March 2016… A New Harvest

Dear Family, Friends & Supporters,

IMG_2559We serve an amazing God who works wondrously in ways that often surpass our understanding. At times His work is conducted beneath the surface and is unnoticeable to our eyes, whereas at other times His work is so obvious that it is impossible to deny. In our last update we wrote about the things that God had begun to do among the group of Iranian refugees that we’d begun to minister to. It is with great joy that we are continuing to add to that story this month as we have found ourselves in the midst of one of those moments in time that God’s work is obvious and undeniable. We pray that by reading this post you will be able to get a sense of what has been happening here in recent months, and therefore stand in awe along with us at the greatness of our Father in heaven!

GROWING SEEKERS GROUP: As we wrote in our last update we and another couple, Arno & Sahar, started a weekly Seekers Bible Study Outreach back in January. Our initial group was about 35 people in total, a few of which were believers. Normally the night consists of a meal (usually Persian) followed by an optional Bible teaching. Remarkably, most of those who come stay for the teaching as well. Arno and I trade off teaching every other week and Sahar translates from English into Farsi. Currently we are going through John. In the nearly three months since we’ve started this meeting it has grown from the original 35 to nearly 100. Upwards of 40 people from this group have given their lives to Christ and more are continuing to do so. 

BOLDNESS IN PUBLIC BAPTISMS: Last week at one of our local beaches we baptized eleven men and women. Another dozen or so are awaiting our next baptism to be held on Friday, April 1 at a special Iranian New Year celebration we are having at a local Christian facility. To prepare people for baptism we take them through a short class to give them a biblical understanding of what they are about to do. Following the class we also take time to listen to their testimonies as a precaution to discern whether they have truly embraced the gospel. The stories told of each of their journeys to come to Christ have been very moving to say the least. 

For example… one of the men we baptized was a former seaman, the first officer on a cargo ship. One day when they were in port in Belgium some Christians came out to the dock and gave him a New Testament. As he read it over time his curiosity was stirred and he became a genuine seeker. Some time later on a voyage to Singapore his ship hit a massive storm that ended in a career ending accident for him. While the sea was tossing the ship around this man slipped and fell all the way down a three-story flight of stairs. As he tumbled and rolled hard he began to cry out to Jesus for help. When he finally hit the bottom the force of the fall left him motionless. It was then that he heard a voice saying, “Get up. You’re not seriously hurt.” He looked and saw the image of a man standing over him and asked, “Who are you?” The man replied, “Who did you call to?” “Jesus” he answered. The man then responded to him by saying, “I AM HE… I have saved you today because I want to save your family.” When the doctors examined the man they were shocked that he not only survived the fall but that he had also not received any broken bones or internal damage. This man came to Christ that day and his wife and son followed suit once they arrived in Greece a few weeks back. This is just one of the stories we’ve heard but there are countless more like it.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON SERVICE:

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Frank teaching Sunday afternoon church service…

All of this has created an unexpected Iranian Christian community that we have also begun to minister to. We feel that God has entrusted this group to us and are seeking to effectively minister to them in every way possible. In keeping with this, the need led us to begin a Sunday afternoon church service for them about a month back. Each week about 50 people have been in attendance. Worship is done in Farsi (currently through worship videos on youtube), and Arno and I also trade off in the teaching every other week. Creating an environment where these dear new saints are able to worship God in their own language within their own cultural context has meant a lot to them.

Although for the time being… we are only calling this a “church service”, practically speaking a living church has literally exploded into existence and has been dropped into our laps by the Lord. Nevertheless we are taking the approach of letting God develop things on His own, step-by-step. We have chosen to take this route for the sake of caution, and simply because this is the way things have been happening since this work began. Very little of what we’ve been doing has been planned. For the most part, it has just happened and we’ve just followed along as God has unfolded things.

SUNDAY MORNING SERVICE: We’re also beginning a Sunday morning service for English/Greek speakers. In comparison to the Iranian group this will be small, at least initially, as we are beginning with a small core group. Together these services fit into our overall church planting vision for Greece. We are praying about the possibility of seeing them integrated over time if the Lord wills, but again, we are taking it step-by-step to see what God does and are allowing Him to unfold it in His timing!

DISCIPLESHIP: Beyond our large group Bible studies we are beginning to plan for small discipleship groups for both men and women. I have already begun meeting one on one with an Iranian brother who has lived in Greece for several years, is married to a missionary and desires to go deeper in preparation to disciple others himself. He is a very eager and hungry student, and I am blessed to invest into his life.

MINISTRY PARTNERS: Generally speaking, Arno and I are co-pastoring the Iranian side of things, though the four of us work together as a team. Our co-pastoring approach has naturally developed over time and is working very well. Arno has extensive experience with ministry in the context of Iranian culture as his wife is Iranian, and the amount of teaching we are doing is too much for either of us to handle on our own with our time schedules. I will be leading and pastoring the morning service for English/Greek speakers and doing all the teaching. This will allow Arno and his family the chance to sit and receive with the others.

For those of you who are unaware… Arno is Dutch and Sahar is Iranian. They are close friends that we met shortly after we moved to Greece. As we’ve been serving together in different ways they’ve had a natural introduction to the Calvary Chapel ministry and family in Europe over time. I’ve also had the opportunity to introduce Arno to verse-by-verse style teaching methods, which he began incorporating to their small group a couple years back. Arno joined me for the last two pastors conferences in Austria and their family joined us for the mission’s conference last August and will do so again this year. Our intentions in doing so have simply been to encourage and bless them as they serve Jesus here. The wonderful thing that has happened through this is that we have come to realize how like-minded we are in ministry, how well we work together and have seen a natural relationship develop over time. We are genuinely blessed to serve and co-laborer with them and love them as dear friends. We see it as an added blessing when you enjoy just being around each other on top of serving with one another. We look forward to what God has planned and are humbled to be part of it together.

A GENUINE MOVE OF THE SPIRIT: As we’ve stated in previous updates the refugee issue is nothing new for Greece like it is for the rest of Europe. This country has had a steady flow of refugees coming in for over 20 years. Suzie and I have been working with refugees here for at least four years and Arno & Sahar together for the last 12 years. We’ve seen a lot of things happen during that time but never anything like this. In my opinion there is a genuine work of the Spirit happening that is comparable to what happened when communism fell in Eastern Europe. But rather than God sending missionaries into their lands, He is bringing unreached people out to us. It’s all quite amazing!

WORKERS NEEDED: The suddenness of all of this has left us in a situation of need. The Iranian believers come with a genuine heart to serve and we are beginning to delegate certain tasks for them that are appropriate for their degree of maturity in the Lord. Our hearts are to see these men and women raised up into places of greater service and responsibility. But in the mean time there is much to do that we need help in. Areas of worship, children’s ministry, and general help are at the point that we are unable to do it all alone. We are therefore asking the Lord to send us workers to help in this harvest of souls. “Then He said to them, “The harvest truly [is] great, but the laborers [are] few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2. The physical needs of this group are also growing. Currently we are using a local church’s facility but will not be able to do so forever. Eventually we will need to find our own meeting place(s) but will need to cover the cost for this. For that we ask that you join us in prayer as we seek the Lord for help in each of these areas. We know that God is faithful and trust that He will supply all of the necessary help.

FOR SUCH A TIME: When we made the decision to remain in Greece last summer we did so trusting that God had a plan. However, never in our wildest dreams did we imagine things unfolding as they have. This all reminds Suzie and I of the words that Mordecai spoke to Esther in Esther 4:14, “…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

None of this comes without spiritual warfare… Since serving in pastoral ministry over the last 20 years, I recognize the challenges and warfare that come along with this type of ministry, but when you add in ministry within a foreign culture and country, away from your homeland, the intensity can feel overwhelming at times. All this to say that we desperately need your prayers because we have a real enemy who desires to discourage, destroy and deceive us every step of the way. We know greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world so please join us as we stand and fight the good fight together.

PRAYER NEEDS

One of the greatest ways that you can support us is through your prayer. We face some very real needs and challenges. Please stand in the gap with us as we ask our Father in heaven to intervene according to His will. To read about our most current prayer needs please click here to find our “How to Pray for Us” page. 

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Thank you again for taking the time to read and for standing in the gap with us!! 

Agape,

Frank & Suzie