiful city.

Our trip started with departing from the Atlanta airport for Frankfurt, Germany. Roughly about nine hours long, some of us watched movies, some slept (some more than others), and overall enjoyed each others’ company while excitedly awaiting our arrival. After we landed, we quickly boarded our plane for Athens! This flight, only about three hours long, left us with wide smiles on our faces as we got our first look at the city and coast of Athens. Overall, we traveled very smoothly, arriving with all of our luggage in hand! Again, the Lord has already been so good to us during our time here.

Upon arriving, two Operation Mobilization (OM) staff came to pick us up and took us to our apartments. Just driving through the city was truly breathtaking. We piled into a van and got to see so much of the city, excitedly soaking in our new home for the next six weeks. After settling in a bit, the team reunited from our apartments to try our first Grecian dish- souvlaki! Basically the best of all things wrapped in pita, we already knew that it would not be the last time we encountered this cafe. We then walked around Athens near the acropolis and popped into different shops. From street dancers to cats everywhere, we got a very good taste of the city life here in Athens. After stopping for some freshly made juice, we sleepily decided it was time to finish up the day. Our first day left us exhausted yet so thankful for the Lord’s provision for us- from very accommodating staff and housing to the mere sights of Greece, we knew our time would be special here.

After a good night’s sleep and some much needed coffee, our first full day in Athens began. We arrived at breakfast to a delicious meal, welcomed by the warm and comfortable environment of our connecting point. Here, many of our meals will be provided during our stay, and this food does not disappoint! It is amazing to see how the Lord provides even in the details with fresh food and clean drinking water. We instantly became more comfortable with the city as we were conquering the metro and wandering the streets. This day was our day off as we awaited the arrival of our last teammate. We decided to set out for the beach after having some time together as a team.

After riding the metro and buses, we made our way down to the coast. Unfortunately, with the little knowledge of the city that we possessed, we never actually made it down to the beach. After riding down, we decided to stop at a lovely cafe for lunch. Little did we know that we would be enormously blessed by the mere presence of our waitress. She was so kind, helping us make our way through the different foods served, knowing that we were not locals. As we were eating our food, she brought us out donuts from their bakery just as a treat! We were so appreciative of the hospitality, seeing more and more of the ways the Lord is so capable of breaking down barriers between cultures thousands of miles away from each other. We left encouraged and decided to walk around the city.

Once our teammate arrived in Athens, it was time for us to head back to the metro to go pick him up. Though we had some difficulty getting back, a man who turned out to be a policeman got us on the correct tram to lead us back (seriously, huge praises). Once again, praise the Lord for His provision- our last teammate made it with bags in hand and a smile on his face! We shared a meal together and prepared for some of our jobs coming up later this week.

Throughout the past three days together, we are finding our rhythm as a team, and we are so excited to see the ways the Lord will use us during our time here. How amazing it is that God would use broken people like us to take part in His mission. We are humbled and so grateful for the opportunity to share the life-changing news of Christ. The roles and personalities of the team have emerged, from Molly’s cat obsession, Amanda’s contagious laugh, and Greg’s jokes, the Lord has gone before us in creating a fruitful team dynamic. Reflecting on our time already, we cannot help but sing the praises written in Lamentations, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”

We cannot wait to share the joy and life-changing work of the gospel with you as the Holy Spirit moves and softens hearts. More updates to follow!

Love,

The Greece Team

5.3 / 5 DAYS TIL GREECE AND COUNTING !!!

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Our Greece team is preparing to leave on May 13th and they’ll be staying in Athens, Greece for 6 weeks. They will be working with Operation Mobilization to serve with them in the Greek churches, as well as the refugee camps that surround the city. They would love for you to be praying for them in a couple of specific ways:

  • Humility for the team: pray that they would not enter into this ministry thinking they’re the heroes, but that they would make much of Christ, the hero that saved our souls. Also, pray that their M.O. would be to put the needs of others over their own.
  • Safe travels: pray that they would be sure of the security that God provided in Christ, but also that He would guard them. Also, with that, pray that their family and loved ones would trust the Lord with them and draw in closer to the Lord as a result.
  • Refugees: pray in general for the refugees. Petition the Lord for their physical needs, emotional needs, and spiritual needs; that He would show them Himself through His loving kindness and provision. If you would like to know more about the refugee crisis in general and ways to pray, check out this story from World Vision https://www.worldvision.org/refugees-news-stories/syria-refugee-crisis-war-facts 
  • Team Unity: pray that they would fight for unity with one another and seek to love each other sacrificially.
  • Pray for our team by name: Anna, Amanda, Greg, Jonathan, Jordan, Lauren, Molly, & Stephen. (Just to be safe, we’re leaving out their last names)

Expect a travel post later this week!!