Greece 2013


Dates:  June 4 - 16
Ministry Partner:
  Hellenic Ministries, Operation Joshua
Ministry Focus:
  Compassion ministry in refugee camps

This team will be working in an Outreach Family Camp for refugees (most Afghani). Ministries could include child care, small groups, dishes, water sports, cleaning and other camp duties as needed. 

Updated Friday, June 21

Team Greece had an uneventful flight home tonight, arriving tired, glad for what God did among the refugees, and grateful for your prayers.  Please set aside the date of of our GO Team Celebration on Sunday evening, September 15, where you will have the opportunity to hear from these folks and from the other teams that served around the world.

Updated Tuesday, June 18
Three updates

Last day of camp...lots of emotions tied up in the team.  Sad to think of saying "goodbye", happy to have made new friends and to have served these dear people.

Following breakfast and time of worship and then sharing from the campers how camp has impacted their lives.  What joyful faces we see! Gifts of Samaritan's Purse shoeboxes are given to the children, backpacks from the Chan's non-profit, Hearts in Need, are distributed, along with vitamins for the adults and toys for the children.  Sweet, sweet time.  

Following that is a delicious lunch of grilled lamb (okay...they killed the lamb on Friday and grilled it today!  They raise sheep for food at camp.)  Right after that, we all head to the beach for a baptism of a young man who accepted Christ here at camp.  Pray for "M"...sorry can't give his real name or give a picture of him.  Pray that his faith grows and that he continues to worship the true God. "M" was supposed to come to the men's camp last week, but was arrested (for being in Greece illegally) and wasn't able to come.  So, they let him come to family camp as a single man, and he accepted Jesus.  Hearing his testimony brought tears to my eyes.  As he came out of the water (baptized in the Agean Sea), a spontaneous chorus of "This is the Day The Lord Has Made" broke out simultaneously in Farsi and English.  I believe it is a bit of what heaven will sound like...all nations,tribes and tongues worshipping around the throne of the Lamb!  What an incredible experience and privilege.  

We are tired, but happy.  We are ready for a couple days of rest. Tomorrow at 7am we leave camp and head to Corinth for a tour. Following that we will take a ferry to the island of Poros for a day of rest and to debrief the team.  After that it's back to Athens for a night with a noon departure on Friday for home!  Pray for us that we finish here well (we are all helping to clean up camp and head down to the dock to say goodbye to our new Muslim friends.).  

Thank you for supporting your Greece team.  God has been glorified!

Morning finds us with more sunshine!  It will be a great day!    

Following breakfast - discussion groups.  Today we talk about Jesus' resurrection and ascension.  We use many different scriptures to back this concept up.  Talking with the refugees about the fact that if Christ has not risen from the dead, then our faith is hopeless. Christ is not simply a good teacher or a prophet in the fact that He is risen from the dead.

In the afternoon, following lunch we had activity time - the ladies practicing their archery and a craft time again.  Another sweet time of chatting with the ladies and having a great time of fellowship.   We all met down on the activity field (staff and refugees) and took photos of the staff and then the entire group of us.  They also did individual group pictures (i.e. teams, discussion groups).  What fun!  

After dinner we went to the last session of discussion groups.  It is sad to think this is the last time I will be with these dear women, who have given and suffered so much.  They are bound by a culture, law and religion that offers them very little in the way of freedom and love.  Oh how sweet it is to share Christ's love with them and the freedom He offers.  Tonight our topic is Jesus' return and day of Judgment.  Using various scripture references we speak to them about the only way to heaven is through God's Son...Jesus.  I have the chance to tell them of the peace I have experienced in times of sadness, loss and trauma.  I tell them I was able to cling to the promises offered by Jesus and through that He gave me a peace that passes understanding and I experience sweet freedom in Christ.

One woman got very upset when some of the other ladies began talking about Islam and how they do not have they, as females, have no rights and how hard it is.  The woman who left said they were being very disrespectful to Islam and she did not want to hear it.  I think God is working in her heart...pray for her ... no name... pray for "H".  

Celebration and fun time after discussion group.  Games for the kids...singing for all.  Lasts well past midnight...the refugees had a great time!

WE AWOKE TO SUNSHINE!!!!!!  It is turning out to be a gloriously beautiful day.  

Following breakfast - off to discussion groups.   Again, so many questions from the ladies.  One can tell they are thinking and listening to the lessons.  It is such a blessing to hear from them and for them to share their hearts.  This morning we are discussing the fact that Jesus' suffering and death were foretold.  Isaiah 53 is the main text used.  The refugees are told that God's plan for the redemption of mankind was established before the foundation of the earth.  In our small groups we talked about how God used prophets and prophecies to deliver information to His people concerning His will, laws and future plans.  

After discussion group time it's time for tea and snack.  Then off to activities and fellowship with them.  The women swim and are taken by jetski on innertube rides on the water.  So fun to see them smiling and laughing.  We try to teach them to swim, but for many of them they have never been in the water before just for fun.  None of them know how to swim and are a rather frightened of the water.

There is a shower at the beach, and these dear women caring for their children, strip them down, lather them up and rinse the dirt away from them.  Most have no provision where they live in Athens to truly clean themselves or their families.  So showers are a real treat.  Then, fully clothed they shower themselves!

Meanwhile the men are on the sports field practicing their new-learned archery skills and playing soccer.  A tug of war game breaks out and all are laughing and enjoying recreation time.   Off to a wonderful lunch and fellowship time with the refugees. Mealtimes have become a great time of conversations and learning from them about their culture. 

We then take time to prepare for the next activity.  For the men it will be swimming and innertubing, for the ladies, sports time and craft time.  The ladies on our team meet to prepare the crafts that we will be sharing with them.  Today they are given cloth bags that they will be able to embellish with fun decorations or stitching.  The refugee women are very creative and a wonderful eye for color.  These craft times have been a time of learning for the team.  Each day I have asked them how to say specific words in Farsi that relate to the craft they are doing.  They love to teach me!  

Following afternoon activities, it is time for dinner.  Bobbie heads off to the kitchen for dinner prep and serving.  Others take showers, rest or just continue to chat with some of the refugees.

The food here has been incredible.  While there are people who help with meal prep, there is one chef who oversees meals.  She is absolutely amazing.  Herself a refugee from Albania, she is here to serve these refugees.  She is cooking for about 160 people and it just doesn't phase her.  She plans all the meals and makes her shopping list.  Others actually do the shopping, but she plans it all.  

After dinner it's time for another discussion group.    For this session the Jesus Film in Farsi is shown to the refugees.  That should make for interesting discussions tomorrow!

Updated Monday, June 17
Three updates 

We awoke AGAIN to rain!  Tents are wet's cold as well.  I think everyone is tired of the damp weather.  They tell us it's very unusual for this time of year.  But we thrilled to be here and to have another day to spend with the refugees.  

First thing...Lori and Bobbie are off to prep and serve breakfast. It's another 10 loaves of bread to slice and 160 people to serve breakfast to.  But what a delight to get to know folks from other places in the world.  3 on breakfast detail are global workers from Germany, so it's fun to get to know them and chat as we work.  

 Following breakfast we break into our discussion groups to discuss more of the prophecies spoken of Christ from the Old Testament.  The ladies are interested, but ask us some pointed questions.  They ask if we have read the Koran so we know what it says.  I have to admit, I have not.  These women are quite intelligent and think deeply.  I am convinced that the change in the Muslim world could come through the women...if these women choose to become Christ followers, they will raise their children in the true faith.  And since the women are the major care givers of their children, I am now praying that way.  I will also be praying for some of the women in my group who appear to be seeking.  Maybe, not seeking, but certainly open to learning about Jesus.  

Following discussion group, the ladies are given a bit of instruction in archery and then given the chance to put into practice what they have learned.  It was a great time of fellowship with the good to hear them laugh and have fun.   After archery, it was lunch time...again serving 160 people a simple task.  Always after lunch is siesta time (not sure they call it siesta, but that's the word I'm using!)  Instead of resting, Sargon wants to meet with the team to have a bit of time together.  However, we were interrupted by Bruce, who wanted to take us on a walk to the prayer tent - which is up at the back of the property and offers a spectacular view of the bay and the camp property.  He again, gives our team a vision of what they wanted and still want this place to be.  It is so good to hear his heart and passion for the ministry God has called him to.  He is definitely casting a vision for the Muslim world to our team.  I think some on our team are seeing the Muslim people in a new light through this trip.  

Many on our team have remarked how thankful they are to be able to live among the people and meet with the same ones daily.  The Chan family, who have served several times in Jordan, said this refugee work is very different than Jordan. There you meet a family for about 15-20 minutes, which is great to see them in their environment, but then you are gone and trust that the church/ministry there will do the follow-up.  Here in Greece we are living with them 24/7 for a week's time.  You also have your discussion group, which is the same group of people for all 9 sessions.  We then have opportunities to interact with them during recreation time and are simply able to share the love of Christ with them.  

Following our hike, the ladies have the opportunity to swim as the weather has cleared.  What a fun time they had.  Some of these people have never been in water for recreation purposes, so it truly is a treat to them.  They are not allowed to wear swimsuits, so in the water they go, fully dressed, most with scarved heads.  They are somewhat frightened, but are still laughing and playing in the water. This time serves 2 purposes...they have fun, and also shower/clean themselves and their children.  The camp has set up 2 outdoor showers there that they can use, which they do, fully clothed.  

After swimming and all are cleaned up, it's time for the men to swim and the ladies to have recreation time.   Following recreation's dinner prep/serving for Lori and Bobbie (are you sensing a pattern here?).  For this meal, we are responsible for putting plates, bowls, silverware out for the campers and then bring out the food to serve.  

Following dinner, it's evening discussion group time and I notice during that time, the women are a little quieter than usual.  I don't know if they are tired from the swimming and recreation time or if they are thinking about what we are learning, I actually believe it's the latter.  One of the ladies had made the remark following the morning session that it was a lot for them to think about.  

After discussion group time, again tea and dessert, and then another slide show of the day's activities....and then treated to some Iraqi music and dancing.  What fun that was.   Tonight...lights out at 12:30 pm!  So tired, but so happy!

Rain...again!  They keep telling us this is an arid climate, but we are having a hard time believing it.  The rain woke us up and in addition to that, they have canvas sheets hung over the worship and dining areas that need to be emptied of water multiple times when it rains as they will tear if they get too heavy. 

The dining area is right outside the women's sleeping quarters and the splashing of that water on the concrete is startling when you are sound asleep.   It will rain most of the day, interrupting teaching and small group time to "empty the canvas covering" of buckets and buckets of water. It is cold as the wind is blowing and most of our team did not come prepared for multiple days of rain and col weather.  So, we are COLD!  

Morning saw Lori and Bobbie off to the kitchen (as every morning) to help prepare and serve breakfast.  We hit the kitchen and they are on the go from the time they open the door to the room.  Bobbie slices 10 loaves of bread (that's a lot of bread and a lot of slicing).  Lori works outside (where the serving and eating happen) moving plates from storage to the serving carts that 160 folks will pass through to get their food.  We move to the worship tent to hear instructions for the day and to hear from God's Word.  It is a great way to begin the day..worshiping and praying together.  Vicki Gillis leads the women's devotional time, while Jones Chan leads the men's.  

Then it's off to serve/eat breakfast.  Others from the team join in helping to serve as well.  Following breakfast, we have teaching time followed by Discussion Groups.  The discussion groups go very well, with several of the women in each of the 3 groups asking some very good questions.  We learn about the deity of Jesus.  Trying to explain the trinity to Muslim women is an interesting concept.  I kept thinking that scholars for centuries have written volumes on the subject and here we were trying to get women to understand who have never heard of the trinity.  There is nothing in their culture that could compare to it and help them comprehend.  They were struggling to get their heads wrapped around the concept of 3 persons in the form of 1 God.  The leader of the groups did a fantastic job of explaining it, with the other facilitators joining in with explanations, but for the Muslim women, full understanding the concept would have to come at a different time.  

Following Discussion groups, it should have been swim time for the women, but the weather didn't allow it, so that was cancelled and we stepped up to offer a craft for them and painting their fingernails. The chef also held a baking class for any ladies interested.  It was a sweet time of just sitting and watching these women interact and find joy in doing something they love...sewing!  At the same time, the men had sport activities on the sports field.  Archery, soccer, and climbing wall were among the choices.  

Lunch was served at 1:30 pm and following that is siesta time....quiet time for 2 hours!  Okay...can I just say how hard that is for me???? Although we were all tired, so we went to rest .... only to be interrupted.  Jonathan M. was here at camp and wanted to meet our team.  We met with him on the balcony of the beach house and he shared what his father's vision had been for this place and the camp.  He also shared what they hoped to accomplish in the future. His father had the vision 25 years ago to develop this land into a place that could reach Muslims for Christ.  Seeing a camp in its future, he worked hard and God blessed that vision he had.  The ministry is now run by Jonathan and his family and continues to bless the Muslim world.  HE shared how he feels Greece is in a unique place geographically, placed between the Eastern world and the Western World.   It was a blessing to chat with him for  a  few minutes and hear his heart for this camp, Hellenic Ministries and the Muslim World.  

We woke to clear skies and calm waters on the ocean today.  We will welcome the campers this afternoon and I think we are anxious ready to get moving.  Everyone is busy doing a multitude of things to make sure all is ready.  Not one person simply sitting around, all 80 staff are running at mach speed to get the job done.  

The boat is late, but finally we see the first barge loaded with families eager to have a few days together among people who truly care for them.  There is a contingency of people waiting at the docks to welcome them, while others are up at the camp ready to present orientation, register them for camp, distribute bags of goodies (shoes, personal care items, etc.), while still others are giving tours of the campgrounds and showing families to their accommodations for the week.  They have faces of expectation and hope.  Some faces are recognized as people who frequent HM center in Athens, and hugs are given, and smiles are huge.  The staff of HM truly love these people. The afternoon is spent making sure everyone is where they should be, but soon it is time for all to meet under the worship tent.  Words of welcome are spoken as well as some more instructions for the families.  

Evening time begins with dinner (another wonderful meal), then followed by the first teaching session.  The series for the teaching is called "From Genesis to Jesus" and will focus on how the prophecies regarding Jesus were predicted 2000 years before they happened.  We spend time with our group of refugees getting to know one another by sharing our stories.  What an incredible group of women, each so willing and eager to share how they came to be in Greece and all the heartache and suffering they have experienced in their young lives. Jones Chan expressed, "how do I tell them that one of the worst things I have experienced is a deviated septum and had surgery for it recently so I wouldn't snore.  These people have been through horrors and trauma that we only hear about on the news or read in the papers. But these are real people, and I'm hearing them firsthand."  Most of these women would be in their mid to late 20's and have multiple children, some having lost some of those children, and other family members.  The heartache they are feeling comes out in their stories.  

 Desert time ... then lights out (or should i say "off") at 11pm. Generators are off at night, so when the time hits, it matters not what you are doing...they are off!

Updated Thursday, June 13
Two E-mail updates from Sargon

Update #1  Second Day at the Camp

We awoke to clear skies and a beautiful view of the bay.  Breakfast is in the making.  As I am writing this...I see our team members looking and asking staff for ways to serve (Ed's looking for coffee!). Setting up tables and chairs, organizing paper goods, all working together and working hard to make sure we ease the load and burden of the long-term staff here at camp.  

We had a group devotion time this morning and a bit of orientation time for our team.  We were introduced to an amazing group of people who make up the summer staff here at the camp.  Each told us a bit of how they came to be here and their passion for what the ministry means. Several of them were and still are refugees waiting to begin a new life somewhere,  but have such a heart for the ministry, they are serving here this summer.  

Today the plan is to finish getting things ready for the families who will arrive tomorrow.  The morning was spent cleaning cabins, making beds, setting up tents,  helping in the kitchen and just doing what needed to be done to get ready to welcome the refugees on Wednesday.   Following a delicious lunch, the team took time to rest and then some went for a dip in the ocean...refreshing and relaxing.  

I am thinking of the families who will be guests here starting tomorrow.  As we  prepare for them to come, it is hard to think of all they have experienced in their lives.  Pray that we will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and that He would give us the words to speak, hearts to love them and ears to hear their stories.  

We received our assignments for camp.   Several are involved in discussion groups for the men and women, some will be working with children, and others will be working in the kitchen, serving the staff and campers.  Pray that we represent Christ well and that we are effective in our work.  

The campers will be taught in a main session and the discussion groups will follow with more in-depth discussion about the teaching time.  The prayer is for the groups to move the men and women to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and then hopefully into relationship with Him.  

At the end of our meeting a tremendous thunderstorm hit and we were treated to a light show with the lightning.  Throughout the night the thunder continued but thankfully the rain subsided as most of the people here are sleeping in tents.  The ladies on our team are in the dorms so we have bunk beds to sleep in and...more importantly...air conditioning in the afternoon when the temperatures soar.  Ed, Sargon and Jones are sleeping on the boat, Morning Star.  I'm quite sure they were tossed about in the storm last night.  

Now its time for lights out...the generator will be shutting down for the night in just a few minutes.   More tomorrow.

Update #2  First Day at the Camp
The team arrived safe and sound in Greece on Sunday evening.  Tired, but glad to be here. 

Everyone had a good night's sleep and great breakfast on Monday. Before heading to camp we spent some time on the roof of the hotel where we had an amazing view of the Acropolis.  What a site.      

The team gathered following breakfast for a team meeting and last minute instructions.  All are excited to get there and start serving. We are now ready to head to the camp and begin getting things ready for the families who will arrive on Wednesday.  

We left Athens in the afternoon to come to the camp.  Bruce McAttee first took us to the headquarters of Hellenic Ministries and gave us a tour of the facility.  It was amazing to hear the vision of the ministry and their desire to reach the Muslim refugees waiting anxiously in Athens to begin a new life in a new country.      

Driving to the location to catch the barge that would take the team to camp took about an hour and a half.  When the team arrived at the barge, the food truck was there and they were beginning to load the barge with the food the camp would need for the week.  Some of  the team stayed on shore to help load the barge not only with the food, but with all our luggage and ministry supplies needed for camp.   A group of 8 were taken to the camp in a small motor boat and rest followed later.  

The barge finally arrived and everything on it had to be hauled by hand up the hill to the camp.  Item after item was carried up the hill to the kitchen of facilities where the team would be sleeping.  Team Greece was quite exhausted after that, but what a great way to begin our time of serving together.  As tired as everyone was, nothing but smiles could be seen on the faces of them.  What a great team to serve alongside.  

We received our lodging locations and were able to get beds made and things organized a little.  After dinner, we decided to make an early night as some on the team were still dealing with jetlag.  So, after showers, it was lights out and all slept well.   Our accommodations are better than we thought.  Rather than sleeping in tents, the ladies are in the dorms (with real bunk beds) and Sargon, Ed and Jones will be sleeping on the boat,"The Morning Star".

Updated Monday, June 10
E-mail from Sargon
It is now 8:30 in the morning in Athens. We arrived at midnight and after a long 22 hours journey from the time we met at the church to when we arrived at the hotel, we were able to attempt to get few hours of sleep.  

We are thankful that God blessed us with a safe trip, in some cases even an empty seat next to us on the plane. The team is in good spirits and slowly slowly they are coming down from their rooms for a breakfast. We have a short morning of rest while we are trying to get over some of our jet lag and then this afternoon we are going to head over to the camp where we will start our ministry.  

Months of preparation, anticipation and prayer has brought us to this moment where we are now only days away from meeting 22 Afghan and Iranian families. It has been and continues to be our prayer that we would be able to show the love of Christ in a way that would bring these families to the knowledge of a loving God that has changed our lives and has given us hope. If we could only be an instrument in our Father's hand to reflect His love and His grace to these families, the purpose of this trip is accomplished.  

Please continue to pray for us as we are going to start a week of hard work yet rewarding labor. Please pray for health and safety of each person who will attend this camp. For continued unity and harmony in the team and our harmony with others from other parts of the world who are here for the same reason.   

Thank you again for all your prayers and support. This is a ministry that can only be done by the work of many and thank you for your willingness to be a part of this ministry. We will have limited access to internet while on the camp but will make every effort to keep you updated with stories and the work that is being done for His glory. 

Updated Monday, June 10
The Greece team arrived in Athens on schedule, with all of their bags, after an uneventful trip, and are preparing for the start of the Family Camp.

Updated Saturday, June 8
The Greece Team was sent out with prayer by an enthusiastic crowd of supporters this afternoon, and are headed to the airport.  Thanks for praying for their impact in Greece!