Arrival in Athens
After an amazing week in Thessaloniki and a long train ride to Athens, we were greeted at the train station by our hosts from Athens Christian Center. From the very beginning they showed us such generous hospitality and made us feel at home right away. After meeting Pastor Stavros in Cyprus just a few weeks ago, we were so excited to work and connect more with his church.
Preparing and Serving Food at the Refugee Camp
Most of the week we partnered with the church’s efforts to reach out to the refugees. First, we helped organize their food storage area before preparing the sandwiches to distribute in the evening. We quickly entered into an efficient assembly line of egg peelers, humus spreaders, cucumber cutters, and sandwich folders. We had a great time as a team, sharing stories and laughing together while we worked.
After making the sandwiches, the team piled onto the metro to journey to the port. On both distribution nights we were able to connect with people coming to receive the food and play with the children while they were waiting. Just like the morning, we entered into another rhythm as each one collected different food items to distribute to those who came. Between the two days we made and served about 2,300 sandwiches. More than that, we had an opportunity to serve those that Yeshua came to serve.
Childrens Ministry at the Port
One of the greatest joys of the week was spending time with the precious children at the port. Upon our arrival the atmosphere was flooded with joy and laughter. Countless swings of the jump rope and games of soccer turned out to be more than we could have expected. The smiles on their faces gave a glimpse of hope in the midst of their circumstances; to play a part in that was such an honor for us.
During one of our afternoons, while some of us played with the kids, others were able to connect with some of the families in deeper ways. Despite the language barrier, we were able to communicate with one another sharing back and forth about our lives. As one student spent time hearing from a father about his life, he expressed that it’s people like us that make a difference and mean so much to them. Another student was asked by a man if we were believers and he responded with a yes. The man responded that he guessed as much because of the way we carried ourselves and the way we treated one another. What a testimony! At this camp we were not able to share the Gospel but our one purpose was to love. Through that love and the countenance on our faces this community saw Yeshua in us!
We love birthdays, but we especially love them on outreach! After an afternoon of children’s ministry we surprised Batel with the traditional Gateways Beyond birthday song and some gifts. Later in the evening we sat down for a nice dinner to celebrate her life. It has been such a pleasure to have Batel a part of the GTS this year. We have seen the Lord do so much in her life and we are believing for great things to come for her!
On Wednesday night we were invited to participate in a prayer meeting at Athens Christian Center. After Preston led us in a time of worship we heard a powerful message from Pastor Stavros about the finished work of Yeshua in our lives. When we have the revelation of being righteous and spotless before Him we are able to approach the Throne with boldness. After his message we began to pray for the needs of the church, city and nation. There was time for our team to release prophetic words of encouragement before the meeting ended. Almost everyone on our team received a word for a specific person! It’s so clear that the Lord is speaking to each of us and we are so encouraged to see the willingness of each student to step out in boldness on this outreach.
Organizing a Warehouse
Because of the way we served at the port, we were asked to come to the old airport of Athens to organize a warehouse of donations for refugees. We were up for the challenge and eventually found ourselves waist deep in boxes of items that needed to be sorted. The staff were so grateful for a team as large as ours to help. Our hope is that we continue to carry a testimony of a spirit of excellence and joy in the midst of any project.
Childrens Program at a Syrian Church
On Friday night as most of the team spent the night distributing food to the refugees, Julie, Daira, and Joseph went to a Syrian church to lead a children’s program. The circumstances of these families are beyond what we can imagine and it was a true privilege to serve them. We were so grateful for the opportunity to spend time with the children so that their parents, who would be persecuted in their own country, could fully and freely enter into worship that night. When we left the parents hugged and kissed us goodbye thanking us for all we did. Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference!
We took one full day to tour the ancient parts of Athens. So far on this outreach we feel like we have been following in the footsteps of Paul in Acts 17. We started in Thessaloniki, visited Veria, and ended up in Athens. We went to the Areopagus where Paul preached to the men of Athens declaring the sovereignty of God and testifying to the resurrection of Yeshua. Paul was addressing the religious spirit in this city and inviting them into greater understanding and relationship with their “Unknown God”. Though he was mocked by many, several believed and followed him. After the Areopagus we ventured to the Parthenon. We took some time to gaze out at the breath taking views and explore the different exhibits at the top after we learned the history of this sight. We ended our day with splitting into smaller groups to spend time in the oldest section of Athens.
Worship Together with Athens Christian Center
For church on Sunday we gathered at a hotel in downtown Athens. On this particular Sunday there were several different pastors visiting from Jordan, Albania and Israel. It was so special to have our leader Matthew joining us for the service as well. During the service each pastor shared a short word of encouragement and testimonies of what God is doing in the midst of their people. Matthew shared a word of encouragement for the church about the nation of Greece and the Mediterranean region. This is an opportune time for the Kingdom of God to come in glory and power to this nation. He invited Pastor Stavros and the visiting pastors to come forward and link arms together. This was a powerful representation of the mystery of the Gospel being revealed in our day, Jew and Gentile coming together in unity. Through this salvation will come to the shores of the Mediterranean. After Matthew spoke, Pastor Stavros shared the message he prepared on what church, the family of God, should look like. We are to be a people purposed to seek the presence of God together and to love the way Yeshua first loved us. We took communion together, first singing about the power of His Love with the family of God around us.
Testimony: Earlier in the week a few of the students befriended the security guard at our hotel. They prayed for him and invited him to church the following Sunday. He came and during the ministry time at the end of the service Ruben and Esteban came to pray for him. He was crying before they even approached him. But as they ministered to him, he decided to give his life to Jesus. Through simple conversation and an invitation to church, this man met his Savior!