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.