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 loved...to 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.