Our Greece Trip

What a privilege to be part of a team of nine that ministered in Greece. It was not a coincidence that God opened the doors for us to go. Here is a recap of what happened.
Our first stop was in Athens. What a gorgeous city. We took a subway from the outskirts of the city where we stayed into the center of Athens to visit the Acropolis and some of the historical sites. It was fascinating to walk where the apostle Paul had walked and preached to the Athenians about the "unknown" God. Athens was once a very idolatrous city and the archeological ruins testify to that. The Parthenon that sits atop the Acropolis was a temple dedicated to Athena the patron goddess of Athens.
We took a five hour train ride from Athens to Thessaloniki where we were going to ministering the remainder of the trip. The man in the right of the picture is Spyros a Greek young man that struck up a conversation with us. Hannah had pulled out some snacks and offered him something to eat. That opened the door to start a conversation about spiritual things. He is a Buddhist and began to ask us a lot of questions about what we believe. We were able to present the gospel to him and answer many of his questions. We have since become friends on Facebook. Pray for him.
While in Thessaloniki we partnered with a Methodist church there. Pastor Mike Long and his congregation has been doing an excellent job ministering to the refugees. Other teams were there doing different projects and we all worked together. Day 1 we all met up at the church, the plan was to have refugees come from the camp to the church where they could get showers, be served a hot meal and receive an English class. Hannah cooked a Jordanian meal and the ladies helped her cook. Andrew and Andrea Eads worked with the children and helped teach the English while a few of us men went to the refugee camp to start making connections.
Getting the meal ready for the refugees.
The ladies worked hard and with a lot of love.
There were about 10 to 15 refugees that would come to the church every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
While part of the group was working in the church the others went and started visiting in the refugee camp. Pastor Mike introduced us to Michael seated on the left. He was our "guide" in the camp and has been attending the church. He is from Syria and used to be a film director. His wife and children were all killed in the war and now he is alone trying to get to Germany or somewhere in Europe. The other two men are his friends he met at the camp. We were able to buy an inhaler for the man sitting on the far right, his little boy suffers from asthma. As we made friendships like this we distributed a book called "Is God Really My Father?" that is written in both Arabic and English. It shares Bible stories and gives the gospel message. Some of the people refused the books but many of them took them.
I found it intriguing to visit the tents and see what everyday life was like for these refugees. We would take our shoes off at the door and then sit on the floor or on the sides of their cots. This was an entire Syrian family that had escaped the war. They had lived near Damascus. They could hear the bombs falling all around them and exploding. Each time they heard a bomb explode they would say, "thank God it didn't hit us". The man in the tank top is their son-in-law. He told us that they had come on a raft from Turkey to Greece and while they were still out in the ocean the motor failed. Being an excellent swimmer, he jumped into the water and as he swam he pulled the little raft behind him to shore rescuing the entire family. The father (sitting in the white shirt) lift his shirt to show us a scar that ran down the middle of his stomach. He said he had been hit by shrapnel. It was hard to imagine what this family and many others like them had gone through. As we visited with them an Italian doctor and his helper stopped by for a check-up. One of the little boys had an infection on his leg and a little baby had a large boil on its back. They said that the Red Cross that worked in the camp did not have medicine for them. We wrote down a list of things that they needed and brought them to them the following day.
We reconnected with the same family the following day when we brought them the medicine that they needed.
An Egyptian lady from another team went with us that day to the camp and here she is using a children's book to give them the gospel!! Those two little boys listened with enthusiasm.
Over 1,500 people lived in the camp that we visited. There are thousands of refugees in camps all over Greece. The majority of them seem to be Syrians, Kurds and Iraqis. Life inside the camp is not easy. This was a large empty warehouse where they set up army style tents for each family. There were many more tents outside the warehouse which were hotter. They are given apples, bread, eggs and water everyday. They definitely miss the food that they were accustomed to they feel that they have escaped one bad situation only to get trapped in another bad situation.
One evening when part of our team had gone to a children's festival to help out, Hannah met up with a family that she had gotten to know during her first trip to Greece. We went and visited them the next day. They were so excited to see her again!!
The husband is a musician and plays the oud. We listened as their little boy sang a song about their experience as refugees. It was very sad. Their other son who is 12 is already in Germany, he had gone ahead of them with his uncle and they got trapped in Greece. This little boy had made up his own song and mentioned that he would rather die than not be able to see his brother.
This little boy was so excited to get a book.
One morning a young couple brought their newborn baby with them to the church. He was so cute.
The baby about a month old and had never had a proper bath. The mother wasn't even sure how to give the baby a bath so Freida Wegener was there to help. Having ten children of her own she was able to teach the mother how to bathe the baby. The mother was so happy!!
It's these kinds of moments that show the refugees that Christians really care.
The children were so special!
One of the English classes.
This family has been coming to church. The father was arrested by Syrian military and imprisoned. They invaded his home and tortured him in front of their little girl seated on the right. All of his front teeth were smashed out. After spending several days in prison he was released and he decided to try to escape with his family. His wife started suffering from diabetes and the little girl suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The mother nearly died 5 times on their trip due to sugar problems. The little girl can't sleep at night from the trauma of her father's capture. We were able to pray with them and let them know that God cares about their situation and He is able to heal them physically and spiritually. A few days after this visit the father told us that his wife and their two children had left for Italy on passports that her sister had sent to them. He is now alone waiting to reunite with his family. Pray for them.
Andrew and Andrea getting a picture with some of their new friends.
Bathrooms at the camp are porta-potties. It's interesting that journalists have been banned from the camps. I don't think the authorities want the world to know what is really going on inside.
Stamping books to be handed out.
At the church our team was also to help out with a project to put up some new walls for a Sunday school room and storage room. We helped to hang and mud the drywall.
This room will serve as a storage room. On the other side will be a Sunday school room.
For the last three weeks a team from Egypt has been holding services in Arabic at the church. It was awesome to be a part of that and see about twenty refugees come to church and hear the gospel!!
Singing choruses together in Arabic. It is so exciting to see how God is using a tragedy to break through to the hearts of these people. They are seeking for truth!!
Thessaloniki is a beautiful port city along the Mediterranean. It was here that the apostle Paul preached and later wrote I and II Thessalonians to the church here. It's a place filled with history.
The famous "white tower".  It used to be a prison for many years and was known as "blood tower" from all of the prisoners who were killed here.
We enjoyed all the little shops along the sidewalk. Pastry shops, ice cream shops and gyro restaurants were frequently visited.
There is an organization from the UK that has decided to rent an entire apartment complex to house refugees. They have been interviewing refugee families trying to find the worse cases to put in the apartments. It's a rather large undertaking that hopefully will be a blessing to many families. Our team went to the apartment to help clean, dust, mop and sweep as they are gearing up for the first families to move in.
The apartments are going to be very nice.
Sunday worship service was very special as Americans, Greeks, Egyptians and refugees all came together to worship the Lord. Hannah translated the service into Arabic for the refugees.
Hannah translating for pastor Mike's message. He talked about Elijah when he was fed by the ravens. He related that Elijah was like a refugee but God took care of him and He would do the same for those in need today. God blessed the service and it was such a joy to see so many refugees present.
Sunday night we had a service at another town where the Egyptians have been meeting with a small group of men interested in learning more about God. We all gave our testimonies and encouraged one another.
It was amazing to hear these guys' testimonies. The man on the far right is a converted Muslim. He began to seek God and find a church after having visions of Jesus. He has been baptized and wants to serve God!! The man next to him told us that all of his family were killed in a bombing the day he had arrived from Turkey to help them get out of Syria. He watched as people were pulling out bodies from the rubble. He fled to Greece and was driving the raft boat when he began to have thoughts of suicide. There were about forty people in his boat and was planning to flip the boat and kill everyone. Just as he was about to turn the boat he heard a little baby start to cry. He felt pity for the baby and thought, "why should I kill everyone? If I am going to commit suicide I should just do it alone". After arriving in Greece he found a church and God began to change his life and give him peace. The boy in the hat in the middle is still a Muslim but is attending services with his friends, I think it will be only a matter of time until he is converted. The man in the white shirt also had a vision of Jesus Christ and was converted from Islam. The last man on the left is a Yazzidi who is now a Christian. Meeting these men was a highlight for me, to actually meet converted Muslims and hear their stories let me know that God is at work!!!! 
Thank you to all who prayed for this trip. God protected, gave us strength and used us to be a blessing. Continue to pray for the refugee situation, different nations are discussing ways to bring in more aide and help these families get established. Until the war in Syria ends this will only continue to be a crisis. But in the midst of the crisis and tragedies Christ is being revealed to the hearts of these needy people!!!

2 comments:

Felicia said...

Oh my. We have no idea what these people go through. May God bless and keep them safely. We are so blessed. Thank you for sharing your trip with us.

Blogger said...

+$3,624 profit last week...

Get 5 Star verified winning bets on MLB, NHL, NBA & NFL + Anti-Vegas Smart Money Signals!!!