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.
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.
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).
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.
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!