|Posted by gramma on April 10, 2016 at 2:20 PM|
We have finished our second week here in Athens and it has been another very good week. We continue to add new readers; everyday our readers bring friends who want to read, but many of them do not know enough English to really have a conversation with them. We have now completed over 200 hours of reading sessions in our two weeks and have read with about 70 different people.
The new readers that we are getting are mostly from the Iranian refugee community here. While most of them have Muslim backgrounds and have left family who are Muslim, most have embraced christianity at some level since arriving here in Greece. They all tell us that returning to Iran would mean certain death to them, but none seem to have any regrets regarding their decision to follow Christ. Unlike our muslim readers in Jordan who exhibited strong belief in Islam, our Iranian readers seem anxious to leave the brand of Islam they experienced in their homeland. But as you might imagine most of these refugees who are new to christianity do not have strong faith and have limited knowledge of the New Testament. Their limited knowledge of English is a substatial hurdle in our helping them to deepen their faith and knowledge but 'God can do anything' and they certainly appreciate the opportunity to improve their English as it will make them much more employable if and when they are able to go somewhere where they can find employment.
We are reading a few hours on Sunday afternoon and a few of our readers stay for church Sunday evening. Also, we had our first party on Thursday this week and we began the day fearing that no one would be able to come because of a one-day strike that threatened to close the Metro, but our fears were misplaced and we had nearly 60 people come to the party. We only had a little over 20 of our readers come but they brought friends, some of whom we signed up to read. We have never had a party where there were so many native tongues: Greek, Russian, Farsi and Arabic. We have to keep our activities pretty simple, but the party was a great success and we saw a lot of smiles.
To get to Greece, most of our Iranian readers traveled to the westen border of their country and walked into Turkey, then made their way to Istanbul where they boarded a boat to one of the Greek Isles and on to Athens. One, however, first flew from Tehran to Moskow, took a train to Murmansk and tried to walk across the Norwegian border in -40 degree weather only to be turned back by the Norwegians, he then went further south and tried walking into Finland but was turned over to Russian authorities who eventually flew him to Istanbul and....here he is. Another couple who reads with us has tried ten times (in four mounths) to cross from Greece into Macedonia. The last time they made it across and went on into Serbia, then Croatia and on into Slovenia, but eventually were turned back and had to retrace their steps, being beaten up at least twice by locals who told them to go back to Iran.
In addition to our Iranian readers, we also have several readers from Ukraine who have fled the civil war that has gripped their country for the last couple of years. Because not all of Ukraine is embroiled in war, some of these refugees are being denied assylum here. Even though their hometowns are in shambles, they are expected to return to another part of their country where there is no war, but also no job, no family and no support structure.
In spite of the uncertainty, hardship and scarcity that many of our readers face every day, they come to our reading sessions with a positive attitude and smiles on their faces. They continually express their gratitude and our illustration, and that of other christian workers in Greece, of what it is like to be a Christ-follower seems to be something unknown in their past experience. We pray that God will use the seeds of faith that we are planting to grow His kingdom in ways that we can't imagine.