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Steve's first week in Athens, Greece

Posted by gramma on March 25, 2018 at 9:35 AM

March, 2018 finds Steve back in Athens for three weeks with Val holding down the fort in Santa Barbara. This is not a normal Let's Start Talking project. As many of you probably know, because of its many islands close to the shores of Turkey, Greece has become the port of entry for hundred's of thousands of refugees fleeing war and/or oppression in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and other places. Some stay in Greece but most are seeking assylum in other, more prosperous European nations. While a number of organizations, public and private, are providing housing and other assistance for these refugees, their lives are far from ideal and for many 'nightmare' is a much better term.

 

This flux of refugees through Greece began several years ago, but until two years ago they spent very little time in Greece. With the closure of borders by EU countries in 2016, it became much more difficult to leave Greece, consequently many have found themselves in Greece a long time. Beginning even in 2015, Alex and Eleni Melirrytos and the Omonia Church of Christ here in Athens felt the call of God to begin ministering to refugees. First they just handed out sandwiches, food packets, and diapers in the morning at the port where refugees were arriving, then in the evening they would do the same thing at Victoria Square where many were camping in tents. In the Winter they would hand out blankets. Soon God led them to realized that they could use their church building as a 'day center' and they began serving lunch on Tuesdays. Now it is Tuesday and Thursday. They rented the floor above the church and they have set up a 'clothes closet' for the refugees to visit on Wednesdays. They distribute diapers and formula for mothers of babies. They are providing space for an attorney to help with the legal tangle of assylum seeking, etc. And Monday through Thursday they have English classes.

 

Most of these refugees do not know English or any other European languages, so you can imagine how difficult it is for them to get along here. So almost from the beginning the Omonia church has been trying to teach some English to the refugees to help them wherever they settle. They depend on volunteers to do the teaching and often they don't have a lot of experience, so LST is recruiting people to help with the teaching and Steve is the first of those volunteers?

 

Because most of the refugees speak languages with alphabets that are totally different from English and they even read and write from right to left instead of left to right, we have to start from the very beginning, learning the alphabet, learning the days of the week, learning simple vocabulary. For this three week session, Steve and Laura (from Scotland) are teaching beginners (A0) classes, while David and Carol (from Texas) are teaching A1-A2. I have the smallest class with about 15 usually in attendance. The three English classes are simultaneous from 11:30 to 1:30 with a break in the middle. On TTh lunch is then served after Eleni spends some time sharing about the love of God.

 

In addition to teaching Steve is also trying to hold some regular LST one to one conversation sessions using the book of Luke with a couple of young men from Iraq, who are searching. So far schedules have made it difficult to meet very much but hopefully we can get in the groove next week.

 

On Saturday Alex and Eleni arranged a bus and took a large group of church members, volunteers and refugees on an excursion to Nafpolion, the first capital of Greece after they overthrew Ottoman rule in 1821, on March 25. Yes, Sunday is the Greek equivalent of our July 4th. Nafpolion is a beautiful little seaside town with a Venetion castle overlooking it. A wonderful time was had by all.

 

Please keep Steve and this entire ministry in your prayers as we seek to help God work in their lives.

 

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