Planting God’s seed

The work I do  with Nea Zoi, the church outreach to homeless people and  with refugees at Faros – Hope Centre  is all about planting God’s seed in people’s minds.

” I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow.” 1 corinthians 3:6-7

Nea zoi provides bibles, Christian books and literature to the madams in the brothels and the men and women we work with.  Below is the room were Nea Zoi keeps all the Christian literature, bibles and books they give out.  The books and literature are divided up into all the different languages of the people we meet on the streets and in the brothels.  Albanian, Bulgarian, English, Greek, Romanian, Russian and many other languages.

The literature room

We provide literature and books because many times when we visit the brothels the madams and girls tell us they are bored because they sit around for long periods of time waiting for a customer.  So every time we go out we take a basket full of Christian literature and a black bag full of a few bibles and Christian books and give them out to the madams and girls who read them and a lot of times finish one book and always want to eachange it for another book.  Many times these books are an avenue were we can talk about God’s love for them.

The Basket and bag full of literature and books

Praying for the homeless people at Piraeus Port when we are giving out food to the homeless people living at the port we find many people who want prayer because of the difficult circumstances they are in.  On one outreach a young Gypsey man was holding his new born baby but did not want any of the women to look at the baby in case the women on the team became jealous and cursed his child because they did not have children of thier own.  One member of our team spoke with and prayed with him about it.

The waiting area benches were they sleep

Prayers and Devotion at Faros – Hope Centre, there are many on the staff team and volunteers who are either believers or muslims, so befor the centre opens for the day we have a time of prayer or devotion depending on who is leading.

In all the places were I do ministry planting a seed is an important part of what we do, but its not just about the seed its also making sure we feed the seed with food that it needs so that God can make the seed grow.  Providing Christian books and literature and doing prayer and devotion each week is a way to continously feed the mind with God’s message.  However we always have to remind ourselves that just because we plant the seed we may never see it bear fruit only God can see that.

All for his Glory

 

 

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Serving in a dark world

Nea Zoi  celebrates Women’s Day  by holding a party for our girls with poppers, balloons, fun games, music and food.  We gave out gifts and one flower to each girl.   We wanted to make our girls feel important and special and for them to recognize they are made in God’s image. The girls are loved, valued, respected and given dignity by God and as people of God we uphold them in the same way.  A great time was had by the girls who came and joined in. 

Party celebrations

Gifts for the girls

Flowers for the girls

Party games

Second Church outreach to Piraeus Port is every Tuesday evening to feed the homeless people.  I and about  10 members from my church volunteer to help  to cook a pasta dish, make large quantities of hot chocolate  and also make other preparations and then  we go out to the port and feed those who sleep inside the port.  Every  week its always the same, we find about 30 single men and a few single women, mostly Greeks sleeping on the benches under many layers of blankets in the waiting areas for customers.  Some of them have drugs and alcohol problems.  There are also about 5 Gypsy Families – mum, dad, 2-3 children and sometimes a grandmother who all sleep in a 3 man tent and others homeless people sleep in constructions made out of tarpaulin cardboard or in their pickup cars.  Now that it is summer there are many more homeless people sleeping on benches because they don’t want to sleep in the night shelters.

The benches were the homeless people sleep

Unlike the UK where its mostly women who volunteer, the outreach team is made up of mostly men and a few women. Praise the Lord for this.  We wear florescent jackets so we are easily identifiable, the back of the jackets say Second Evangelical Church.

The women who volunteer

Clowns came to Faros – Hope Centre for migrant (refugees) women and children  and did a clown show for the kids with music, free gifts for the children and lots of comedy, fun and laughter.  About 20 children and some parents sat down and watched the show. one little boy joined in the show.  It was great, the children really enjoyed themselves.

The clowns

The Hope Centre is were I volunteer on a Friday on my day from Nea Zoi.  There are about 40 women who come to the centre for tea, second hand clothing and nappies and other things for babies.  A lot of them also come with their children – new born babies  to children aged 12, there are about 30 children maybe more who come.

The children who come

They have a room just for the children.  The centre is similar to a drop in centre, so both the children and women come and go.  I help mainly with the children playing games with them, helping them with arts and crafts, tidying up after them and cleaning,

The playroom for the children

As you can see the children’s play room is very small and when the children are there it can become very cramped.  There is also two rooms for the women to sit down and have tea.

 The tea room for the women

 Please be praying for Faros as they are currently going through a period of restructuring, also for building good relationships with the people at the port and in the brothels and streets

Give all the Glory to God for the work he is doing in Athens.

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Good News

The new year has started well because of the verse below

But the angels said to them.  ‘Do not be afraid. I bring good news that will cause joy to all the people’ (Luke 2.10).

Throughout the difficulties I faced last year grappling with how ministry looks like in Greece the goods news of Jesus is what kept me going and as the lyric from the chorus Faithful One by Brian Doerksen says:

‘You are my rock in times of trouble,

You lift me up when I fall down,

All through the storm,

Your love, is the anchor,

My hope is in You Alone,’

During this period Jesus was always the light at the end of the tunnel that overtook the darkness.  He Guided, encouraged me and gave me the strength to know that I could come out of the darkness into the light and answered some of my troubling questions about increasing my work load from 2 to 4 days, extending my network of friends and Sunday worship

With lots of prayer and guidance from others, I realised that I could do other work outside of working with people in prostitution which still fell into my calling of working with marginalised people with Nea Zoi always remaining my main focus of work.

So, since the beginning of January on  Tuesday evenings from 6pm to 10pm I help out with my church doing outreach to homeless people at Piraeus Port in Athens.   I help to  cook food  and give it out to people who sleep in the waiting areas of the Port.  We meet Greeks, mostly men and some women and families who most of  the time because of the cold weather are asleep on the waiting area benches under layers of blankets or in constructions made out of plastic sheeting or cardboard.  We offer them a Chicken Pasta (Greek pasta) dish and hot choc0late and tea.  We are there to share the good news of Jesus.  Sometimes I can be the only female in the team so I try and build relationships with the women we meet.

Many of you will know that I have been praying about doing refugee work on Friday, a day off for all Nea Zoi staff.  So I have applied to Faros (a Christian organisation) who work with migrants from Syria and Afghanistan to work with women and children in their centre called Hope Centre.  I worked with them over the summer.  I have now been approved as a volunteer and currently I am waiting for a training date before I can start work with them.   This will be a different experience because I am not allowed to share the good news directly with them.  So please be praying about this.

My network of friends is slowly beginning to expand because I am building relationships with more and more people.  I continue to listen to my church service Greek because this helps me to learn Greek.  I don’t always understand everything that is said.  So, once a month I attend St Andrews International Church to receive the word of God in English with my Greek Evangelical Church remaining my main church.

I continue to praise God for everything he has done in the last year while I have been in Greece and look forward to this new year with great joy because of the good news

For His Glory

 

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Strength and Hope in a Dark World

My first year in Greece was all about settling in, finding an apartment, learning Greek full- time, making friends, finding the nearest supermarket, bank, post office etc, and training at Nea Zoi.  Even before I arrived in Greece I expected that there would be high and low periods and I knew that after a while things would get better and they did get better.

Now that I have settled in my biggest question now is,  What does life in ministry in Greece look like for me? How do I balance learning Greek with working at Nea Zoi? How do I find ways to increase my work load at Nea Zoi from 2 days to 4 days or do I use that time more effectively to work with Migrants from Syria or Afghanistan?  How do I extend my network of friends to include both English and Greek speaking friends? How do I continue to receive the word of God but still be able to listen to Sunday worship in Greek.

These are just some of the questions I have grappled with over the last few months.  Its been a challenging and dark period filled with lots of prayers and some answers but through it all  Philippians 4:13 ‘I can do everything through him who give me strength’, has strengthened me and given me the courage to continue and preserver.  Below is one answer to prayer.

 img_7336    The women’s bible study group

On a Wednesday evening I attend a women only english speaking bible study group.  Above are just some of the women who attend, there are many more.  Currently we are studying Revelation. If you look carefully you can see me. This is one place where I can receive the word of God in English.

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The rubbish heap – the scraps of cloth no longer required

Through all this my focus is always about building relationships with the girls I work with out on the streets and in the brothels.  These men and women are considered the rubbish heap of society.  The scrap heap of cloth nobody wants, they are the lowest of the low,  most peope think their identity comes from prostitution and yet God gives them hope and in Genesis 1:27 it says:

‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them’.

He afirms them as being made in his image, God values them and gives them dignity, and there identity is always in Christ.  At Nea Zoi we share this message of hope.  We want to  touch the girls hearts with the light of Christ so they know there is an alternative  As a result some do choose to come out of Prositution.

When a girl is no longer in prostitution it is a difficult period  and there are many hurdles to overcome and many questions need to be asked, answered and grappled with, while some are easy others are much more difficult and can sometimes lead to the girl going back into prostitution.  However for those who have come out there is a way Nea Zoi can help them to earn money.

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The Threads of Hope sewing machine used to make products to sell

Threads of Hope is a completley separate business  that came out of Nea Zoi but still falls under its umbrella.  The organisation sells bags, aprons, ovens gloves, toilet bags and small purses made by the girls .   Nea Zoi will firstly train  the girls to sew and act as a bridge between the girls being in prostitution and deciding to come out, during this period some of these girls may still be in prostitution and may not have  legal documentation.  They will also have bible study each week. If they have the skill and maturity they are then offered employment at Threads of Hope to make products to be sold.  This is on the understanding they have exited completely from prostitution and have legal documents to stay in the country.  They will also have bible study and some of them will attend church.

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The Threads that give Hope to our girls

Nea Zoi and Threads of Hope will work alongside these girls to help them build a life outside of prostitution, with plenty of prayer, tea/coffee, practical advise and lots of grace, patients and kindness  to encourage them.

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The Hands that make the bags

Making these items is not easy, it takes strength of character, patients from us for God to enable them to learn a new skill at Nea Zoi.  The girls have to first learn how to sew in a straight line on a sewing machine, this takes time, practice and hard work, once they learn this they can start to make simple things like purses.  Once they can consistently make a quality product and have the maturity to go with it they can be offered employment at Threads of Hope.  This also takes lots of courage and wisedom for the girls to finish a quality product.  Above is the hand of one girl who is employed by Threads of Hope.

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The toilet bags and purses that are made by the girls

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The Aprons, bags and purses made by the girls.

We praise God for the girls who have chosen to come out of prositution and work with Threads of Hope or choose to go back to thier country of origin and recieve help and support.

At both Both Nea Zoi and Threads of Hope we want to help many more girls to learn how to sew and make a qualty product to be sold.  This is much more difficult because of a lack of finances.  It costs 5000 a year for a girl to be employed by Threads of Hope.  By selling products Threads of Hope is able to cover some of its costs but not all of it and they are always looking for more people to buy their products and also support them financially.

I will be coming to the UK for Christmas  from the 18th December – 4th January and I will be bringing with me samples from Threads of Hope for people to look at and hopefully make an order to buy the product. If you are interested in Buying any of the products I will have a stand at Christchurch New Malden on the 1st January 2016 at both the morning and evening service.

Please be praying for both Nea Zoi and Threads of Hope

For His Glory

 

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The Lord is My Shepherd

I have now been in Greece for over a year, WOW the time has gone really quickly, it seems as if I have been here for years.  There have been many ups and downs  but through it all God has been at the centre of it.  Psalm 23 popped into my mind when I thought of all He has done for me.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk
through the darkest  of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Caring for me, keeping me secure, giving me peace, encouraging me and making sure I lack for nothing and knowing that he is with me all the days of my life.

There have have been so many highlights, working for Nea Zoi, getting my apartment, finding a church, making friends visiting the UK and spending time with family and friends and so on, but my biggest highlight is building relationships with the girls we work with showing them love, valuing them and always reminding myself they are made in God’s image.

The psalmist reminds us that even though we may walk through darkness God is with us all.  In Greece there are many people who are in the darkness by force or because they have no other choice, people in prostitution, homeless people, drug addicts, Refugees and so many others.  I see so many of them on the streets and metro who are broken, struggling and barely surviving.  My instinct is, to always want to say to them there is a light at the end of the tunnel which can stop the fear and anxiety,  even those I see on the news being bombed in Syria, but knowing at the same time I cant help them all only God can do that. As a servant of God what I do is just a drop in the ocean but it has an impact.

For almost a year now I have been praying about working with refugees in my spare time and during the holidays,  always asking God if this is the right course of action. I have seen so many images of them crossing land and sea escaping war torn areas to survive only to reach a destination and still be suffering because of the death of loved ones or the hardship they suffered and continue to suffer.

Nea Zoi closed for the summer during that time I visited the UK for a few  weeks and saw family and friends and went to the Keswick Convention.  Also when I returned to Greece I did some work with migrant women and children from Syria and  Afghanistan.  working for an organization called the Hope Centre -Faros.  An initiative of the Greek Evangelical Church and Faros, a centre for women and children providing a children’s play room, mother and baby area, toilet facilities and sinks, resting area for women, clothes, facilities for charging mobile devices. The centre seeks to provide relief and restore dignity.

It was great to have the opportunity to work with migrants, so please be praying on what the next step would be.

The summer holidays are over and I am now back working at Nea Zoi continuing to build relationships with the girls I work with, helping with short term visitor and doing 6 hours of Greek at the university each week.  I continually remind myself that in Christ everything is possible.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Glory to God in the Highest

What I do in Athens working with people in prostitution I do it for God, to Glorify His name  The passage from Matthew 25:34-40 says it so well:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

When a girl is no longer in prostitution and follows God it is a real answer to prayer and there is much excitement about it and praising God at the same time.  As a team we all understand this is for His Glory and we are all doing it for Him.  It is never about the numbers or how many are touched by the light of Christ, it is all for the Glory of God.  We plant the seed but may never see it bear fruit but God knows.

God wants us all to reach out to the broken, the down trodden and those in need not because we feel guilty but because we have a Genuine heart  for His people.  Since last month I have been going out on outreach on the streets and it is heartbreaking to see how broken some of these girls are, emotionally, spiritually and physically.  But with a touch, a smile, a word of comfort and support, their faces light up and for that moment in time they are changed.  they remember us and some are always happy to see us  because we visit them time and again and build genuine relationships with them.

There are so many involved in this, the Madam whose job it is to look after the brothel and the girl stationed at the brothel, the clients and the other men and women working in prostitution on the streets and the list goes on.  We must remember to pray for all of them and understand that some may be victims, or people who are being used and others perpetrators.  Always placing Christ at the centre off it all

I am thankful to God that He placed me in this position ‘for such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14b) and uses me for His purposes to Glorify His name.

 In the midst of all this, my life in Greece continues to have its normal ups and downs.  I have finished learning Greek at the university and did my last test in mid May. I now work full-time with NZ.  We will be taking a summer break from mid July to mid September. so   I will be visiting the UK between the 14th July – 2nd August, in the first week I will be attending the Keswick Convention in the Lake District.  I hope in August to volunteer with OM in Athens and work with refugees but this has not been confirmed.

Always for His Glory

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Praise the Lord

Some of you will remember that in March I celebrated 6 months in Greece, so on Western Good Friday I invited a few friends over for afternoon tea.   In some ways this marked a turning point because I began to realise I could flourish in Greece, there was no turning back now, this was where God meant for me to be for the next three and half years or even more.    Greece is home and I love it, my job at Nea Zoi working with the girls and building relationships, learning Greek even with all its difficulties, the friends I have made, the city, the people and their relational nature and my flat.

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Afternoon Tea to Celebrate 6th months in Athens

However, there are times when I miss the UK, especially my family and friends, my church, my old job at Centrepoint.    I miss hanging out with my large family especially my nieces and nephews.  I miss going out with friends for coffee, brunch or even lunch.  I miss my church with all its social interactions, coffee/tea after each service for chats and socializing, the grapevine lunch, quiz night, and café style church with tea/coffee and snacks, I miss building relationships with the girls I used to work with and wonder what has happened to them.

One of my missionary friends reminded me when she shared from her own personal experience that it is important to be content with  what you have.  Paul in Philippians says it so well.

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles. Phil 11b-14 Msg

I strive to be content with my circumstances especially living in Greece but I know that most of the time I find it difficult because of worries about living on support knowing that I have not raised all my support and learning Greek.  I have learnt that if I am content in all circumstances I can make it through anything especially with God at my side and He will always provide an answer to my prayers but not in ways I expect.

Greeks have very few second hand shops that sell clothing or furniture, so if I need something I either have to shop in Ikea or H&M this can be expensive.   Greeks tend to throw away most of their unwanted furniture by leaving them near big rubbish bins and sometimes I have found items which I have needed for my flat.  Last month I found a white Ikea stand alone shelf near my flat which was a bit bruised and battered, and with the help of a friend we managed to carry the shelf to my flat and once it was cleaned up it looked rather good.  This was an answer to  prayer because I needed it for storage.

Recently I have become impatient with myself I know that I need to learn Greek to be able to communicate but at the same time feeling that I am wasting time because I am not doing the outreach work with Nea Zoi, and yet also knowing that what I am doing is still mission.   This month a colleague and I were able to take one of the girls we work with out for coffee.  This was great, it was a chance for all 3 of us to chat, catch up with her, have some fun and encourage her about God.  This was a real answer to prayer.

As the weather has become warmer in Greece I have been suffering badly with allergies and I have had to take time off from Greek classes and attending team meetings.  My allergies are part of an ongoing problem which have been with me for years. I find if I sit in the sun and accumulate enough vitamin D on a daily basis the problem seems to go away

I just recently had two weeks Easter holiday.  It has been a chance to relax and have fun with friends and not have to worry too much about learning Greek, but it has also been a time to revise for my Greek test.  It has been a real answer to answer to prayer  as I felt that learning Greek has been very tiring and difficult.  It also gave me the opportunity to witness the Good Friday and Easter festivals in Greece.

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Ice Cream with friends


The Greek Orthodox Easter Festivals  

Χριστός Ανέστη! Christ is risen

Αλήθος Ανέστη! He is risen indeed

This month saw the Greek Orthodox Church celebrating Easter.  Greeks have different dates for celebrating Good Friday and Easter and the week leading up to Easter is called Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα (Holy Week).  I attended the celebrations with friends.

The following happens:

On Maundy Thursday a service of the Holy Passion is held and preparations are made to celebrate the Resurrection. They prepare τσουρέκι (brioche) and cooked eggs dyed red which symbolises the rebirth of life and nature.

On Good Friday the day of his death, and being taken from the cross and buried, the people decorate the Επιτάφιος (Epitaph) with flowers to symbolise the crown and thorns of Jesus. Devout Orthodox Christians do not eat anything. In the evening an Epitaph mass takes place and ends with a procession of the Epitaph through the streets, villages and city listening to prayers and reciting funeral psalms

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The Epitaph at a local church near my home

On Easter Saturday morning the μαγειρίτσα (maghiritsa) is prepared, a tripe and herb soup for the Resurrection Night. Before midnight people attend a mass holding white candles which they light with the Holy Light and at 12 midnight they celebrate the resurrection of Christ with bells, drums and fireworks. People say Χριστός Ανέστη! (Christ is risen) and the response is Αλήθος Ανέστη (He is risen indeed).   Afterwards they go home and gather around the family table and crack the red eggs and eat the maghiritsa.

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Lighted Candles  at a local church with friends 

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Eating maghiritsa – tripe and herb soup

On Easter Sunday the 40 day fasting comes to an end and they prepare lamb on spit.  The atmosphere is full of joy and excitement and they eat and drink till late into the night

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Lamb prepared on a spit

On Easter Sunday I and my friends went to a restaurant to eat lamb roasted on a spit – it was very nice.

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