Greetings from Athens…
We would like to begin by thanking you all for laboring with us in prayer over the specific events, situations and needs that we shared about in our last update. Much has happened since then and we are blessed to share about what our faithful and able God has done and is doing. After reading this update please be sure to check out the slideshow at the end 🙂
Brick By Brick
This November marks our eleventh year on the field. It also stands as a reminder that fruitful ministry is not like a microwave dinner. In contrast, it takes time and patience to see ministry through each of its various phases. As we have moved forward into this new season of life and ministry in Greece, we have done so with the understanding that some significant foundational needs had to be met as part of the Lord’s plan to establish His vision for us here. We liken this to laying a foundation brick by brick, one upon which we can build.
GREECE RESIDENCY: A little over two weeks ago we finally got all the paperwork together that was needed for our residency process. Suzie, as a citizen of the European Union had a swift and simple process that was completed in under an hour. She literally walked into a police station with her documents, filled out a one-page form that required less information than a job application, and walked out with a five-year residency permit. I on the other hand have submitted my paperwork through an immigration attorney (in order to make it easier and less stressful) and am waiting on him to work through the process through the immigration department. We do not foresee any problems with my application but it is more time consuming and complicated than hers, but less complicated had I not been married to a citizen who is now a legal resident of Greece. Please keep praying, as my process will last for several weeks.
MOVING APARTMENTS: Part of our vision for planting a church was to move further south toward the area of Athens where we’d like to begin. A couple of weeks back a new apartment literally dropped into our laps. Our rent will go up by about $60 but the apartment is much bigger and will save us on energy costs. Our current apartment is quaint and comfy but has become extremely inefficient for energy consumption because the windows and doors leak cooling and heating like a sieve. This has driven our electricity bill up over time. Beyond the financial advantages of the new apartment, its larger size will lend toward greater use for ministry. It’s been on our hearts to be able to house more guests, short-term workers and teams when necessary. We’ve commonly housed guests, workers and interns serving with other ministries in Athens over the last couple of years and hope to continue doing so with greater ease for them.
NEWER CAR: Another foundational need is our plan to purchase a newer reliable car. The Lord has blessed us with a growing car fund but we have been holding out and waiting on more to come in and for the right car to come along. There have been a couple of times when the seemingly right car became available but by the time we called they were gone. The one thing we are being reminded of over and over again from some of our colleagues here, is to wait for a car that will be both economical at the pump (gas is between $6 & $8 per gallon here) and in good enough condition to last us for another ten years. Originally we had planned on getting a beater in better condition than our current beater but in hindsight we realized that doing so would be poor stewardship on our part. Please continue to pray for both our car fund to grow a bit more, for the right car to come along and for it to not get sold before we see it.
LANGUAGE CLASSES: Along with residency, moving and a new car, we also need to grow in our Greek language skills. Even though we work in a multi-lingual ministry with a heavy emphasis on Farsi speakers, we feel that it is vital for us to function comfortably in the Greek language. We’ve already found the right school for us, near our new home, and are planning to begin classes early next year.
JOINT MEDICAL OUTREACH: The weeklong medical outreach from October 5-10 with City Medical Care, Calvary Chapel Kaiserslautern, Germany, Calvary Chapel Treviso, Italy and of course our ministry CC Hellas, was “…just what the doctor ordered…” sorry for the pun but couldn’t resist. In all of our years on the field we can earnestly say that these were the best teams that we’ve worked with and one of the most fruitful outreaches we’ve hosted. Each of the team members came with a humble heart to serve in whatever ways they were needed and with genuine love for those we ministered to. There was a great spirit of unity among us all and a smooth flow of continuity throughout the week, even though our locations changed several times. Three days we were set up in a Greek Evangelical church, one day we were at a make shift camp with over 1800 refugees present, and on our final day we were at a long-term housing facility an hour outside of Athens.
In general, each clinic day was set up with a reception area where Suzie checked in patients, had a waiting area where some of the team ministered to those who waited, and a medical room where patients were triaged and treated by nurse Brent and Dr. Geoff, all with the help of Farsi translators at each post. Several of the team members from CC Kaiserslautern were active, retired or reserve U.S. military members. It was amazing to see them love on people who under the current political climate could be perceived as possible threats due to their national and religious affiliations (Afghan Muslims). The two ladies from CC Treviso (pastor’s wife, Maria Cambra & Rachel Woodcock) came to specifically minister to the children and did an amazing job. They not only ministered to the children but also had many opportunities to share Christ’s gospel and love with the children’s parents and other adults waiting for their turn to see the doctor. Our friend Sahar (City Medical Care) served as the main medical translator and a fellow organizer. Her husband Arno took some time off from running his business to serve as one of the drivers and fellow overseers. My (Frank’s) part was simple. I served as a general overseer/organizer making sure things were running as planned and filled in whatever spots were needed (driver, runner, lunch boy, etc…). Overall we saw an incredible openness to the gospel as we showed the love of Christ through needed care. Most of those we cared for had never met a Christian and only had preconceived ideas about who we were. Our giving of quality care and genuine love spoke volumes to their hearts about Jesus. On the last day of the outreach at the long-term housing facility, the residents invited us into each of their homes for tea and a bit of food that they really couldn’t spare. Their hospitality was humbling to say the least.
Not only did the Lord establish a powerful witness with the refugees we served, but also with the Greek officials we helped at the camps by providing medical care for those under their charge. They were amazed at how organized we were and at the genuine compassion they saw. In their own words they said that they saw something very different in us that they’d never seen before. We praise God for His answer to prayer. Who would have ever thought that a group of Christians would reach out to a group of Muslim refugees and establish a witness for Christ to a group of Greek Orthodox people in the process? Our God is amazing!
REFUGEE WORKERS MEETING: Last month I attended a meeting for all of the ministries in Athens that are serving refugees in different ways. I was able to share about CC Hellas, our vision for being here, and our desire to connect refugee seekers and believers with Calvary Chapels in northwestern Europe once they leave Greece. We’ve already been able to do this on a few occasions and it has been a natural door God has given us due to the extensive network of churches Calvary has in Europe and the vast number of pastors, missionaries and Christian workers whom Suzie and I know personally. We have already started to receive emails from fellow workers here in Athens about refugees they personally know who are moving northward and would like to connect with Christians. This not only is helpful for them but also establishes a good reputation for our ministry and Calvary Chapel as a church.
EQUIPPING & TRAINING: In previous updates I’ve written about a Pakistani pastor in Athens whom we call Peter for sake of security. If you remember, I spent one on one time with him on a weekly basis training him to study and teach the Bible verse by verse and instructing him on basic pastoral care for those he ministers to. Recently I was able to reconnect with him to check on his progress in life and ministry. The Lord has continued to use this brother to reach out to his own community, has grown his ministry by providing a public meeting place, and has provided him with the documents he needed to begin his asylum process. He has asked me to continue working with him to provide more personal training for ministry. I look forward to starting up again and helping him to shepherd the flock that God has placed under his care.
CHURCH PLANTING: All of the above mentioned ministry efforts, needs and goals lend toward our greater vision of planting a church. We are currently praying about starting a new Bible study soon near the area we are moving to. There are people we have been praying about working with and others we’ve been praying about inviting to participate. Lord willing we will also begin our cooking club outreach early next year that will serve as an avenue to meet new people as well. We know it’s not as simple as throwing up our CC dove on the wall and opening for business. The way forward from here is through continued prayer and to solicit your prayers, that God would guide and put it all together in His timing, exact location and way.
In Other News…
CCBC YORK, UK OUTREACH TEAM NOVEMBER 8-14: A couple months back one of the leaders of the Bible college in York approached me about sending a team and desiring to be a support to our work. With that, we asked for a small team this time around, that would not only assist in the medical part of our ministry but also pray along with us in the beginning stages of starting a Bible study in the near future. We plan to spend the bulk of our week at a local refugee camp set up at one of the old Olympic arenas helping the Greek staff to clean, sort goods, distribute food and provide medical care. One of the team members coming just happens to be a doctor. Looking forward to what God will do!
HEALTH REPORT: We finally got the blood tests done that were needed to diagnose the medical emergency that Suzie had while we were stateside a few months back. If you remember she went hypothermic and her hands and feet turned blue. We are happy to report this is not smurfitis like suspected but in fact a non life threatening condition called, Raynaud’s Phenomenon, that can come and go. It is actually in the medical books as a “medical anomaly”, which is no surprise to us considering Suzie’s medical history. There is no treatment or cure for this and it often goes away by itself. We were instructed to simply warm her up if it happens again as it is still not good on her body to go hypothermic. Praise God for these results!
VISITORS: This last month we had another string of friends visiting our city and us. Stephen & Kathy Gilbert from one of our home churches at CC Costa Mesa, dropped in on the last leg of their European adventure. We picked them up from the airport and enjoyed a couple of opportunities to fellowship over food. In the same week Mark & Celeste Yocom (pastor of CC Pristina, Kosovo) stayed with us for a few days with plans of seeing the Gilberts as well. All of us were able to spend one evening together over a Persian meal at our friends’ Arno and Sahar’s home and the Yocom’s daughter Isabella had a sleepover with Sahar’s daughters. Needless to say, it’s always a pleasure to enjoy the fellowship of CC family from our home churches that stop by for a visit!
MEDICAL OUTREACH: We’d like to praise the Lord for blessing the medical outreach, making it fruitful and using it to open doors for new relationships.
GERMAN PASSPORT & GREEK RESIDENCY: Suzie’s long-term German passport has arrived after months of waiting. As mentioned above she is now a legal resident of Greece and I am on my way.
HEALTH: We thank the Lord for the good news that Suzie’s blood test brought and thankful that her blue handed medical condition is non-life threatening and easy to address.
VICKY: Our fellow believer, friend and former language teacher Vicky lost her husband George after his battle with cancer over the last year. Please pray for the Lord to comfort her heart during this time and show us how to be an encouragement to her. Though we know George is face to face with Jesus, our hearts are breaking for her loss.
CCBC YORK, UK OUTREACH TEAM NOVEMBER 8-14: Praying for a fruitful week as we minister together at a local refugee camp and pray together over our future church plant.
EQUIPPING & TRAINING: Fruitful times with Peter the Pakistani pastor and any other men whom God would bring Frank to train and equip.
CITY MEDICAL CARE PARTNERSHIP: That this relationship between our ministries would continue to develop, that God would guide every step and be glorified through it and that many would be reached for Christ as medical needs are met.
REFUGEE SITUATION: Leading of the Spirit as we continue to serve the refugee community, provision for many of the physical needs for those hurting, and open doors for the gospel among these people.
CC HELLAS MINISTRY VISION: That God would continue to lay each brick of the foundation, establish a fruitful lasting work and plant a church that ministers the word and love of God to the different ethnic groups represented in Athens.
NEW APARTMENT DECEMBER 1: Praying for everything to fall into place in our new apartment in a more southern suburb of Athens, for a cheap and effective way to move our things, for God to use our new home for ministry and for open doors with our new neighbors.
NEWER CAR: God to provide the rest of what we need and the right car for us. Still waiting on these two things.
GENERAL PROVISION: That God would provide for each of our personal and ministry financial needs each month.
If you are a church or an individual and would like to learn about partnering with us financially with either a one time gift or regular monthly support you can visit our “Becoming A Sender” page or click here.
Thank you again for taking the time to read and for standing in the gap with us!!
Frank & Suzie
P.S. Below is a short slideshow with pics from our medical outreach and more…