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Refugee Men’s Camp and the Final Days

We are now in our “final hours” in Athens.  We have experienced a great adventure every day – and this past week was no exception while our JG Greece Team was “divided”.  Below are a few highlights from the Refugee Men’s Camp and some other random thoughts as our journey comes to a close.

Refugee Men's Camp As has been mentioned, Tyler and I spent seven days at a fairly remote location.  Although it is possible to hike in to it, the primary mode of transportation is by a small boat.  The Refugee Men’s Camp is a cooperative effort by some of the missions organizations in Athens, principally Helping Hands and Hellenic Ministries.  The location is beautiful – although the amenities are pretty rustic.  Tyler and I slept in a tent (that leaked rain – we were soaked one night during a storm along with most of our clothes and bedding), moved the next night to an indoor bunk bed situation that turned out to have bed bugs, and had the privilege of cleaning toilets twice a day, washing dishes, helping with recreation activities, leading worship (Tyler) and assorted other tasks.  It was not always an “easy” experience.

With my Sudanese and Syrian friends.However, the ministry impact was tremendous.  43 “campers” each described stories of pain, separation, fear, violence, and uncertainty.  Former policemen, school teachers, an electrician, students, farmers – from all walks of life.  They came primarily from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and Sudan.  One man in my small group had been shot twice (head and chest), deported twice from Iran back to Afghanistan, and imprisoned twice in Turkey on his way to Europe – and along with everyone else is now stuck in Greece.  At the end of the first day of the camp, he explained through tears that this had been the best day of his life (no threats or fears but peace, food, lots of fun recreation, and friendship).

Tyler leading worship each morning for the staff meetings.Every message was translated into Farsi and Arabic, although at least two other languages were represented (one of which was Aramaic, I forget the other).  The teaching times in the morning and evening were apologetic and evangelistic in orientation – designed to show that Jesus is the only way to salvation, promised in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New Testament, and alive today to meet their need.  Powerful.  Many of the men said this was the FIRST TIME they had ever heard this information.

There is much more to share about the camp, but Tyler may do that later.  Thank you for praying for this Refugee Men’s Camp – and for the girls as they ministered and served in Athens while Tyler and I were gone.  The Lord provided for each of us in the ways we needed.

We are now preparing to go home to America!  Our minds and hearts are swirling with all we have observed, experienced, and learned.  We are all looking forward to sharing with you – our family and friends – about what The Lord has done and what He is continuing to do here.

Getting "donuts" as a treat on our final full morning before leaving for home.

Getting “donuts” as a treat on our final full morning in Athens before leaving for home.

My sense is that this Juniors Global “experiment” in Educational Service in Athens has been a huge success.  Thank you again for your prayers.  Our theme verse has been Proverbs 16:9 – “The mind of a man plans his way but The Lord directs his steps.”  God has been leading and guiding us every step.  We have seen miracle connections (including the “random” message from a new Syrian ministry in Athens that has been named “Bridges” – just happening to hear their presentation on Sunday, and then pleasantly surprised to discover we were all at the same men’s camp together all week)and answers to prayer.  We are trusting that the seeds that we have been enabled to plant will bear fruit for eternity.  May it all be for God’s glory and the good of others!

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Final Friday

Good afternoon!

I’m sitting in our apartment listening to the sounds of rain. It has only rained twice since we’ve been here! But when it rains in Athens, it rains dirt from the Sahara Desert. So all the cars and sidewalks are streaky and gross instead of being clean. I thought that was interesting to learn.

Yesterday, Friday, was our last day working at Helping Hands. It was another standard tea day. Sam and I planned the Bible story and craft for the kids program again; this time, we chose to do Noah’s Ark. I read the story from a giant picture book we already had and an HH worker, Liisa, translated to Farsi. (I also learned that Farsi is referred to sometimes as Persian and vice versa!) It was helpful to have a picture book this time instead of just reading the story out of Scripture. The kids were able to connect more with the story since there were pictures. Helping Hands has a lot of resources for their children’s program. There are Bible-related coloring pages, a Flannelgraph, lots of craft supplies, story books, videos (some in Farsi, some in Greek), and other things. Liisa is in charge of the children’s program right now and does a great job. She’s constantly looking for new ways to present the Gospel to the children and pique their interest. She suggested that we act out Bible stories, or sing songs about them. I feel very blessed to have worked with her these past weeks. Liisa is also from Finland so it was really fun learning about yet another culture! Our trip has been great for experiencing other cultures; not just Greek and Muslim, but others such as Finnish, Albanian, Russian, and Canadian, to name a few. It is so exciting to meet people from all different countries who are on fire for the Lord and are so willing to follow His will.

I almost forgot I was talking about our experience on Friday; oops… Before we read the Bible story to the kids, we played a few games such as charades and we got to sing with them again. Our friend Almira from Russia played guitar for us since Tyler is at Men’s Camp. This time, Liisa had written out the Farsi transliteration so we could sing along with the children. She spelled out how to say the Farsi symbols since we can’t read Farsi. I really appreciated her doing this because I felt much more connected with the kids. We didn’t use instruments this time when we sang, but there were still many smiling faces around the room. There were more children at this tea time, too. I think we had at least 16 kids instead of the 8 or 9 we had last time. I really enjoyed singing with the children again; it has been one of my favorite parts of the trip, especially when I think about the words we sang together. For example, we sang ‘This is the Day’. “This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Even if the refugee children don’t understand the implications of the words they sing, they will probably keep that song in their head for a long time. The words may come to them later in life in a time of trouble or desperation. That is my hope, at least. Also on Friday I helped serve tea to refugees. I got to know another intern, Jenna, a little bit more, which was fun. Jenna and I did not serve very many refugees during our assigned time, but I was still grateful to help out. At the end of the day, we cleaned up Helping Hands, sweeping and mopping. I washed dishes. It was kind of sad walking around the center, knowing that would be the last time we’d see it. I tried to take a few pictures so I can remember what it looks like, but it wasn’t the same without all the people in it.

After work, Sam, myself, our friend Almira, and two of the interns, Jenna and Laura, went to Christy and Tasha’s house. Christy and Tasha both work at Helping Hands and are from America. They invited us over for dinner and it was really fun! We ate delicious food, had frappes that Christy made, and just sat laughing together for a long time. We short-term workers showed the other three ladies the wonders of Google Earth and it’s street-view feature. It was neat (albeit a little creepy) to be able to look at each other’s houses even though we live so far from each other! Almira got really excited about seeing her home in Russia. We also talked about our testimonies a bit and whether we felt called to the mission field full-time. It was a nice time of fellowship together; a ‘girl’s night’ if you will.

Today Sam and I went shopping with our friend Ritsa. I bought a ukulele and I’m really excited! I am only a little worried about taking it home on the plane. :) The boys will be home in a few hours from Men’s Camp, which will be nice. We’re not sure what they’ll want to do when they get here, though. So that will be another adventure. I am sad to leave Greece; I feel like I am just getting to know the people and the country. But I am glad to be going home too. I know our work here is done, at least for now. God has been doing great things here, and I have confidence they will continue after we leave.

Farewell for now,



One of our favorite babies to play with at the center. She took a selfie.

One of our favorite babies to play with at the center. She took a selfie.

The children's room where we teach, sing, and play.

The children’s room where we teach, sing, and play.


Humbling, heart-filling moments

Today was such a great way to begin to close out our time here in Athens! We started the day by watching kids while their mothers were able to be seen by a doctor. Afterwards, Abbey, Jenna, Tasha, and I were invited to a woman’s house to eat some Afghani food! She called it Koo-Koo..which was shredded potatoes and onions baked/fried together in oil with some turmeric! I know it might sound crazy…but it was pretty good! She also served it with a type of Afghani pita bread. After that, she served us a warm Cardamom tea! Being invited into this woman’s home was such a humbling experience. We ate on the floor since she did not have a table. She repeatedly kept apologizing that we had to sit on the hard floor and she would apologize that she hadn’t made some type of food that was more “fancy”. No matter how many times we told her that her food was amazing or that the floor was fine, she would keep saying sorry! I will say though, that we were super stuffed by the end of the meal! It’s an honor to the cook in the Afghan culture to eat a good amount of food..shows respect towards her..so..she kept dishing up Koo-Koo and we kept eating it(;

During our tea and conversation, her neighbor joined us. This neighbor, was a 23 year old woman from Iran, it was so neat to be able to talk to both of them! The women were able to be more relaxed, (or “chillaxed” as one of them would say:) since we were able to be in the comfort and safety of her own home. An amazing experience to be a part of though, was the 23 year old began asking questions about the Bible and about our God. The older woman had a Bible translated to Farsi that she was able to bring out and share with the younger woman.

At one time, the 23 yr old woman said, “The one thing I would pray and ask God, is if America is such a free and welcoming country, then why will they not accept us refugees?” Wow..what a question to be thrown in your face. My heart broke for her and so many other Afghani and Iranian refugees that are temporarily in a waiting period here in Athens…waiting to get to Germany or where-ever they can go or will be accepted. She was such a curious person and asked so many questions. She also said she secretly wanted to learn more about Jesus..but not to let any of the other refugees know. The older woman let her borrow her Farsi Bible and Tasha led her to the book of John. I would love to see her continue to grow in curiosity and wonder about God. I pray for her and that her questions and curiosities will be answered through the Bible. I also pray that she would be able to come visit the Helping Hands center tomorrow for our tea day!

In all honesty though, it was such an amazing experience. I truly feel like that experience…that fellowship and friendship shared in that time.. in that house was such a completion to this trip in Athens.

  • Side note to today… the 23 year old woman asked us where we live in America! We were able to pull up a map on our phones and show the women where me and Abbey live! Right in the middle of America! Showed her how far away we were from home! Kinda a neat thing(:

Yesterday was also an amazing day! My heart became SO full of love and joy and happiness!

On Wednesdays at Helping Hands, we give an opportunity for women to bring their kids to be able to all get showers! We had a few different women come and we were all able to sit and chat! Wednesdays are also a little more laid back because there are no men in the building and the women are all able to be a little more relaxed and even take off their head-wraps. We also serve them a lunch, which, today was a pasta-spaghetti type dish!

We pulled out a bunch of roller skates for the kids and we played for hours..literally..with these kids! It was such a blessing to be able to see them all having fun and laughing together! One girl in particular seemed to not want to play with any of the other kids or any of the other workers. I had been able to color and play with this girl the day before, so we were pretty close buddies already. But, I went up to her and she willingly started skating next to me! I was SOO excited that I had made that kind of connection with her that she felt like she could trust me!

This same girl at lunch, even started hollering at me, trying to tell me that she had saved me a seat right next to her and her mom and siblings! I was completely blessed by her spirit and her smile! During the meal, she leaned in close to me, and the first English I had heard her spoke was, “I love you”. Wow…talk about pulling at the heart strings. I couldn’t help but to tear up and smile and tell her that I loved her too. So many kids have blessed me while on this trip in Athens. I can’t help but get sad to think that we only have one more day of being able to be with them and love on them!!


I’m so thankful for the time I still have here! I’m honestly having a hard time making sure my mind stays focused here..in Greece..right now. I do not want my mind to wander off to home, or the everyday schedule to pick back up on when I get back home. I pray that I can keep my heart and my mind right here in Athens while we are still here. I want to be able to be fully present in this last week of life in Athens! Also praying for the women and children here in Athens that are stuck in the middle and cannot get into Germany but would like to keep moving forward. Pray that they don’t get sent back to Afghanistan or Iran. Pray for their hearts to be open.

Till next time,



Weekend Update

Good evening! I hope everyone is well.

Sam and I are on our own now in our apartment, and we could not be happier… Just kidding! We do miss Jim and Tyler, but it is interesting to be independent in a big city like Athens. I hope the boys are doing well at Mens Camp. We do not really have contact with them while they are there, though I’m sure God is doing amazing things. That being said, there are not a lot of new things to report on, it seems! Everything is still going smoothly on our side of the Atlantic (isn’t that so cheesy sounding?).

I really enjoy all the people we have met on our trip; though I probably will not remember them all. It is neat to see God working in others’ lives around the world. Yesterday we attended an International Fellowship Church and met an older couple from Ireland. They were only visiting that Sunday as they were on holiday, but it was still cool to meet them. We met a girl named Ethel from France who works in Athens as a translator. She was one of the singers on the worship team. It was evident by her actions both on- and off-stage how very much she loved Jesus. The speakers at church yesterday were a missionary couple. The husband is Syrian and the wife is Greek. They run a Syrian refugee mission in Athens and were very excited to share all that God is doing on their side of town! It was humorous because the name of their ministry is Bridges, and that is what Jim talked about during the Helping Hands retreat. After church, Jim and Tyler said their goodbyes. That is mostly what we did yesterday.

Today, Sam and I got to sleep in, which was nice. We walked down the street and got groceries for the week. We have to keep to a budget by ourselves now, which only worries us a little bit… Also, we did some other housekeeping-type chores and hung around the house for a while. Mondays are sort of a team-building day for Helping Hands workers. The refugee center is not open, and there is a team meeting from 3-6. At 6, everyone has dinner together at one of the members’ houses. Tonight, the dinner was at Kenn and Lisa Dirrim’s house, where Sam and I previously stayed. It was a pretty fun time of fellowship, though there were a lot of people crowded into the little apartment. We had chicken fajitas- very yummy! I forgot to mention that before we went to the dinner, Sam and I went down to the beach. It is only 3 blocks from our apartment, which is very fortunate for us. There have been times during our trip when I’ve felt spoiled, which is probably not how you’re supposed to feel on a missions trip, to be honest. Either way, though, we had a nice time at the beach. Mostly we sunbathed, because the water was cold. The beach was very crowded today, which surprised me since it is not a weekend. It was still nice though. Overall, our first day without the boys was not bad at all! It is weird not having them around, however.

I also wanted to talk about something that happened on Friday. Friday, as you may have read, is tea-time for Helping Hands. During the tea time, there are children’s activities, as well as other activities for adults. Sam and I were in charge of the Bible story and craft on Friday! I was excited to plan the activities, though they presented a few new challenges. For instance, everything we said would be translated to Farsi, so some concepts in our Bible story had to be simplified. We read Luke 5:1-11, where Jesus calls his first disciples. Mainly we focused on Jesus’ provision in our lives if we love and obey Him. Jesus gave the disciples more fish than they ever could have caught on their own. In the same way, He will always provide for us. Our craft was making fish out of paper plates and squares of tissue paper. The kids really got into the craft. Also, Tyler came in with a guitar during our teaching time and the three of us led songs for the kids. This was actually my favorite part of our trip so far! Together, we sang Jesus Loves Me, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. We Americans would sing what we knew in English, then try to sing along in Farsi with the kids. Our translator, Liisa, led the Farsi singing, thankfully. She was very helpful to us during the entire kids session. Even though we did not exactly understand each other, I felt a connection with those children. You could feel the joy in the room. Every single person was smiling and singing. The children each had a percussion instrument and were playing along. I feel like even if we could not reach out to these refugee children in any other way, we could at least bring them joy in that moment, for those ten minutes of their day. I think that is what sharing the love of Christ is all about, in a nutshell. Loving another person in whatever way you can, big or small.

Well, friends, that’s all I have to share for today! It’s hard to believe we only have a week left here. My feelings are very bittersweet; I can’t wait to get home to my wonderful boyfriend (Christopher!) and family, but I also have a driving need to continue ministering to the people here. My heart is torn. I hope you receive joy in some way from reading this, wherever you are, reader.



One of the workers' children and me. We became friends over retreat. :)

One of the workers’ children and me. We became friends over retreat. :)

Our beach viewOur beach view!


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Last Post… From Tyler for a little bit


Church was wonderful this morning and let me tell you that the songs were a blast from the past, but in a very good way. You know that there are songs that mean a lot to you when you are singing them and then sometimes you find the next “big thing” but let me tell you that I was worshiping today. Some of the songs which we consider “old” have some of the best lyrics and the best messages that truly are statements from the heart (not saying that it doesnt happen now a days, because it does). I was reminded this morning singing “Open the Eyes of My Heart” that we long to see Jesus and what he is doing in our lives and for that we give him the highest praise. Also, we sang one of my all time favorites “Jesus Messiah” and that name in itself is enough. It has so far been a blessed day.

I am just wanting to let you know that you will not be hearing from me or Jim for a while. I am not dieing or anything drastic like that but I am going to an island to help at a men’s camp with Jim. What we will be doing I have zero, nada, zilch, or any other word that you can think of to say that I have no idea what we are going to do there exactly. I do know this though. We will be serving some refugee men, encouraging them, and above all sharing the love of God with them. I ask for your continued prayer especially for a strength from God for Jim and I to get through this week with the camp. Also because the two of us guys will be away I ask that you pray also for Abbey and Sam for their safety and their continued ministry at Helping Hands for this next week. Again I want to thank you for the prayers.

God Bless you all,


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Running the Race with Endurance

These past two days have again been filled with ministry, educational tourism, and moving around Athens (by bus, subway, and mostly by walking – a lot).

Yesterday was “Tea Day” at the Refugee Center. I personally spoke with refugees from Albania, Bulgaria, Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Greece, and Ukraine (the last couple fleeing the area of violence in that country that ended up being largely responsible for our team being in Greece, too). We were there basically all day. The main purpose is relational evangelism and providing a safe place for people to sit, play a game (usually chess or backgammon), watch a Bible movie (like the Passion of the Christ, the Jesus film, or another one like that), and drink tea. The volunteers and staff mingle with them, play games, talk with them (many speak at least broken English) – and look for opportunities to share about Jesus with them. Even when we can’t communicate, we were encouraged to pray and continue to demonstrate the love of Christ to them. Tyler, Abbey and Sam also were asked to sing a couple of songs – and the girls helped to lead the children’s program. After that experience, we were invited to have dinner at the home of one of the full-time staff people – BBQ’d pork chops never tasted so good!

These experiences of serving are honestly quite draining – not just the cleaning bathrooms or working in the kitchen – but in some ways the listening takes extra effort and concentration (to really try to understand what people are trying to say). In addition, it’s just tiring getting from one place to another. Endurance is something you can pray for as we are now into our third week here in this country with what promises to be more “tiring” days ahead.

At the Olympic StadiumIt seems fitting that (among other things) we were able to visit the site today of the ancient Olympic Stadium. It was rebuilt in marble (from wood) in 329 BC – with a seating capacity of 50,000 by 140 AD. It was rebuilt using some of the original materials in 1895 for what became the modern Olympic Games. It purports to be the largest stadium constructed of marble in the world. I have no doubt. It is massive with the characteristic long straightaways and tight U-turn curves at the ends.

When the Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 9, he knew about this stadium and may have been there.  The Isthmian Games (closer to Corinth) were also well-known.

The thrill of victory and...Paul wrote: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last: but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)

Thank you for praying for us that The Lord will help us to accomplish all that He intends during our final 10 days or so, and that we will finish our “race” here in Athens, well – for His glory and the good of others!


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First of all I would like to thank all of you who are praying for us and supporting us. This trip would not be possible with out the love that you have shown us all. I ask that you keep praying for us as we can all see God working in some way, weather that is in our own lives, the lives of the refugees that we have met, and even the lives of one another. I would just like to confirm that God really is working and it is really exciting to me.

Second, on Thursday (cause I am writing this on “Friday”) Abbey, Jim, Sam, and I were able to go back to the Roman Agora and continue learning about the history of where we have been for the past two weeks. It was really amazing to see where the people of Jesus’ time would shop and be able to converse with one another. During our time there Kenn Dirrim would be telling us about a lot of what people would be doing in the Agora and the Stoa. This is where some market places would be and where people known as stoics would study. We also were able to connect a lot of these things to Paul because Mars Hill was right by us and we discussed what had transpired between Paul and the men of Athens in Acts 17. If you ever have the opportunity to come to Athens, Greece and go to Mars Hill I advise you to read that passage of scripture. There is something about being at the place that you know Paul was preaching at. That is what or late morning consisted of.

At 2 Kenn, Jim, and I went to the refugee center, also known as the Arc. When we got to the Arc there were about eight refugee men waiting to go into the Arc. During this time we had a time of teaching, or really a time when Jim was able to teach them about three different aspects, or traits, of God. Now I know that there are more than just three but we knew that we really wanted to focus on these three aspects. Here are the things that Jim was teaching about: God is a personal God, God is Love, and God is a Just God. It was fitting that we were discussing these things because in some of the previous weeks they had started to look at some things like this. I want to tell you that I was very encouraged and blessed by how many of the men that were there were really excited to learn and listen to these things. There were some questions and the way that Jim or Kenn or Larry, who is another missionary (from Oklahoma), answered them very well. It was a great experience and most of the men that were there will also be at the men’s camp next week. I look forward to being in deeper relationship with each one and being able to show them the Love of God and being a servant to them.

Lastly, I want to thank you all again for your prayers. There is not much more for me to say than that.

God Bless,



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