Thursday, July 16, 2009

E****, Nea Zoi, and More...

Tomorrow we leave for Camp Kalamos where we will be spending the week with 150 teenage campers. I won't have internet access, so I wanted to give an update before I left. Also, please pray that God would supply us with energy to finish the race strong. I can't believe this is our last week in Greece! We will need lots of energy this week, but will be getting little sleep. Pray that we would be the hands and feet of Christ and that the teenagers would be receptive to the Gospel. Finally, pray that our focus would be on serving this camp whole-heartedly and that our gaze would not turn to home.

We had a great time with E**** on Sunday. She was very reserved and seemed almost nervous when we first met, but by the end of the night she had completely warmed to us. She is 21 years old and it was obvious from our conversations that she's led a difficult life. When we took a photo with her, she became very nervous and fidgety. It broke my heart when she explained to us that she didn't know how to smile! We tried teaching her, but she looked embarrassed. She wants to go to the Greek Bible Institute next year, but lacks the resources to do so. Please pray that God provides the necessary funds for her to attend and that he would continue to grow in her a desire to know Him.

Wednesday was our last time to participate in the Nea Zoi ministry. It was an emotional morning for several reasons. First, I met a 21 year old prostitute, C*****, who is engaged to be married to her madam's son. The son fell in love with C***** and is helping her escape prostitution by sending her back to her home in Romania in August. He will then fly her back into Greece a couple months later and they will try to stay hidden from the Mafia. Please pray for C*****'s protection from the traffickers who have enslaved her to this work. Second, Chelsea and Sylvia (a Nea Zoi volunteer) were chased out of a brothel after sharing the Gospel with the madam and prostitute. They were accused of being heretics and Jehovah's Witnesses after attempting to explain the difference between Greek Orthodoxy and Protestantism. In Greece they have a saying that goes "To be Greek is to be Orthodox" and it's a precise statement! If you associate with any other denomination or religion, you are considered a heretic and a second-class citizen in Greece. I'm praying that God would soften these women's hearts to the Gospel. Needless to say, we're struggling with the idea of leaving here in a week and returning to our privileged lives while these women stay trapped in this prison. Third, I watched as a young boy about the age of 10 walked into a brothel with an older (but also young) boy. Although he was thrown out, it saddened me that a child would ever be exposed to this evil. Last week, Austen observed a father escort his son into a brothel for his first sexual experience. Unfortunately, this is not too unusual in Greece. Furthermore, it's quite common for married men to seek sexual fulfillment from prostitutes driving their wives to commit adultery in return. This perpetual cycle has created much cynicism from the younger generation towards love and marriage. Society is getting married later and later and many don't marry at all (although most are living with partners). We have been faithfully praying that God would do great things in Greece. We have seen his work and are confident that his spirit will continue to work in this country.

There is so much more I want to say, but it's time for us to leave for Kalamos. My deepest gratitude to those praying. God has truly blessed my time in Greece and I could never repay you for your prayer and financial support which has allowed me this opportunity.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Prayer Request

Today is a special day! We are attending church with E****, a prostitute from the New Life ministry. She is a Nigerian woman who was brought to Greece and forced into prostitution by her own cousin. In addition, she'll be accompanying us to Camp Kalamos for the day while we run a program for the campers. Please be praying for our time with E**** - that God would soften her heart to the Gospel and give her courage to leave the prostitution industry.

Also, I'm giving my testimony again but this time to a group of kids ranging from 6 to 18. Pray that God would give me wisdom in making my testimony appropriate for such a broad age range.

Redemption At Its Finest

I meant to post this before I left for Volos, but was so rushed that somehow I saved it rather than posting it. It's a bit outdated now, but here you go anyways:

As usual, we traveled into Athens Thursday evening to throw the children's festival. The only thing different this time was that Ron and Deborah, our mentors, stayed behind to have dinner with the pastor and his wife. Before leaving, I got the community center key (where the festival supplies are stored) from Ron and immediately threw it in my backpack which I bring with me every week into the city. As we were walking out the door an hour later, I decided, for whatever reason, that I didn't need my backpack this week, forgetting that the key was inside. I realized as we were standing in front of the community center that I had left the key at the Bible school. The festival lasts two hours and it’s an hour and half travel time each way, so going back to get the key was a moot point. I felt terrible, but my team responded graciously. Regardless, we headed to the park, wondering how we were going to entertain these kids.

At the park, anxious children swarmed us requesting face painting and balloon sculptures. I felt awful that I had disappointed the kids. Attempting to make it up to them, I suggested that we play some games. With a severe language barrier, it was very interesting and somewhat awkward explaining games, but they eventually caught on. Caroline, Emily, and I spent the next two hours racing around the park playing freeze tag, hide and seek, red rover, and red light/green light. The kids were thrilled and tirelessly begged us to continue playing again tomorrow.

After all of those nights of face painting, I bonded more with the kids that night than I ever have. I was so thankful that God redeemed the situation and gave me the opportunity to love those children in a way I wouldn't have experienced had I remembered the key. It was a good reminder that God is always working for the good of his children!

We're Celebrities!!

Dinner with the Assistant Mayor last night turned out to be a much bigger ordeal than originally imagined. We ate at the end of a long pier on the sea with the Mayor, Assistant Mayor, and some other important man that I can't remember his title. They ordered every kind of Greek food imaginable and I was coerced into trying lamb intestines....yuck! Thank you Austen for eating my portion. The Mayor awarded us medals along with a DVD and tour guide of the city. AND, they had the city's major news network come interview the pastor and a couple of team members!! It was a rare opportunity for the Protestant church to share about the ministry we participated in. The Mayor even inquired Melethes, the pastor we worked under, about the differences between Greek Orthodox and Protestantism! Oh, we're also going to be featured in the newspaper in the near I guess you could say we are celebrities here in Volos :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure"

Picking up trash has turned out to be both extremely humbling and surprisingly encouraging. Volunteerism in Greece is practically non-existent, so most of the citizens have been incredibly grateful for our service. People have bought us drinks, honked their horns, volunteered to help us, and one old lady insisted on giving us her opened package of cookies. Even the Assistant Mayor pulled over on the side of the highway today to take pictures of us and invite us to dinner tomorrow night at his home! But most importantly, people have questioned who we are and why we are picking up trash on the side of the highway. This gives the Protestant church (there is only one in Volos) a great opportunity to connect with the community and share the love of Christ.

However, there have been a few people who have yelled at us for picking up trash. We're not certain why since we can't undestand them, but it was pretty obvious that they weren't happy about it. We've picked up several beaches while people laying out pointed out the trash that we missed. And last, but certainly not least, we've cleaned up former "homes" of gypsies which includes human feces and used feminine products. Don't worry, we wore gloves.

But God is good and provided us with the opportunity to swim in the sea after each day. It was the perfect rest needed after spending hours in the sun.

Aside from picking up trash, we assisted the pastor in the Wednesday night church service where I shared my testimony. God was gracious enough to give me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and calm all of my fears. Thanks for praying!

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Sorry it has been so long since I last updated. We've been incredibly busy between the children's festivals and New Life ministry. We leave for Volos, Greece today for a week. We are staying at a camp for two nights where I will be sharing my testimony, so please pray for wisdom in knowing what to share with a group of teenagers. Pray that God would speak through me and that they would not be my own words, but his. After camp, we will be spending the remaining time at the church there. We will be involved with a ministry where we will be picking up trash all week. In the past, this ministry has provided the church with the ability to connect with the Greek Orthodox church and has given the church a good reputation in the community. Pray that the sun won't be relentless and that we'll have plenty of energy as we will go two weeks without a day off.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Experiencing Grace Through Creation

Monday we took a ferry to the Agina Greek Island for our day off. We spent the day exploring the town, taking pictures, and resting on the beach. The hours spent on the beach were a timely blessing from God. Emily, Caroline and I discovered a (mostly) unoccupied, secluded beach and unpacked ourselves there. We swam, took a nap under the sun, and then I spent quality time with the Lord. It was a peaceful and relaxing afternoon. Straight ahead was the dark blue sea with a mountainous backdrop. To the left was a view of ancient ruins. The sun was strong, but was offset by the constant breeze. It was picturesque. And even more, God’s timing, as always, was perfect. It was providence that God chose for the team to split up that day. Lately, it’s been difficult finding time to spend alone with the Lord because we’re so busy and the team is always together, leaving room for many distractions. But on this day, with both of the girls with me asleep, I lay there listening to worship music, reading my Bible, and just enjoying God’s creation. In those moments, I was absolutely certain of God’s goodness. I praised him for his creativity. I praised him that he allowed me to be there in that moment giving credit to Him for his beautiful works. How lucky was I to be experiencing God’s grace like that?


I face-painted all evening at the festival tonight. As we were packing up to leave, a little boy about 6 years old held up his hand for a high-five. I went to reciprocate and somehow (don't ask) missed and hit him in the head. To make matters worse, a bench of little old ladies witnessed the event and their expressions were filled with horror. They were mortified at the sight of me knocking some child upside the head. I repeatedly shouted the only word I knew to say, "signommi, signommi" (sorry), but he just stared at me with this perplexed look.

Moral of the story: Make sure to aim correctly when giving high-fives.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you."

On Monday, our team visited the city of Marathon. Argyris took us to a few key sites and then to the Marathon Bay to swim. We were able to walk part of the route that the Marathon man took when delivering the message of victory against the Persians. He ran 26 miles to Athens in full armor to share this news before dropping dead. We also visited the Battle of Marathon trophy, as well as the tomb where the remains of many Persian generals lay.

That evening we cooked a southern dinner (sweet tea and all) for Argyris and his family. It was by far one of the best team bonding moments we've experienced. So much frustration, yet so much joy! We were feeding 15 people, so it naturally took a lot of preparation. Between grocery shopping, not being able to read labels, converting measurements, the microwave breaking, finding maggots in the garlic, and trying to cook 15 pieces of chicken on a tiny, portable grill, the night was full of obstacles! We ended up making at least 5 trips to the market and everyone was on edge. We planned for dinner to be served promptly at 8:00 pm and didn't sit down until close to 10:30. But when we did, it was beautiful! We ate on the roof of the Bible school with two living room lamps and the moon as our only sources of light. We cut fresh flowers for the tables and watched as a forest fire radiated in the distance.

I can honestly say that we never could have pulled off that dinner if not every single person on the team had been involved. And despite our frustrations and all the setbacks, the night was full of laughter. God graciously gave us the ability to laugh at everything that was going incredibly wrong. Our guests were quite surprised by our efforts and loved the sweet tea and key lime pie!

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday nights we were responsible for conducting festivals for the neighborhood kids. I must admit that I was not particularly excited for these festivals, but I continually prayed that God would change my heart. I asked for energy and a heart for the kids. Rachel and I were assigned face - or should I say, body - painting. The kids wanted everything painted except for their faces. And unfortunately (for them) they were not satisfied by hearts and butterflies. No, we had to paint Greek flags inside of hearts and tribal symbols. To my surprise, God provided me with a joy that surpassed my expectation. The time flew by and was consumed with non-stop painting of arms, legs, faces, and more. Some kids had 5 or more paintings by the end of the evening. It was awesome loving the children and praying for them by name as we humbly served them. Overall, it was a great experience as it taught me what little verbal communication is actually needed to convey love to a child.

Thursday we had a rare opportunity to accompany a class of students to Corinth. During the bus ride, I read Acts 18 and part of 1 Corinthians so that the biblical events of history would be fresh on my mind. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. We spent the entire day learning about the city’s rich history and soaking up the beautiful ancient ruins. It's impossible to describe the feeling you get when standing at the bema seat where Paul was judged in Acts 18:12 - 17. The sight is nothing less than captivating! The professor gave us a detailed history lesson of each ruin, statue, and architecture we saw. We visited the Temples of Apollo and Octavia, the Acrocorinth and isthmus canal, and sat on the ancient ruins of a 4th century basilica. As I now reread that same scripture, I have a new appreciation for these passages. I can imagine exactly what the town looked like and where it's located. It came alive for me and that was an incredible blessing!

Today I have officially been in Greece for 3 weeks. I can hardly believe it! Although I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything, there are days that I miss the comfort of home. I miss routine, making my own decisions, having dinner with my family, playing with my niece, and spending time with Caleb. Oh, and I miss Mexican food! I’ve been on the lookout, but have yet to find any Mexican restaurants here – even though I’ve been told they do exist. Anyways, please do pray that this homesickness will not develop into an unhealthy distraction from God’s work. Pray that I would find comfort in Christ on the days when nothing appears familiar and the distance between me and home seems to grow with each passing week.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mou Aressi i Ellada

Last night we took the 2 hour bus ride into Athens just to find out that the community center (where we were supposed to be serving) was closed. That's a picture perfect example of Greek life! Instead of getting frustrated, we decided to have a leisurely dinner at the Omonia bakery before heading back home. I have never tasted Baklava so good!

Back at the Bible school, we said our good-byes to Brian and Lorrie (our current mentors) who headed back to America early this morning. It was much harder than I expected to say goodbye! We've shared some really fun memories over the past two weeks - staying up all night eating Nutella, hearing stories of their college years (and what a stalker Brian was - ha!), and Brian's endless tangents on how not to get pick-pocketed. Oh, and how Chelsea called Lorrie Glory on accident for the first few days we were here. It has been such an encouragement knowing them because they've been a wonderful example of husband, wife, mother, and father. They were honest with us about hardships they've faced, but always managed to point us to Christ.

We have new mentors, Ron and Deborah, arriving tonight and then another mentor, Sam, arriving in a couple weeks. It will be really interesting adjusting to all the different personalities and leadership styles. Only the Lord knows why he has placed each of these people in our lives and I am confident it's for good reason. We are excited to get to know them all!

We spent today cleaning and preparing a camp in Kalamos. It was long and hard manual labor, but the task-oriented members relished in the work. It felt really good to accomplish something tangible! We mopped floors, scrubbed tables, painted benches, cleaned cabins, and set-up beds. I was exhausted when we got home and participated in my first siesta. It was awesome! This is one habit I might bring home with me...

Tomorrow we are going to church and then preparing dinner for Argyris and his family. After he and his wife cooked us a fabulous, homemade Greek meal, we decided to return the favor. We are making a typical American meal with key lime pie for dessert. We're hoping it turns out ok as we had to substitute some ingredients that aren't accessible here. And we can't read Greek, so we did a lot of guessing as to what items were....we'll see!

Kalinikta (goodnight)!!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Blessing In Disguise

A really neat thing happened this morning while working with Nea Zoi. I accompanied Dina into a brothel assuming I would just observe as usual (due to the language barrier), and the working girl spoke English! We walked into the kitchen area which had a small bedroom connected to it. The door was open and the young girl lay unclothed on the bed. Dina asked her a question and, when the girl replied in English, sent me in to talk with her while she engaged the madam. My heart dropped and I immediately prayed that God would give me loving words to speak into this girl's life.

I learned that she is 22 years old and from Romania. She has been in Greece just one month now. She calls herself Mary, although we doubt that is her real name. During the ten minutes I spent in small talk with her, I learned that she moved to Athens to make money and that she didn't enjoy her work. She also told me that she was sleeping poorly and was working two shifts per day at the brothel.

When the front door of the brothel opened, she got up from the bed to greet her potential customer. About four times during the ten minutes I was there, she got up to do this. Each time returning without business. I could see the humiliation in her face. After returning to the kitchen one time, she stated, "I don't like these Greek men." My heart broke for her. She was new to the industry and the wounds were obviously still very fresh. I can't imagine the pain of being rejected over and over again. It's no wonder that these women's hearts become so hardened. That's the only way to survive.

Dina and I explained to Mary that we belonged to a Christian organization that wanted to help her. We gave her a business card and explained that we offered free life-skills classes and counseling if she ever needed anything. But most importantly, we told her that we believed in a God that cared and loved for her - and that we also wanted to love her. She graciously accepted a Bible and worship music before leaving me with a kiss on the cheek.

I am extremely grateful for this experience. God allowed me to take part in this wonderful ministry in unexpected ways and gave me the opportunity to speak hope and love into a broken girl's life. He challenged me to step way beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone. He allowed me to relate to this woman in a way that she was no longer a prostitute needing fixing, but a real person with real emotions and dreams. I won't forget Mary. I think she had a more significant impact on my life than I ever will on hers, but I will be faithful to pray for her.

One more Nea Zoi story. As we were discussing prayer requests this morning, a certain couple was mentioned. This Christian couple lived in Romania, until moving to Greece temporarily to earn enough money to build a home together. The husband subsequently forced the wife into prostitution as a means of funding the house. As a result of years working in prostitution, the wife has recently become mentally ill. Now, the husband has threatened to leave her with no family or means of legal work. Please join us in prayer that God would provide a host family for this woman to live with. That the church would be enthusiastic about supporting and loving this woman during this difficult time. And that she would know the hope and forgiveness offered by a God who loves her and created her for himself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Who Knew that Hummus is Not a Greek Food?!

I was very disappointed to learn that hummus is not a Greek food! I was really looking forward to eating lots of it while here. I have been looking for it everywhere and was shocked that no where seemed to offer it. Finally, the university students explained that hummus is actually Lebanese. I wonder why the hummus I buy at the store is called Athenos..........

Anyways, on to more important things. I learned from Argyris, the pastor, that he was arrested last year for proselytism. I had no idea it was illegal in Greece to try to convert people from Greek Orthodoxy to Protestantism! He spent some time in jail and underwent many trials before being exonerated. Argyris also explained that the Greek Bible Institute is the only Bible college in all of Greece. The government has recently passed new laws that are making it increasingly harder for the school to operate. But God continues to faithfully provide.

At dinner last night, Argyris listed the needs of the Bible school and the first item mentioned was none other than an accountant! I was so excited! This past year, I have spent considerable time weighing my career options. I've always loved missions, but seriously doubted the need for accounting skills in this field. Although I won't be moving to Greece to fill this position, it was really encouraging to hear that my skills are needed in the ministry world!

Today we spent a few hours in Athens interviewing people living in a potential church-planting area. We were divided into pairs that concentrated on different sections of this area. Austen and I interviewed at several trendy restaurants where the people met our demographic requirements. We ended up having a 20 minute conversation with a couple of self-proclaimed atheists.

It was a very friendly conversation and I found their perspective to be very interesting, although somewhat disturbing too. They believe that religion is used as a means of control over the weak. That almost all evil in the world has its roots in religion. While I do agree that there are churches, pastors, and others with religious authority who abuse their power, I don't believe this is an accurate blanket statement. I explained that Christ cannot be judged based on man. We will never perfectly respresent Christ because we are sinners. We will always fail to measure up. Instead, we must look to the character and person of Jesus. Misusing power is not a new concept. Didn't even Jesus expose the Pharisees who exploited their religious power?

They also argued that man is inherently good and isn't in need of rescuing. I know from just searching my own heart that man is in no way inherently good. I think the world has a perverted view of what good actually is. The emphasis is on outward behavior as opposed to the heart. For example, before coming to Christ, I would not have viewed myself as evil. In fact, I considered myself to be a pretty decent human being. At least in comparison to so many other people. I didn't steal, murder, do drugs, or curse. So what if I occasionally gossiped and envied my friends. I went to church and even volunteered in the community - nevermind that my motives were selfishly driven. Now, I realize that the only one I can compare myself to is a Holy God. And that Holy God is more concerned about my heart than my behavior. And next to him, I am completely wicked.

But the good news is that, because of his love for us, God sent Christ to die for our sins. And through his death, God is accessible to us. He offers us eternal life and freedom from sin. He offers us grace and hope!!! Praise God!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." - John 3:16-17

Monday, June 8, 2009


Today was our off day. We went into Athens and visited the Acropolis, Parthenon, Temple of Zeus, and a few other ancient ruins. It is scorching hot here - it was predicted to reach 100 degrees F - so we only stayed in town until about 2:30.

We were honored to have dinner tonight with the Petrou family who live at the Bible school. Argyris Petrou is a pastor and teacher at the school. He has been in charge of our "schedule" while we've been here. He and his wife are incredibly hospitable and cooked us a fabulous, homemade Greek dinner. It was honestly one of the best meals I've ever eaten!

On a different note…

Today has been a serious struggle for me. The entire day I have been completely conscious of the immensity of my sin. My words, behavior, and thoughts all stemmed from selfish desire and motive. My words may have sounded polite and honorable on the outside, but inside they were completely hollow. My thoughts were plagued by frustrations and self-interest. And my behavior was nothing more than empty actions seeking approval and recognition.

I constantly devalue the people here by being more concerned with accomplishing a task than spending time with them. I become frustrated that I am not able to serve in more meaningful ways. And I crave structure and order at the expense of joyfully digesting the culture. Pray that Christ will give me a heart for the people he places in my path. That I will see the importance of these relationships and seek to be a witness for Christ through loving others. Pray that I will remember that my plan may not mirror the Lord’s plan. That perhaps he has me in Greece for completely different reasons than I expected – even if just to grow me in these weaknesses. And lastly, pray that I can surrender control of my schedule to the One who is truly in charge.

Today I recognized the utter depravation of my heart. On one hand, I am thankful for this realization because it allows me to see my need for rescuing. For a Savior. On the other hand, I am feeling completely helpless when I know I should not. Christ died to bear all sin and, for that reason alone, I can have hope that this sin will not overcome me. I am in the process of redemption and I can have hope that he is using every situation in my life for growth in him. I must remember that Christ can and will use the weak to accomplish his purpose.

I look forward to the day when I am before Christ and witness the final defeat of sin. A day that I will no longer be bound by my flesh. Thank you Jesus for loving me the way you do – even though I am so undeserving. Thank you for exposing my heart and need for you. Remind me of these things daily.

"And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you." - Psalm 39:7

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Never Wear Sunday Dresses and Flip Flops to Hike a Mountain.

This morning we went to the Second Evangelical Church of Athens. A team member, Austen, had the opportunity to share his testimony in front of the congregation. After each sentence, it must be translated into Greek, so it's somewhat hard to keep your focus. But he did a great job, and we appreciated that he was willing to do what none of us wanted to. We also sang Isaiah 43 for the church while Rachel (another member) played the piano. It was so beautiful even though none of us are professional singers. The words are so awesome because they come straight from scripture:

When You Pass Through The Waters, I Will Be With You

And The Waves, Will Not Overcome You

Do Not Fear, For I Have Redeemed You

I Have Called You By Name, You Are Mine


For I Am The Lord Your God (Girls Repeat)

I Am The Lord Your God

I Am The Holy One Of Israel, Your Savior (2x)

(Guys) I Am The Lord (3x)

(Girls) Do Not Fear (3x)

When You Pass Through The Fire, You'll Not Be Burned

And The Flames Will Not Consume You

Do Not Fear, For I Have Redeemed You

I Have Called You By Name, You Are Mine

Repeat Chorus

After church, the pastor took us to lunch in Plaka at a great restaurant. Then, his son took us around Athens as our personal tour guide. We visited Mars hill again...which somehow was more beautiful than I had even remembered. Then we trecked several miles to the top of this mountain where a tiny church sat. The view was absolutely incredible - even better than Mars Hill! By the time got down the mountain, we had been walking several hours in our church dresses and flip flops. Our feet were killing us!

We then attended a youth worship event held on top of an apartment complex roof. It was really ironic to be singing to the one true God with a clear view of the Parthenon (the classic symbol of the once prevalent pagan culture) within eyesight. And if that weren't enough, it was amazing to see these people, who live across the world, worshipping the Lord in their own language. We may be separated by oceans and language, but we are all united in Christ!

10 Things About Life Greece

10 things I forgot to mention about life in Greece:

1. You can't flush toilet paper down the toilet because the drains are too narrow. Yep, you have to throw it away it the trash can. Sounds gross (and it kind of is), but we are used to it by now.

2. The police carry automatic machine guns. It's sort of unsettling to walk past them on the streets. Oh, and the police are not allowed to enter the universities, so they've had cases of people fleeing to the school after committing a crime.

3. We hang our clothes out to dry on a line. It's awesome! I did it last summer in Africa as well and I really like it. I hope I can have one when I have my own house. They dry really quickly and smell great when they're done!

4. There are stray dogs EVERYWHERE. You can walk down the street and pass as many as 5 stray dogs on your way. And most of them have collars. The people put collars on them so they won't be taken to the pound and then feed them each night.

5. People are crazy, fearless drivers. Between the motorcyclists that drive on the dotted lines and the cars that don't slow down for pedestrians, it's scary traveling anywhere. You can't trust crosswalk signs and you can't be concerned about dents in your car. I've almost been run over twice - once crossing the street when I had a green light and once while running. Seriously, the car came within an inch of my foot.

6. Everyone greets each other with a kiss on each cheek. Boys, girls, everyone.

7. Taxes are included in prices. This is really nice because prices are even and it's much easier to split tabs. Also, you don't tip unless you had extraordinary service.

8. There are only 12,000 Protestant Christians in Greece. Yikes.

9. Gypsies are alive and well. Our leader, Brian, was pickpocketed today moments after telling us all that he suspected there were gypsies nearby. They are so sneaky. He lost about 400 Euro and had to cancel his credit card :(

10. Everyone thinks I am a Spaniard. It's quite fun actually. Natives speak to me in Greek almost everyday assuming I am Greek. If only I knew how to respond. And a side note: Last night at the festival we worked at, one of the Greek teenage boys told me I look like Paris Hilton - ha! Could we look anymore different?!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's Not Bad, It's Just Different!

The people at the Greek Bible Institute (GrBI) where we stay are amazing! They are always smiling, give credit to God in all things, and genuinely want to help in every way they can. Seriously, I haven't ever met so many people in one place who challenge me to be a better Christian. One of the American students, Courtney, has spent almost her whole week showing us around the bus station and metro, accompanying us into Athens, telling us encouraging stories, and just generally showing us the ropes. She, along with everyone else, has been incredibly welcoming from the moment we came. When we first arrived, it was during their graduation ceremony where everyone was wearing suits and dresses. However, our entire team was dressed in sweat pants and t-shirts and hadn't taken showers in two days. Despite this fact, we were embraced with warm hugs and loud, friendly greetings. Nobody looked down upon us or suggested that we change attire. Instead, they requested that we mingle among the students and join them for some Greek dancing that evening.

From that day until now we have experienced nothing but kindness from our hosts. They repeatedly tell us how much our presence is appreciated. It's funny because in America people are often valued by what they accomplish. Here, you are valued just because you are a person. They are much more relational creatures than we are. And when they ask "how are you?” they actually mean it!

Another interesting thing that goes along with this idea: Christians here are big on giving testimonies. We learned that the hard way. The other day in chapel, we were given an hours notice that someone in our group would be sharing their testimony in front of all the students - who we had barely met. Of course, all the girls were running around frantic trying to figure out who was going to be the one to do this. Thankfully, Thomas volunteered to swallow the bullet for us. We thought that the rest of us were off the hook, but we were sadly mistaken. Another one of us has been requested to give our testimony at church on Sunday (at least this time with some advanced warning). I have a feeling that this will be my fate as well. They love hearing testimonies because they truly care about who we are and what has brought us to our present point.

Oh - random point. Our team has been eating souvlakis almost everyday (sometimes more than once) because they are really inexpensive, easy to find, and convenient to eat on the run. The girls were excited because we thought that we were being really healthy. They are pitas filled with chicken, grilled onions and tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce. I don't why, but they just seemed so fresh. Well, when we were hanging out with university students doing research, we mentioned how much we loved the souvlakis and how we ate them all the time. One girl exclaimed, "oh no, you go home weighing 5 kilos more than when you come!" I think we may have to back off the souvlakis :(

Ok, onto today. We woke up early this morning to attend a three-hour Bible class with the Greek students called The History of the Christological Controversies. We were pumped because we were told we would learn all about the Greek Orthodoxy church from a well-known speaker who was visiting the class that day. Well, in the first five minutes all but one person on my team was completely lost. Between the 5th century history and religious jargon, my head was spinning. I guess you could say we were a little overly confident. Our team bailed after the first hour to have team prayer time.

We headed to the university around 2:00 to do evangelistic research, but when we arrived campus had been closed due to upcoming elections. So, we walked a few blocks to a large Greek Orthodox Church and toured the inside. It was adorned with religious pictures and icons, gold, candles, and more. I seriously felt like I would break something if I breathed the wrong way. We observed the other people and noticed that, when they entered the church, they always kissed these pictures of Christ displayed under glass. After a few minutes, we gathered outside the church and had one of the GrBI students give us a basic lesson on Greek Orthodoxy. It was very interesting and somewhat frightening as well, but that's another story for another day.

We then took the metro to the community center where we were serving that evening. The community centers are owned and operated by the evangelical church and were established to provide children with a place to come and hang out (and hopefully stay out of trouble). They have games, ping pong, Wii, computers and provide pizza and ice-cream for the kids. Their hope is that, by serving their community, they can be a witness for Christ and perhaps have a positive influence on the children.

It was a long day as we didn't get back home until after 11:30 - which is actually pretty normal. Like I said before, the typical day of a Greek looks much different than that of an American. Breakfast almost doesn't exist because most don't wake up until about 10:30ish. Lunch is at 2:00 in the afternoon followed by a long siesta. Dinner isn't until around 9:00 and most don't go to bed until well after midnight. Don’t ask me when they work. It's quite the adjustment, especially since we aren't able to take advantage of the afternoon siestas. But like we've learned to say in so many circumstances, "It's not bad, it's just different!"

Tomorrow we are sleeping in (yay) and then operating a festival that evening held by the community centers. Pray for lots of energy as it's always exhausting spending long periods of time with energetic children.

“I Have Not Come to Call the Righteous, But Sinners”

This morning four of us went into town at about 8:30 am to help out with the Nea Zoi ministry. When we arrived, we sang a few worship songs and prayed specifically for different prostitutes in need of prayer. Then, we split up into groups of five and visited different parts of town with large numbers of brothels. I was astounded by how many there were! On the street I went to, we visited about 8 brothels alone! They’re in unmarked, run-down apartment-like buildings that many businesses occupy. You can easily identify a brothel because they have a bright white light above the door - even during the day. At first, I stayed outside to "keep watch" and pray for those inside, but was soon asked to accompany one of the volunteers, Donna, inside. My heart was pounding when I started walking towards the brothel door as I had no idea what to expect. I silently prayed that God would allow me to share in his broken heart for these women. That I would not see them as prostitutes, but as broken women needing Jesus – just like me. That he would remind me that my sin was just as grievous as theirs.

Inside we walked through a small, dim waiting room where men would sit and wait to view the woman on shift. She comes to the waiting room in between customers and the men decide if they want to pay for her. We then passed by a few bedrooms that were completely bare except a mattress with sheets and a small sink next to it. We entered a small kitchen in the back where the woman on shift and the madam stayed when there were no customers. Sitting in a chair was a woman approximately 35 years old wearing no clothing. We stayed for about 15 minutes and I poured tea and listened while Donna spoke with the woman and madam in Greek. During this time period, the woman got up several times to assist customers coming inside the brothel, but then would rejoin us a minute later when the men decided they were not interested in her. I was so saddened by this. As a woman, I know how much we long to be affirmed and be called beautiful. It was heart breaking to see this woman rejected over and over again and for her heart to be so hardened that she showed no emotional response. She fooled herself into believing this was only a job. It was a complete perversion of what God created sex for...pleasure void of any kind of love or emotion.

As I looked around the kitchen, I noticed that there were several small photos of Jesus and Mary on the wall accompanied by a cross. I was (and actually still am) quite confused by that. It seems as though they are longing for fulfillment and love - just not seeking it from the right place. I pray that Nea Zoi will continue to visit consistently and offer hope and love to these women. To be a light in these dark places. That God would break down the walls they’ve built around their hearts and draw them close to himself.

I spent several hours of my day visiting brothels, praying for the team and women on shift, and learning more about the prostitution industry in Greece. As I stood outside praying (we have to keep our eyes open), I observed the men walking into the brothels. Some came alone, some in groups with friends. Whereas prostitution is somewhat of a taboo in America, it is not here. It's legal and men frequent them with no shame. There are regulations on the industry, however it’s highly difficult to control so there is almost always illegalities – women without papers, working double shifts, not getting tested, etc.

On a lighter note, the rest of the day was spent doing research at the University of Athens for the church planting mission. We interviewed students and learned a considerable amount of information about Greek student life. The students have a very, very negative view of the church which is disappointing, but understandable when you learn about the history of Greek Orthodoxy.

There is so much more I want to tell you about, but time is limited. Please be praying for our time with these ministries and that God would use us in unexpected ways.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Get Ready to be Jealous

I forgot to mention (not sure how) that our team visited Mars Hill last night. It is the beautiful site where Paul preached the sermon of the unkown god in Acts 17. It is an absolutely incredible view that words can't describe, so I'm not going to try. I have pictures (which don't do it justice) that I will post soon.

Monday, June 1, 2009

"Not Having a Plan is Also a Plan..."

I'm coming to realize that the Greeks really don't enjoy working according to a schedule. It's been really difficult to plan our days because we never know when we are going to be needed until that day. Plans and times constantly change and it's crucial that we're flexible - which tends to be a problem for me because I thrive on order. I have a feeling the Lord is going to use this summer to force me to let go of control and relax. The people generally stay out pretty late and, therefore, sleep in later than Americans (which not being a morning person, I can totally get used to). They also take an afternoon siesta from 3 - 5pm which means our ministry work doesn't start until the evening.

We didn't begin our ministry yesterday until 6 pm! We left Pikermi at 4 pm and took two buses and two metros as means into Omonoia where we had orientation for Nea Zoi (New Life) ministry. Nea Zoi seeks to minister to women and men involved in prostitution and trafficking. They offer many services including psychological, social, and spiritual support; information about where to find legal and medical help; and advice and help for people who want to stop working in prostitution. They assist women in obtaining new jobs and offer life-skills classes. This ministry reaches out to prostitutes by consistently meeting them on the streets and in brothels where they work to develop friendships. They do this by passing out drinks, christian literature, and just engaging them in everyday conversation. It sometimes takes years to get a prostitute to even accept a drink or respond to the ministry workers. Nea Zoi has been around for 10 years and has only seen a handful of women and men come out of the industry, but they believe that they are able to show God's love by just having a consistent presence on the streets.

The way our team will be helping this ministry is primarily through prayer support. When on the streets, there must be teams of at least four people - two people praying and being aware of the surroundings while the other two people talk with the prostitute. Our job will mostly be to pray and keep watch, but we may also have the opportunity to participate in conversation with English speaking prostitutes.

There is so much more we learned about the ministry that I want to share, but I will have to do it another time because lunch is soon and I must not be late. After lunch, we are heading to the university in Athens to conduct research among students to aid in church planting.

Please be praying that everything we do (even the most seemingly insignifcant work) will be done for Christ. Sometimes it's difficult to get excited about work that doesn't particularly interest you or seems nominal in nature, but I know God will use all of our assignments to grow us in him. I pray that I will remember that I am here to serve and that I will be able to easily put aside my selfishishness that feels entitled to participate in certain types of ministry work.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 1

Our team finally made it to Greece last night after three days of prefield training and a long plane ride. We are staying about 45 minutes away from Athens at the Greek Bible Institute. Because it is our first day and we are still adjusting to the jetlag, we had a fairly relaxing day. We visited the First Evangelical Church of Athens this morning which is just a few blocks from the Parliament and Acropolis and across the street from the Arch of Hadrian. The service was in Greek (obviously), but we were able to listen to a translator through a headset. After church, we went to the beach with some of the students at the Bible Institute. The Aegean Sea (Mediterranean Sea) is only about a 10 minute drive from the school. It's a rocky beach, but has the most beautiful blue water you've ever seen!

God blessed me with an amazing team including 7 people - 5 girls and 2 boys. We spent a lot of time at prefield training in North Carolina getting to know one another and participating in team building exercises. There are many different personalities on the team, but we get along really well and together we possess a great set of strengths that will serve us well in our ministry areas.

The food is amazing!! That's an understatement. We’ve eaten twice at a local restaurant that’s in walking distance of the school. It’s very inexpensive (we can eat for about $3) because we are not in a touristy city and they have awesome souvlakis (which is just basically a gyro) and Greek salads. The Greek salads consist of fresh tomatoes, olives, onions, and peppers topped with a huge chunk of feta cheese. Yum!

Our first day has been pretty relaxing, but we expect things to pick up fairly soon. They have many different ministry options for us including serving meals to refugees, working with victims of sex trafficking, university ministry, etc. I’m so excited to see what the Lord has planned for this summer and promise to keep you updated!

Meanwhile, here is something you can be praying for…

Greece is a very people-oriented country. They spend a significant amount of time building friendships and talking with each other which means long meals and slow paces. This probably sounds great to most of you, but being a task-oriented person, this will be a struggle for me. It’s often hard for me to feel like I’ve gotten anything accomplished if I’m not “doing” something. I need prayer that I will not become so focused on the assignments that I forget to value to people I meet.

Thanks and love you all!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Unpassionate Pursuits

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be married and have a family. I was never the girl who held the typical dreams and aspirations of business successes. Instead, I dreamt of packing lunches, taxiing children around, and running errands. I desire to raise my children in Christ, enjoy a loving marriage, and run a well-organized household. And to be quite honest, I think God wants me to focus the gifts He gave me at home. To some, that may sound extremely mundane, but I love taking care of people and maintaining an orderly life. In fact, one of my secret pleasures is organizing. Seriously. I don’t know how many hours I’ve wasted writing and rewriting lists, categorizing emails, and recording appointments in my calendar.

That being said, I still struggle with the thought of giving up the pursuit of riches. I worked incredibly hard in college to graduate with honors in accounting. I spent the better part of a year attending accounting socials and interviews to obtain an internship with a major firm. I spent three months as an intern working, on average, 75 hours per week. I accepted a job offer from one of the top 4 public accounting firms in the world. And now I’m in graduate school getting my Masters in Accounting so I can sit for the CPA exam in the fall and begin working that winter.

All of this for something I don't love! I don’t find it fulfilling and the only positive thing I see is the financial security my substantial salary could provide a family. But at this point, I have made such a large investment in this chosen career path that I grimace at the thought of giving it all up. Not because I will miss accounting, but because I will have worked so hard, just to give it all up and forgo the worldly wealth it would bring. As a Christian, my mind immediately points me to 1 Timothy 6:6-11. I know that my desire should not be for worldly wealth. I know that I should trust God to provide me with everything needed for my family. But sometimes I must remind myself that life is not just an accumulation of belongings despite popular culture constantly bombarding me with messages saying otherwise.

I consistently pray that God will change my heart; that I will one day embrace a new way to define success. That I will not settle for a life in which God has not called me, but will maintain the courage to strive for the fulfillment that I can only imagine will accompany the life that Christ leads me to. I long for the day that I have completely surrendered this area of my life and begin to completely trust in Him!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Summer 2009

I will be spending two months this summer in Athens, Greece working with a team under full-time missionaries. I will have the opportunity to work with refugees and immigrants, as well as working in drug rehab centers and doing university ministry. I am so excited about this opportunity that God has blessed me with! Please pray that I will be able to fully raise my funds and that God will prepare my heart for this trip. I’ll keep you updated!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Malachi 3:3

I received a forward today from my best friend. I've read it before, but it's a great analogy and I wanted to share.

Malachi 3:3 says:

"He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study. That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says:"He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it."

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Monday, March 2, 2009

God's Sovereignty vs. Man's Responsibility

In recent weeks, I have been wrestling to reconcile God’s sovereignty to human responsibility. God’s sovereignty is declared throughout the Bible (Luke 18:27 and 1:37, John 3:27 and 6:44 and 15:16, Ephesians 1:4-5). However, the Bible is also clear that man has the ability to make choices and is, consequently, responsible for those choices (Genesis 3, Proverbs 22:8 and 14:23 and 6:32 and 11:18, Hosea 10:12, Job 4:8…and the list goes on). But where do these two truths intersect? How does God’s control not supersede the free will of man? It seems, at first glance, that one can not believe both of these biblical truths. That for one to be true, the other must be false. After all, if God is sovereign over man’s actions, how can man be blamed for his sin? If God is sovereign, why do we make choices? Why try to be good? Why pray? Why evangelize?

It occurred to me that this attitude of indifferent fatalism – the view that God controls everything, therefore we can do nothing – is flawed and logically impossible, for “doing nothing” is a choice within itself! When presented with alternatives, which we constantly are, we are forced to make a choices. If someone offers me a red shirt or a blue shirt, there are four possible results: the red shirt, the blue shirt, both or neither. Even refusing to make the decision, resulting in neither shirt, is a choice in and of itself. Therefore, it is impossible not to make choices and I cannot use God’s sovereignty as justification to sin.

Furthermore, because we must choose to either live righteously or live immorally, we can’t conclude that God’s sovereignty would logically lead to a sinful life instead of a godly one.

Christians do not pray in an effort to coerce or control God, but rather as an expression of one’s own inadequacy and dependency on God. If God is sovereign and predestines, then perhaps the prayer is just as much predestined as is the outcome of that prayer. Furthermore, God has graciously invited us into a relationship with Him which can only be fostered through prayer. God commands us to pray (1 Thes. 5:17) and so it was modeled to us by Christ (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:15-16). If Jesus, who is God, prayed to His Father, how much more do I need to be in prayer with my Father?

In order for me to understand the purpose that evangelism serves, I must first understand what evangelism is not. First, evangelism is not man convincing others of God’s existence. Rather it is God who opens and softens our heart to him, for apart from God, man is willfully ignorant of these things (2 Peter 3:5). Second, evangelism is not persuading man of his sinfulness. Again, it is God himself who convicts man of his sin. Lastly, we cannot convince man of his need for faith in the Savior. We can speak of our own experiences and the importance of Christ in our lives, but it is God alone who births these works in man. Although we cannot, by our own merit, bring others to Christ, we can be used as tools to lead unbelievers to Christ (1 Cor 3:6-8). God commands us in Scripture to evangelize (Matt 28:19-20, Acts 1:8, 1 Thes. 2:4) and offers us guidance on what this looks like. First, we should participate in intercessory prayer for other’s (Ezekiel 22:30-31, Exodus 32:7-14). Second, we must live out our faith, being an example for others. We are Christ’s ambassadors and have the opportunity to show other’s Christ through our behavior (2 Corinthians 5:20). Lastly, we must verbally share our faith (1 Peter 3:15, Matt 28:19-20).

J.I. Packer stated as the root cause for rejecting the validity of these two truths, “a reluctance to recognize the existence of mystery and to let God be wiser than men, and a consequent subjecting of Scripture to the supposed demands of human logic.” After much research and prayer, I have concluded that, though I do not completely understand the subject of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, I will not let it destroy my peace. God has revealed to us, through His word, all that we need to know (Deuteronomy 29:29). The rest is for Him to know. God spoke through his prophet Isaiah, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9). Not only will I not let it destroy my peace, but I will (try to) delight in God’s mystery. Who am I to understand the holy God?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 small can chopped jalapenos, with juice
1 small can corn, rinsed and drained
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
handful of chopped cilantro
garlic and salt, to taste

1 lime squeezed
3-4 tablespoons of salad vinegar

Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with Tostitos.

TOTAL TIME: 25 minutes

Celebrate You!

This is a great message on overcoming frustrations with your life:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Psalm 46:10

Life is busy. There are endless decisions to make, errands to run, and work to complete. Every time I cross one item off my to-do list, I add two more. Sometimes I feel like I am on a never-ending treadmill that is completely draining. I have come to the realization that life is never going to not be busy. Even the time I spend with God often feels rushed. I have to choose to make time for the things that are most important to me. If I don’t, no one else will. Recently I caught a glimpse of what it is like to find peace while just being still in God’s presence and I crave more.

After working out one morning, I sat on a sidewalk near my house with worship music playing softly in the background. I just sat there reflecting on God’s grace, love and kindness. It was an amazing feeling. For a brief time, I did not worry about the things going on around me and enjoyed not feeling the need to be in control. This would have been near impossible for me in the recent past. Being still made me feel anxious and unproductive. I would try to sit on my bed and not think of anything, but my mind would always wander to the mountain of “to-do’s” waiting to be done. Although I am not an expert (yet), I am learning how to just enjoy being with God.

God commands us to “Be still, and know that I am God”(Psalm 46:10). The psalmists were fully aware of the earthly trials and distractions that humans encounter and the uncertainties of life (Psalm 46: 2-3). Spiritual peace does not come from the absence of other things to think and worry about. God does not promise a trouble or stress-free life when following Christ. Instead, spiritual peace comes from a sense of knowing that God is in control and that He has intervened on our behalf. He alone can fully and completely satisfy our every need and desire.

So when the craziness of life threatens my sanity and I am uncertain about life decisions, I will try to remember to be still and bring my life’s stress to God. Jesus conquered death…so He can certainly handle any difficulty that I might be facing.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Is birth control a sin?

I thought this sermon by Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church) on birth control was both informative and interesting: