As critical needs grow in the global refugee crisis, TEAM workers continue to partner with the local church to welcome the nations arriving on their doorsteps.
Today we welcome a long-term worker in Greece to give us a snapshot of his work among refugees from the Middle East.
Every European country has been impacted to some degree by the influx of refugees. Athens, Greece, where we live, is a crossroads for many of these refugees pouring into the European Union. The news stories capture much of the heartache, difficulties and challenges for the refugees. They also capture the challenge nations are under as they attempt to meet the crisis through a myriad of government and non-government organisations. Even so, the deeper aspects of what is happening within the Kingdom of God in western and eastern Europe are not reported on the evening news.
On the ground, we are blessed with an upfront view of these challenges. The refugees here are coming from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Iraq and many other nations. We have the blessing of being thrown into the lives of many single men and families.
Since July, the number of refugees passing through Greece has increased so significantly that the Athens government has set up camps throughout the city to handle the flow. Refugees travel from the Greek Islands into the Port of Piraeus, where they take a 30-minute metro ride to the heart of Athens.
This is where we provide showers, meals, laundry, hot tea, medical care, language classes and dental care through Hellenic Ministries. With each event, we also bring them the message of the gospel. On average, our two centers touch 400–500 refugee lives each week, and each of these refugees leaves our presence having been blessed, loved, fed and given the good news.
For those interested in learning more about Christ, we invite them to an in-depth discussion of who Christ is by using passages and stories from the gospels. Every Wednesday, 25–50 men show up for these Bible studies, and up to 45 women attend on Fridays.
As some of these men and women trust Christ, we work to bring them to maturity as quickly as possible, knowing their departure to other nations is coming soon. Refugees who have trusted Christ and want to stay in Greece are invited into more deliberate discipleship.
The great news is that even those who do not put their faith in Christ while here in Athens leave Greece with the seeds of the gospel planted deeply in their hearts. In many respects, our work in Athens is a sending arm of the church, helping establish believers and planting seeds of the gospel in others, allowing them to be scattered to over 20 nations.
How do we answer the question, “What will Europe look like in 25 years?” Our Western minds tend to be driven by fear of Europe’s Islamisation. But is this what the Father sees as he looks out over Europe and its current circumstances? Is this his concern in the same way it is ours?
Given the number of new believers we have seen going out in just the past 12 months, as well the greater number of those who leave with seeds of the gospel, we believe the Father is replanting his church in Europe. And we believe, in part, he is accomplishing this through the scattering of former-Muslim Christians, who are full of his power, ready to suffer and oftentimes bolder than their Western counterparts.
Pray for these refugees. Pray for their families. Pray that these seeds of the gospel grow.