Greetings from Athens
I hope you all had a good summer, and are all well. Please do forgive me if you have heard some of this before during my presentations in the UK. I want to give everyone an opportunity to know what has been happening in Greece.
When it comes to my ministry in Greece I have done nothing, God has made all this happen. God has called me to him to serve the people in prostitution to be faithful to him and his calling for my life and to honour the funding he has provided that supports me while in Greece. Over the last 3 years in times of difficulties and Joy God has always made known to me his call for my life. So, please be praying for God’s call on my life that he will lead me where he wants me to go and that I remain to true to his calling
As we praise God for all the work he has done for the people in prostitution, let us all take the opportunity to remember that we can be people who condemn. While doing devotion/bible study with the women who make bags at Threads of Hope just before the summer we looked at John 8:1-11. This is the story of a woman who has committed adultery and is condemned by the teachers of the law, the Pharisees and other people watching. The story gives very little about her background the only thing we know for certain is that she has committed a shameful act, and all those present are looking to stone her. We condemn because we don’t know the story and can become the accuser because we are certain she has committed a great sin. Many of the women and men in prostitution are condemned in this same way. We may not throw stones at them but we judge harshly because we think they have made a choice. They have learnt over time no one wants to know their story and if they do they use and abuse them for profit so over time they have built up such big barriers that they have difficulty trusting people. In the story Jesus challenges the teachers of the law, the Pharisees and the people who stand watching by saying ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ The Threads of Hope women recognized we have all sinned and, as one of the women present said ”sin is sin’ and no sin is greater than any other and through repentance we can receive forgiveness from God.
Nea Zoi In order to build a trusting relationship and break down barriers so that we can get to know their story I continued to work at Nea Zoi . This year the organization has been going through a period of transition because the staff team recognize we need to be doing much more than just contact work. The current Director has bought in new changes that for some on the staff team have been difficult but are proving very effective. While this is happening I now only do 2 days a week with Nea Zoi. I continue to do first contact work, giving out beverages and literature. Our team of 3 people visit 15-20 brothels on outreach and engage the madam and women in conversations. We urgently need more volunteers, because our team of 7 has reduced to 3 people. Please be praying for volunteers especially those who can speak Greek, Bulgarian, Albanian and Russain.
Threads of Hope – After Easter I also started working for Threads of Hope doing 1 day a week which will increase to 2 days now. This is a separate organisation that came out of Nea Zoi and is under the same Board of Directors, which which also has a new Director. The organization is now very much intertwined with Nea Zoi with the Director now part of the Nea Zoi staff team and with at leaste half the staff team working in various ways for Threads of Hope. The women who have existed prostitution are employed to make bags and other things to sell and those who are in transition from prostitution attend sewing classes.
I lead devotion/bible study and use the parable stories and encourage the girls to tell the story from the previous week, share and ask questions. We empower and encourage the girls to ask each other questions to help solve their problems when they are making bags. I help and support the girls with cutting material and some cleaning. I help the Director with various tasks. When she is away at meetings or on holiday I and others run Threads of Hope. In September we are looking at developing a bible study, start a reading class, give out food parcels and also look at expanding the organisation.
Salvation Army – During my spare time on Friday when Nea Zoi is closed I continue to work in the Salvation Army shop. I meet many people from different nationalities who come to buy clothes but also want to sit down and chat – this year I met an Australian woman who had been in Greece as a tourist for some months and seemed very vulnerable and spoke about her life in Greece and Australia.
Salvation Army volunteers and staff members who work at the shop
The Salvation Army also work with people in prostitution. After Easter I started helping with the Sunday lunch at their Greenlight project. As part of a team we go out on outreach and visit the women (and some men) on the streets and invite them back to the project for homecooked Sunday lunch. They are mostly from Greece, Eastern Europe and Asia, some have drugs and alcohol problems and others are homeless. On average about 10-30 women and men come for lunch. Each week we have a time of sharing a parable and encouraging them to share, ask questions and tell us the story from the previous week and handing out small gifts if they get it right. While eating we engage them with questions about their interests and get to know them better and then clean up afterwards. Once a month a we give out Hygiene products, shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary products, nappies and other things for babies/children up to 4 years old I will very soon start doing street outreach with them on a Thursday evening.
During outreach and Sunday lunch we realize how important it is for them to tell their stories in way that makes them feels comfortable, safe and secure. The reason they engage with us is because we show them God’s unconditional love, they never feel judged, condemned or abused. While eating lunch one Sunday, we asked them this question ‘What would you do if you had time and money,’ one woman responded by saying she would spend time with her children. For me this was a gut wrenching moment because she wanted something that other mothers take for granted. So, like Jesus we make every effort not to judge or condemn but to show compassion, grace and forgiveness.
Second Church Feeding Ministry at Piraeus Port – As part of a team on a Tuesday evening, we meet at church and prepare cooked food and transport it to the port and feed the homeless people sitting/sleeping in the waiting areas at Piraeus Port. We normally feed 70-100 men (and some women) and many times give out clothing, nappies and sanitary products.
The waiting area at Piraeus Port
For His Glory