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.

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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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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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