Dear Prayer Partners,
Wow, it’s the month of May already and almost summertime! 2016 is flying by and we are blessed to say it’s been really amazing so far. We need to play catch up just a bit with what’s been happening this last month and some things prayerfully around the corner.
SINCE WE LAST WROTE
VISITING CC MISSIONARY: A fellow Calvary Chapel missionary, Lisa Collins came to Athens in March on a 10-day outreach from CC Bible College Europe. She brought an Iranian brother named Philip who was saved last year in Greece through another ministry. The two of them mainly came to work on the island of Lesvos but also had the opportunity to visit our Seekers Bible Study. While with us they presented a visual gospel message called “Simply Jesus”. It was a blessing having them attend and participate in our ministry, and also share a very effective way of sharing Christ with refugees.
PICNIC AND BAPTISM: In our last update we wrote about a picnic we were planning for April 1st with the Farsi church and several seekers of Jesus. This was the end of the Iranian New Year celebration, so we decided to turn it into a full day of fun together. A Christian facility outside of Athens allowed us to use their location for the day. In total we ended up busing about 120 people to the event. We were blessed to have some other ministries help and assist us by watching the kids and serving food. It was a time of fellowship, food and traditional Iranian dancing. We started off with a simple gospel message by Arno, then Frank explained the biblical purpose of baptism. After that many of us walked down to a small pool/fountain to witness 15 new believers publically profess Christ through baptism. Needless to say… it was an amazing day!
SHORT MEDICAL OUTREACH: In conjunction with CMC (our friend Sahar’s medical ministry) we helped to host a 3 day medical outreach, mainly for people in our Farsi Church. Our friend Geoff from Calvary Chapel Kaiserslautern, Germany came out again, but was accompanied by his two daughters this time. The point of this outreach was to give medical care to people in our church and help where we could. Suzie manned the front desk, registration and scheduling and we had two volunteer nurses that live here in Athens helping with any triage that was needed. Sahar translated for Geoff as he gave medical care and advice and did check ups. Many of these people cannot afford to see doctors here so it was a great blessing to see them get the care they needed. We are thankful for Geoff and his heart to help!
EASTER: Easter in Greece does not always fall on the same date as Easter in the West. Greece follows the Orthodox calendar so this year our Easter fell on May 1st. We enjoyed celebrating this special day with our church and decided to do our first breaking of bread together as a church body. For many of them it was not only their first time taking communion but also their first time celebrating Easter. Last week for Palm Sunday Arno walked them through an Old Testament perspective of what Christ would do by focusing on the Passover and then on Easter Sunday Frank walked them through the entire resurrection story beginning with the Triumphal Entry and ending with the risen Christ. The teaching was a bird’s eye view of the events to help them understand their significance and biblical basis. Afterward we enjoyed a dinner at Arno & Sahar’s home with some other friends. Lamb was on the menu of course but we also mixed it up with other fun foods…. with a Persian and Mexican twist of course.
CHURCH & MINISTRY
IRANIAN/FARSI AFTERNOON CHURCH SERVICE: It’s been amazingly mind blowing to watch God put this ministry together in such an unexpected way. We say that because planting a church can happen in different ways. There are those simple organic works that begin by leading a few people to Christ and then beginning with them. There are other times when churches begin with a core group of believers committed to seeing a new church get off the ground and who labor alongside you to see it happen. But sometimes God just moves so significantly that a church just happens because so many have come to Christ in a short period of time. We believe this is what has happened with us in regard to the Iranian/Farsi ministry. As we mentioned in our last update this church just happened as a result of the outreach we started with another couple. We did not intend to see an Iranian church start, but people have continued to consistently come to Christ week by week. When we decided to stay in Greece last year, after contemplating leaving due to visas and some other issues, we did so knowing that God had more for us to do here. It is clear to us now that these recent events were a major part of His plan for us.
THE REALITY OF A REFUGEE BASED CHURCH IN GREECE: One thing that we’ve previously mentioned and feel the need to reiterate is that we do not know how long we will have this church group for. We do not know if it can or will become a sustainable local church. This isn’t a pessimistic outlook but a realistic one. In all reality some of the refugees we are ministering to may not stay in Greece. Almost all of the people in our church are in the EU relocation program and might be sent to other EU countries whether they want to go or not. Many would actually prefer moving on due to the dire economic state of Greece. There are some who might stay for certain as they have work skills that are easily employable here and have been granted work permits. But the majority of the people have a heart to leave Greece to go to other EU countries that can give them a better future. Greece is a country that has it’s own struggles and can barley take care of it’s own people. For many people in our church, Greece is therefore only a temporary home. But all that to say, while we have them we want to do our best to spiritually feed, disciple and encourage them in Christ. If or when they leave they will be healthy sheep that are able to function as mature Christians wherever they go, and even be ready and equipped to teach and disciple others. Due to these dynamics we have to approach this ministry by planning for those involved to both stay and go. Beyond that it is all in God’s hands.
A CHANGE IN THE SCHEDULE: Currently we are doing two church services on Sunday (our morning English/Greek based service and the afternoon Iranian/Farsi service), one on one discipleship on Tuesdays, Seeker’s Bible study on Thursdays and times of praying together each week as a team. But as of last week we have decided to do our Seeker’s Bible study only once a month and begin to phase in a group discipleship time with some of the men Arno & Frank would like to raise up and pour into more. Doing so will also allow us to develop our relationships more with the believers from the church by spending more personal time together with them in various informal ways.
LOVING ON FAMILIES: This last Thursday we spent an afternoon and evening with some of the families from the church at a local park by the sea. This was a special time that allowed us to love on them, hangout together and enjoy one another’s company. This kind of event is something we want to begin to implement more in the coming months.
MORNING CHURCH SERVICE: Over a month ago we also started a home Bible study in the morning with Arno and Sahar, a Greek lady named Rita and her son and with us of course. It’s a small core group but it’s what we feel God wants us to do for now. Suzie has implemented Sunday school for the kids and we will each take turns teaching them each week, except Frank who is teaching every Sunday. What God wants to do with it and if it turns into a church is up to Him. We pray He blesses it no matter what and continues to encourage us in the Word.
HAPPENING IN THE MONTH OF MAY
OUTREACH TEAMS: As we’ve stated before as of late we have had several Calvary Chapels from the States and Europe, as well as some individuals show interest in coming to do outreaches with us. Currently we are praying with a few different churches about outreaches in July and in the fall.
FROM MAY 18-21ST: Our friends, Matt Kottman, pastor of Disciples Church (CC Leatherhead) and John Brown, pastor of Servants Church (CC Norwich) in England are coming on an exploratory trip to check things out for a possible outreach team later this year. We will be spending time together praying, showing them a bit of the ministry and talk about things we’d like to do together. Excited to see what God will do and just blessed to have these two dear friends in our home for a few days!
OUR HEARTS FOR THE WORK: We want to put our hearts completely into everything we believe that God has called us to do for however long He has us do it. This season of ministry has been and is continuing to be an exceptionally fruitful one. We are looking forward to what God has planned for the days ahead and are grateful to be used in this way! At the same time we want to hold on to the ministry that He has entrusted to us with loose hands, remembering that we are but stewards of the King and that He alone is the owner of these works and will take them in whatever direction He chooses.
WAYS TO PRAY IN MAY
SUNDAY SERVICES: Please continue to pray for our Bible study on Sunday mornings and our Farsi Church on Sunday afternoons. That God would lead and guide as we minister together with our friends, Arno & Sahar. That we would be filled with the Holy Spirit to do the work God has called us to do with the gifts He has given us.
SEEKERS BIBLE STUDY: Beginning in June we will only meet once per month, and ask that God would continue to bless this outreach and use it to bring people to Christ as Arno & Frank take them through the gospel of John. Also that this outreach will serve as a platform to invite them to church on Sunday.
DISCIPLESHIP: Frank & Arno will begin group discipleship times for specific men they feel are hungry for more and want to go deeper. Please pray as they take them through something that will not only grow them in the Lord but equip them to disciple others and teach the Word if God so leads. Also pray for Frank’s weekly one on one discipleship meeting with an Iranian brother who’s lived in Greece for many years.
PREPARING REFUGEES TO LEAVE: As we’ve stated in our newsletter, we don’t know how long we will have those we are ministering to or this Farsi church that God has given us to care for. Many of these refugees will move north to other EU countries. Please pray that when and if God moves them on that they will be the most well fed, well-loved sheep and that they will be equipped to minister to others wherever they go!
HEALTH: Please pray for everyone’s health. Our friend Sahar is battling some physical issues again and as normal Suzie is as well. Many of the people in the church are also sick off and on with bad colds and flues and sinus infections. Please pray for protection and health for all!
UNITY: Praying for continued unity among our own team, our church, and the different churches and ministries in Athens. Praying that our hearts would be united in the love of Christ and that we would seek to honor Him above all else.
PROVISION: Praying for continued provision for ministry and personal needs.
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