Goods 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.

Exiting prostitution is not an easy process,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, those who exit completely 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 existing, 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.

This has been a really exciting month for the NZ team, one of the girls we work with on outreach made the choice to come out of prostitution and was placed in a safe place, this was a real answer to prayer and there was 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 rescued 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 organized crime, the people who control the girls, 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 in this ring 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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Praise the Lord

The months are going by very quickly, I am thankful to God that I have now survived 6 months in Greece, it now feels as if I am slowly beginning to thrive rather than just survive.  Over the last months there have been many ups and downs but through it all I have concentrated on God’s calling on my life to work with the most marginalised.

The spirit of the Lord is upon is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to build up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness the prisoners. (Isaiah 61:1a)

I am beginning to understand Greek a little bit better and so can talk to people.  Some of the students in my class do not speak English so I have to speak Greek.  I have stopped putting a lot of pressure on myself to learn as much Greek as I can and I am now much more relaxed about it.   I had a conversation with a neighbour who owns a bar next door to our block about rubbish and recycling because he saw me put the recycling in the recycling bin.  I also had a conversation with a woman at the bus stop.  It was great using the little I know to speak because mostly I just say yes and no in Greece without really understanding what has been said.  One of the girls in my class invited me and two other girls to her home for Turkish Tea.  It was great, because between us we spoke in English, Turkish Arabic and Greek and we laughed about it.

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Turkish tea with the girls

6 months were up on the 14th March and a missionary friend gave me a cake with a lighted candle on it to celebrate when I was at her home with her family.

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Happy 6 months

I will be celebrating with friends here in Greece by inviting them to my home, and I am looking forward to the next 6 months, and thinking about where this next chapter will lead.

  • Learning Greek takes most of my time and this will continue for the next 3 or 4 months, with an exam at the end of it.
  • I hope during the Greek Easter holidays to take a short break and visit one of the many Greek Islands to witness the Greek Orthodox Church Easter festivals.
  • Most of the Nea Zoi volunteers will go away for a summer break between mid July to mid September and so the Centre will close during this period.
  • I hope to visit the UK from mid to end of July.

I know many of you have heard on the news or have been praying about the large number of refugees who have been travelling to Europe either by boat or foot.  Those who come by boat are received on many of the small islands in Greece by volunteers who help and support them during their stay on the island.  On the mainland they are also helped by volunteers. My church has a refugee ministry and is very involved in working with them.  They have a drop-in centre where they can come and chat and have teas and coffees, with shower facilities and washing machines and free second hand clothing

Recently I have been praying about refugees and felt that God is calling me to become much more involved with them.   During the summer, in August, I am hoping to go and volunteer on a Greek island with an agency/missionary organisation for one month.  In September when I start full-time with Nea Zoi I also hope to start doing volunteer work with my church working with refugees, maybe doing one afternoon or evening a week.

Please be praying about this and pray it is a real call from God and also about the extra costs involved in working on the island.

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Καλή χρονιά! Happy New Year

We are now well into 2016 Christmas is over but the message of Christmas is not over it lives on in the form of Jesus.  The verses from Luke 2:17-18 remind us to share this message.

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

On Christmas day I attended all Saints Church in Daresbury and the speaker spoke about how as believers we are all cross bearers we all carry the cross of Jesus and share the message of Christ.

In Greece it can be difficult to share this message because of the barriers that are put up especially language and the barriers that come with each person.  This can be very frustrating because building relationships takes time and effort and does not happen overnight.  Please be praying that I am able to meet and build relationships with some of the girls who are still in prostitution while I am learning Greek at the university.

Building relationships with the team/volunteers at Nea Zoi has really helped me to begin to find my place

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It’s been a real blessing building relationships with the people I hang out with outside of Nea Zoi

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The friends I hang out with

In the coming months, I hope I can strengthen the relationships I have already built and build new ones especially with people in the church I attend and at University.  I pray that I can be like the Shepherds who shared the message and people were amazed

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