BC Juniors Global

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Corinth Adventures 

Somehow three weeks have already gone by and we are on our way home. Yesterday we spent our last day touring Ancient Corinth.  Our first stop was to check out the Corinth Canal. It’s a spectacular view, even for those in the group who don’t like heights (I’m not one of those people; I’m the one who wants to bungee jump off the bridge!).  


One of the highlights for all of us was to hike to the Akrokorinth.   Although the hike was steep,  the view of the area was worth every step. Personally I was even more excited because this is the first time in the theee years I have been to Greece that I was actually able to make it to the top. My first year I was really sick so I couldn’t hike at all  and last year they closed earlier than expected so we didn’t have time to hike all the way. The temple of Aphrodite used to be at the top of the Akrokorinth. Aphrodite was the goddess of love and there were at least 100 prostitutes that would be up on this mountain.   Knowing a bit of the history, it makes even more sense why Paul spoke to the Corinthians about love.  He described real love and what love looks like, something completely different than what this temple represented. He brought a different message, one full of love and truth, not fleeting moments.  

As we toured Ancient Corinth, we once again were at places we knew Paul walked. Being here we were able to understand Scripture in a different way.  Today reminded me the importance of asking questions of Scripture. Why was something phrased a certain way? Why were those specific details included? Why is that important for the reader to know?  For example, why is it important for us to know that Paul was a Roman citizen?  Why are there times in scripture that he speaks up about this when he is being persecuted and why at there other times he remains silent?   Understanding more of the history, geography and reasons behind the writing brings a whole new depth of Scripture.  God is not bound by our limited view but he wants to continue to expand our understanding as we his Word.

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Freedom and Stories

Hello from Greece!  If you have been following the blogs, you may be wondering if I made it through Monday after Hannah said that I’m so klutzy I wasn’t going to make it! :). Well, I survived with no incidents.  (Hannah may have exaggerated a bit!) The team is doing well and probably a little too comfortable with one another! 🙂 There is much sarcasm and laughter among the group; I don’t think anyone would have wanted it any other way. Seriously though, through the good and the difficult, I believe God is answering our prayers by bringing us together as a team. 

I’ve had a few things that have consistently come back to my mind that I want to share. Last week during the women’s shower day I saw a lady who had a tattoo that said “Free”.  I was surprised to see her have a tattoo in the first place, but I was even more surprised to see that word. It sparked several questions: What is her definition of freedom?  Does she feel free or is that what she is longing for?  Does she feel more freedom now that she is in Greece and away from a lot of the turmoil of her home country? Does she know the depth of freedom that is available to her right now in Christ?  If she doesn’t feel free, does this represent her desire and hope that one day she will be free?  As I sat thinking about this, she then proceeded to put back on her long clothes and head covering–this saddened me. While some women still decide to wear their head covering after becoming a Christian, or it takes them awhile to understand this freedom, it felt like that was a picture of the freedom she doesn’t have. I don’t know her story or if she is a believer, but my prayer for her is that she will be able to experience true freedom in Christ.

That same day as we were cleaning the ministry center, I was mopping and there was a precious little girl sleeping in her stroller near me.  Seeing her, I began to think about her story and how much has happened in her life in such a short time even though she has no idea of any of it since she is so little. I was thinking about how her story has changed. It has changed because God brought her and her family to Greece.  It changed because God had provided a place for them that, while it may not be home or familiar, it is away from the chaos in their country. It changed because God brought them to the ministry center. It changed because her mom felt safe enough to let her daughter sleep peacefully in the stroller while she chatted with friends across the room and she had no fear that anything would happen to her daughter.  These changes are significant for many reasons…her story is different now. When she gets old enough to understand, her story doesn’t only include the fact that her family had to flee when she was a baby, but now it includes the help and hope that they received. Her story includes how her life was spared when that wasn’t the case for some. Her story includes the love that she has been shown at the center. And my prayer is that her story will also include how God showed himself to her family during their time in Greece and that she grows up to be a God-fearing, God-seeking, faithful child and daughter of God. Everytime I interact with the refugees, I pray that they will experience the freedom of Christ daily and that their story will be changed dramatically. 

This week we are serving at a camp with a new group of refuges with different stories and a hope for freedom.   Yesterday during our discussion group, one of the questions was “Why do you think God brought you to Greece?”  All of the women (we were split in men’s and women’s groups) could have responded that they had to leave in fear of their lives and the lives of their families.  They could have said that they didn’t want to come and they didn’t know why God brought them here. I somewhat expected that, but that is not what I heard. What I heard was testimonies of how God brought these ladies here so that they could find Him. Some did allude to the fact that they didn’t want to come to Greece at the beginning, but all of them said that God had plans and if they wouldn’t have come to Greece they wouldn’t have found the Lord.   How amazing is it that those that are forcing them to flee are actually pushing them to a place where they will have more freedom instead of fear, where they are getting help from several people and organizations, but several are hearing about the love of God.  God truly does make good out of the circumstances that people try to use for harm.  

I could probably write several pages tonight about what I have heard, the beautiful people I have met, and the stories that have been shared, but I hope this gives a glimpse of some of the ways that God is working!  We appreciate your prayers and ask that you continue to pray!  The days are long and it has been very hot–plus, most of Greece does not have air conditioning–so being at camp and in the sun tends to be even more draining, but we are definitely energized by the people we are meeting.  God is at work and he is allowing us to see how he is moving and bringing people to Him.

Thanks for your support!  Below are a few pictures of our time on Monday. The first is in front of Mars Hill, the sign is Acts 17 in Ancient Greek. The other pictures are from climbing up to the Parthenon.  

~Tiffany 



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Pray in any language you wish…

Hey Y’all. This is Hannah–not sure if this is going to show up on Tiffany’s account or not. Tech and I still are frenemies. 😉

It’s not usual for me to hesitate when asked to share about an experience–especially if it’s as amazing as one as traveling to another country! 😉 
Yet here I am, unsure of what exactly I’m going to say next.

I could tell you about the refugees: their community and family oriented culture; their love of strong, sweet hot tea; the way their kids run wild, lured in only by cookies or silly games. 

I could tell you about the first time I heard one of the little kids laugh. The sound was so full of absolute joy it caught me off guard and left me longing to hear more. Or the way they kids play a ridiculous version of Uno that demands all my someday-teacher skills and leave me speaking a weird mix of English and Farsi accent. 

I could tell you about my teammates–how awesome and ridiculous they are. 

     *How Josiah is always positive, even on the hard days–and how he keeps almost dying. (Coming soon: “Why Simply Walk Down the Stairs? 10 Reasons to Almost Break One’s Neck Instead” By Josiah)

     *How George has a super empathetic heart that constantly pushes us to recognize the humanity of each and every person–and how he keeps insisting on using Spanish even though we’re working with Greek or Middle Eastern people. (Why? No one knows…Also, ask him how he says “gluttony!”)

     *How Tiffany is the Team Leader Extraordinaire, staying organized and amazingly patient with our mess–and how we have a growing conviction of her klutziness. At the current rate, we’ll be down a team leader by Monday due to injuries from tripping, spilling, and general how-did-you-manage-that-exactly nonsense. (She also threw a box at April’s face. So there’s that.)

     *How April is bravely vulnerable about her struggles, and super fun to experience Greece with, since she’s so excited about all her “firsts”–and how she’s probably the *most* sane out of all of us…if that doesn’t scare you, you obviously don’t know her well! (Note: when I think of a really good roast for her, I’ll let ya know!) 😉

     *How I’m perfect. AND important. They’re #blessed to have me along! 

I could tell you (serious stuff, again) about the way I feel like culture shock or the pain of all the hard situations we’ve encountered hasn’t hit me yet. But that I feel like each new situation tears a little of the barrier I’ve put between my sore heart and the stuff no amount of training can prepare you for. How I’m terrified and eager for what will happen if that barrier is finally broken. My life might be irrevocably changed in ways it needs to be changed, but it will be broken, regardless.

I could tell you about today, about a simple mistake that caused a big, complicated hurt. Yes. I think this is what I really need to write…A well-meaning adult let a girl (8 years old?) named Maadia hold a baby while she watched. Somehow Maadia and all the careful adults nearby were distracted at the same, crucial moment, and the baby slipped from the chair to the hard tile floor. Even though the baby was soon consoled and fine (minus a scare and a sad looking bruise), the guilt of that simple action weighed heavy on Maadia, leaving her inconsolable despite the kind attempts of the staff interns. I looked in her face and I somehow knew why. She was crying about the baby being hurt, yes. But she was also crying about all the other moments in her young life where desperate situations demanded more responsibility of her than was right for her to carry. About how she’d failed many of those, exponentially so. The thing about guilt is it’s either resolved, or it accumulates: layer on top of try-to-forget-that-too layer. 

Maybe she was too slow in packing her things to flee her country, and was yelled at when she needed comfort. Many of the refugees have a horrible time crossing by boat to Greece. Maybe she was asked by a beyond frantic mother to comfort a younger sibling, who was hungry and so refused to be comforted. Maybe she feels alienated from her family (who, as far as I know, are still Muslim). Who knows. I don’t know her story, and it is more than likely I’m putting much of this on her. This I do know: that little girl has already experienced much, much pain. I could see it hiding–barely held back–in her eyes, recognized it from the times I’ve stared, dull eyed and emotionless, at the reflection of my own eyes. But a lot of people have experienced pain. Some more, some less; some similar to mine or Maadia’s, but many different. Suffering, it would seem, is endlessly creative. (Don’t believe it. Joy is endlessly more so–I promise.) And at a certain point, counseling and strong wills and community can only do so much. 

We’re still left alone with our guilt in the crucial moments when no one came to save us. 

I believe Christianity–more specifically, Jesus Christ–offers the only true relief of that pain that haunts our days. He can meet you where you are, smack dab in the middle of the point where you are physically or emotionally incapable of continuing. Of waking up one more day or holding out your heart one more time. That’s why you can come honestly. That’s why you can, as someone reminded me today, “Pray in any language you wish.” 

Farsi, English, Greek. … Pain, Joy, Guilt. 

Jesus speaks them all.

If that doesn’t give us hope, may we learn to pray fearlessly, until it does.

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Love y’all. 

Hannah


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An Original and Unforseen Greek Experience.

Although this is not my first missions trip, Greece is certainly an uncomparable culture or even phenonomon as there are thousands of people here and many are from different cultures inside this Greek atmosphere.  The history that I have seen is uncomparable and is amazing to see and think about how many of our common simple tools originate from the many artifacts that were discovered here.  I have not seen the Acropolis yet but it is a very majestic and powerful view from the city but I am excited to see it first hand.  The few days that we have spent here have been very interesting, we have volunteered at Helping Hands offering help and relief to refugees who are struggling, we have also seen the Acropolis Museum as well as swam in the Aegean Sea; all experiences that have to be lived instead of told for full justice.  Also the food here is amazing and freakishly cheap for its taste and even the gifts that I have bought from flea markets have been reasonably cheap.  It is very interesting how the people here that are trying to make their way through each day that is their lives are very assertive in roping in customers for business or promoting their name.  This has been my first time riding on a Metro or even a public bus and both are actually not too discomforting or strange but seem like a pleasant way to travel.  Aside from building a barrier between languages I think my biggest struggle is adapting to the other cultures and being respectful in the fact that a positive hand jesture in America is highly offensive in Muslim culture.  Although not everyone in Athens is Christian, there is much grace, love, and joy in these many cultures, however I will say that hope is still in need in everyone’s lives.

Each day that I am serving in Athens I believe that I subtlety discover a new or different reason that God has called me here and why he has used me to spread the glory of his kingdom.  Although the many people here are content and living their lives with what they basically need, I run into several people everyday who are begging for food, money, or transportation; people who have lost their way or it was taken from them.  I am unsure why but everyday when those are asking for money, they always run to me first and I rarely carry money on me or have anything to offer, and I feel terrible because I have to keep walking and leave them in the desolate place that they are stuck in.  Just the other day, we all were on our way back from the Ministry Center and we were passing through the Metro station to get on our line to Kifissia, on the escalator a little boy wearing dirty raggedy clothes came up to me begging for money.  The others told me to just ignore him because their was nothing that I could do to help but nothing in me could just walk away.  I told him that my pockets were empty and that I was sorry but he kept asking, then I remembered that I had a bag of peaches in my hand that I had gotten from the Ministry Center, and I gave him three to enjoy and to have food to eat.  I know that I did not change his day much but just seeing his face of turmoil turn to a sincere smile made mine; I did not give him what he wanted but I was able to help with his needs and that eased my conscience.  Above all of my experiences here, seeing so many struggle just to live in this city and strive to find the next meal for them or their loved ones, what hurts the most is not that I cannot give them what they want but that I have to walk away not being able to give them what they need and it breaks my heart every time and I would gladly trade places with them just to end their suffering.  My passion for this problem, this problem of poverty that is completely unnecessary was shared in my own childhood and I absolutely hate seeing people suffer in loss of value, position, health, home, love, identity, or sometimes the worst for me is a loss of purpose.  

I love that God has called me here, and I know that he knows my heart and that he gave me this passion to relate and feel compassion for others and it is a way that I can show Christ to others and let God’s light shine through me.  Their are over a hundred refugees that attend the Ministry Center who are looking for a way to find the life that they had or hopefully a life with Christ that they have never imagined they deserved.  I love the people that God has brought me to serve and my prayer is that God will continue to use me as a tool to change the lives of others, and what an honor it is to be a part of God’s plans.  In the many days to come, I am eager for the many experiences to come and the joys that I can share with others, although I am also hesitant of how the pain of others will hurt my heart even more.  If I could, I would do whatever I could to change their lives, but the best thing I can do is set an example of Christ and let others follow in helping each other.  That is my greatest fear that I realized while walking through the streets today talking to Josiah and that is that I am so afraid of setting a poor example of Christ and not allowing him glory or even worse robbing the chance for others to give him glory; sometimes helping truly does hurt and it is so very difficult.  My prayers go out to the hurting, the suffering, the lost, the afraid, and the many searching for answers not only in Athens but in the world that they would find Christ and be saved from the many tortures of this awful world but be transformed the love of the almighty father and that they would let go of pride and ask forgiveness of their sins.  A world without pain or sorrow is a world that I am anxious to share with everyone.  

Bless everyone that you encounter and pray that God also blesses them because if we are only focused on ourselves their is no greater way to waste our lives and desert the love of Christ.  To those who read this that are battling with their faith or have turned away, my advice to you is to find your way back to God and eventually put your trust in him; I have lived many years with no intention of having Christ in my life and they were the most desolate and traumatic times of my life and I now know that their is no greater purpose or happiness than serving the Lord and delighting in his many blessings that I do not deserve.  Don’t let this world discourage you because if you turn your eyes away from Christ, you are exactly where the Devil wants you.  There is no evil in this world so great, that God isn’t Greater.

 “Therefore, I urge you , brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”    

                                                                                                                                                                                                          —     Romans 12:1-2
                                                                                                         –GEORGE JACKSON–

                                     


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Team Asia

Team Asia consisting of Paul Stovall, Rune Skipp, Hannah Brown, Tim Hawkins, Rebekah Fitch and Ryan Kucharek left early this morning. The team will spend three weeks (May 15- June 5) traveling and serving throughout Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar.   Please be praying for them–pray that they would have open hearts, eyes and ears to see what God has in store for them and to respond faithfully as they serve the people they meet. Also pray for safety, health, and team dynamics.  Continue to check back regularly for blog posts about their adventures. FullSizeRendercropped-170503fuji7586.jpg


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Jesus, Tea and Goodbyes

Although we will still be in Greece for a few more days, today was our last day at Helping Hands. Today was a tea house for the refugees. There was no structure or program to the day; the refugees could just come inside for a while, drink tea, play games and visit with one another.  Bekah and I worked in the kitchen making and serving tea for everyone. Even though it was hot outside (and inside!), we were consistently giving out tea and tea cookies. I’m sure I gave some kids like 30 tea cookies a peice!

Liz had the opportunity to work with the kids and teens today. One girl who is 18 and knows English fairly well, started talking with Liz and another girl about who Jesus is and that he is the Son of God. They were able to tell this girl about who Jesus is to them and how they believe in one God. She shared some of what she believed as well. The fact she was asking questions was such a sign that she is curious and that God is working in her life!

Most of the refugees are staying at camps around Athens. Some have more than others–some have money while others are just figuring out how to get by. Today so many of them kept asking if they could takes the cups from the center to the camps because they didn’t have anything. It was hard to have to tell them no. It was such a simple thing, but it showed how much some of these people don’t have.

Since today was our last day at Helping Hands, there were many people that we won’t see again. During debrief they prayed for us and we said our goodbyes. While I didn’t like saying goodbye, I am so grateful for the staff here. They have continually showed me love. Everyday they demonstrate how to follow Jesus and serve his people.

The last couple days of our trip we will spend seeing  a few more sites, debriefing, going to church and packing. We will head to the airport on Monday morning to start our trek back to the States. Thanks for journeying with us these last few weeks!

 

 

 


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The harvest is plentiful.

Every Wednesday is shower day for the women at Helping Hands. This is a time where they let women and children come in to take showers, do laundry, spend time together and eat lunch. This is a less structured day, but still a lot of fun (and tiring too!).  Since today was only for women, Nick wasn’t with us, but he helped at a men’s shower day at another ministry center a few blocks from us.

Similar to yesterday, we could work in the kitchen, spend time with kids, or sit with the adults. While Bekah served in the kitchen, Liz and I spent most of the time with the kids. Since they do not have a structured program on Wednesday, we are in the main area with all the adults as well. It is nice to be able to interact with everyone as well as watch the women interact with one another. This is one of the only times these refugees are able to simply spend time together and have their heads uncovered for a period of time.  I enjoyed being able to play and laugh with the kids while playing with playdough or trying to teach them Uno when neither of us can understand the other persons language.

As much as I enjoyed the day, one of my favorite parts was during our debrief time. All of the staff gathered to share how they saw God at work and then we ended our time in prayer. There are two stories I wanted to share: 1. There was one refugee who came to know the Lord a year ago. During the devotional time, she got up and shared her story with the women and said how she found Jesus and Jesus is the Truth. She was also to tell the women that she used to be Muslim but how God changed her life. She was very brave!  2. There was another woman who had three precious little boys. There is a chance that this is the last time that they will come to Helping Hands because they may be going back to Afghanistan. One of the staff members asked if she could be forward with her. The staff member proceeded to tell her about Jesus and why they do what they do at Helping Hands. The lady kept saying that she sees the difference. She sees how we are actually living out our faith and not just following something blindly. She asked questions and talked more with the staff member and another one of the ladies. They prayed for her and laid hands on her.  While she is still unsure, she is questioning and willing to listen. Pray for her with us that she may come to know the Lord and the depth of this love.    The boldness of the staff and their deep desire for the refugees is amazing.

There is more that I could share about the stories we are hearing, but know that people are hungry. The refugees are physically hungry and it truly is a blessing to help them in such a practical way, but it is evident that they are also spiritually hungry. So many of them want to know more about God. They want to understand how is it different from what they have been taught all their lives as Muslims. Some are starting to sense God’s presence and feel his peace which is so different than a lot of what they are dealing with.  The harvest truly is plentiful and we have a faithful God!