There is no Condemnation in Christ Jesus

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.

Easter 2018

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.

Outreach Volunteers

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

 

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It is finished

Greetings to you all from sunny Greece I hope you all had a good Easter

I celebrated Easter by attending on Good Friday an Evangelical Greek Service in the morning and an English-speaking remembrance service in the evening.  And on Easter Sunday attending my normal Greek Church and being reminded of his death and resurrection .

Jesus said, It is finished John 19:30b

It’s over, its completed, Jesus is triumphant and victorious over death.  Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!!

The Easter card given out to the girls 

Easter Celebrations, as in previous years to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord we distributed Easter gifts to the girls.  This year the gift was a candle.  However something unexpected happened, the original gifts that we planned to give out never arrived, so in order for us to meet the deadline plan B took effect, myself, the staff team and with the help of the Threads of Hope girls decorated and  prepared the candles.  This year all the outreach teams handed out roughly 600 gifts and cards to the girls and madams.  Out of this the Wednesday Morning Easter Outreach Team gave out 182 Easter cards and gifts. Our message this year was:

May the resurrection of Christ be the foundation of our lives!

Easter gifts for the girls – decorated candles 

 

The Wednesday Morning Easter Outreach Team – distributing gifts

 

My outreach partner and myself walking to a brothel

Women’s Day celebrations, this year I organised the celebrations.   There was plenty of laughter, food and drink, gifts and two large poppers

A shower of confetti from a popped popper

Outreach to the Brothels I continue to lead the Wednesday Morning Outreach Team  to the brothels, the number of girls who are in the Brothels increased and we had to buy more Easter gifts.  During our normal outreach the team is small with one man and 3 women, this means we cannot have two pairs go into the brothels, only one pair, so please be praying for us as we need volunteers who can speak Greek or Russia or even both languages

Change and Transition at Nea Zoi, as a result of the reboot in October 2017 , Nea Zoi continues to go through a period of transition and change.  On the 1st January 2018 Martha Polyrakis  stepped down from the role of Director and was replaced by Chris Lombard,  During this period there has been a lot of change about how we function as a staff team,  how we train our volunteers and changes to the roles and responsibilities of each team member.  Please be praying that as the changes continue it will be a smooth transition period, that all staff members will welcome the changes and see the change as making Nea Zoi much more effective.

The outreach to Piraeus port continues to see 70-100 men (and some women) who are sleeping rough.  The numbers have tended to fluctuate depending on the season.  This last month,  I not only saw people who sleep in the port but also people who come from the local area who know about the feeding programme and so when we arrive we see them  standing about in groups waiting to be feed.  Sometimes the men can become aggressive, are drunk, are high on drugs and behave inappropriately.  However there are always enough men on the team to support the women volunteers.  Many times the people we serve  ask for a second helping of food and we refuse because sometimes there is not enough food and because there are complaints if we give seconds.

The women volunteers

Volunteering at the Salvation Army, since last year the Faros – Centre has not needed my help as much on a Friday morning so early this year I prayed about what else I could be doing on a Friday morning.  I wanted something were I could meet people outside of my Christian circle to share the message and where I could speak and improve on my Greek.  So in March this year I started helping at the Salvation Army charity shop, sorting clothing, tidying up the clothes in the shop and helping customers.  I meet people from every walk of life – different nationalities, the very old, the very young, Greeks, families etc.  Please be praying that this is where God wants me to be.

Threads of Hope, which is separate from Nea Zoi but comes under the umbrella of the Nea Zoi board is also going through a period of change, the old director has stepped down and was replaced by a new Director, Eva-Lena Hallmark.  The Director approached me about working  at Threads of Hope.  This is an exciting opportunity as I will be working and supporting  girls who have existed prostitution and who make women’s bags and other things to earn a living. This will be something I do on a Monday while continuing to work at Nea Zoi the other days of the week, so please be praying that this is where God wants me to be, my role and building relationships with the girls.

Always for his Glory

 

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The Gift of Jesus

Greetings to you all

The last few weeks before Christmas we were very busy with preparing to give gifts out by putting slipper socks, bracelets and cookies into gift bags.  This year we gave out just under 500 slipper socks to both the madams, the girls and the men,  300 bracelets to the girls and everyone received cookies.   We also sang Christmas carols as we went from brothel to brothel giving gifts.  We met so many girls who were overjoyed at receiving the gift, for some it was the first time they had received a gift.  We explained to them that this was a gift to keep their feet warm but actually the greater gift was the birth of Jesus.

  ,

Slipper socks – gift for the men and women

We also gave out Christmas cards. So, I am sending you this Christmas card that we gave this year to all the men and women we work with, to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Christmas card  for the men and women

Below is the verse at the back of the card

I have come into the world as a light so that no-one who believes in me should stay in darkness. John 12:46

Please be praying for the following:

Pray for the girls and men during this Christmas period as many will be on the streets and in brothels still seeing clients while we are celebrating the birth of Jesus.  The madams also work long hours and they will not have the opportunity to rest and relax.

Pray also that many more will choose to come out of the darkness, many of them feel trapped and cannot find a way out of prostitution.

Always for his Glory

 

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Prayer is a powerfull weapon

Greetings from Greece

The time I spent in the UK in July and August was a real joy, it’s always great to meet and catch up with family, friends and supporters.  I am always encouraged and feel very privileged to hear that so many people have prayed for me and continue to pray for me.  Ruth and Lyndsay from Christ Church New Malden came to Greece and stayed with me and saw some of the work I do at Nea Zoi, it was a lovely time and I really enjoyed it.  I have a spare room so, it would be great to have more people come and visit me and see the work I am doing or even just for a holiday.

                                   Ruth, Lyndsay and I at the Olympic Stadium

Prayer is a powerful weapon and is really needed  especially when you are surrounded by darkness.  In this third year please be praying  for the Wednesday Morning Outreach Team, for the girls and Madams, for Nea Zoi as a whole and for the Church Outreach to the homeless people at Piraeus Port

                                                                 The Team

Wednesday Morning Outreach – The Wednesday morning outreach team is made up of One male and 4 regular women other than me  and one counsellor who is ad hoc.   Only 2 of the regular women speak Greek, it is the first language we start with when we enter the brothel.  The women always go into the brothels in pairs with the person speaking Greek taking the lead,  in the past we had  two pairs going into the brothel, this worked really well, because it meant visiting about 24 brothels. One of the women who spoke Greek has left the team to go back to the United States.  So, now we have one pair visiting the brothels this means at the most we can only visit about 12-14 brothels as we have only one Greek speaker

The girls and Madams –  The summer months can be a difficult period for the girls and madams many people in Greece go away over July and August for their summer break, but this opportunity is not always available to the girls and the madams.  The madams, who allow us access to the girls work very long hours and in September and October have either complained or looked very tired.  The girls sometimes work 12 hour shifts and only have breaks between clients and so they are also tired and sometimes you find them in one of the brothel rooms laying down because they are tired or sick.

 Nea Zoi is going through a period of transition and change,  recently through a week of prayer and two weeks of meetings decisions were reached to change the structure, the roles and responsibilities, this is an opportunity for the organisation to become much more effective in the work that we do, and serve our volunteers and the people we work with in the best possible way.   This is something that is ongoing.  This will mean my own role and responsibilities will change, but I will still remain as team leader for the Wednesday Morning Outreach.

Church Outreach to homeless people at Piraeus Port – In Greece the days and nights are now getting much colder, but still we continue to see 70-100 people sleeping at the port even though there are nightshelters very close to the port.  They prefer to sleep on the streets because there are no rules to abide by. We continue to engage them in conversations but recently the numbers of volunteers who help out have dropped and so it means the conversations have become less and less and all we do is just give out food.

Please be praying for wisdom and discernment in all these situations.

Always for His Glory

 

 

 

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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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