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A postscript

Posted by gramma on November 30, 2019 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

This is a little postscript to our Fall adventure. Last Saturday through Wednesday we were blessed to participate in the annual Euro-American Family Retreat, which has taken place since the mid-sixties. As we learned when we got there, the 'Family' in its name doesn't mean it is a retreat for families, rather those who gather are part of a family, a church in and of itself that meets only once a year. Begun at the height of the Cold War, initially it was primarily a family of military households stationed in Europe with a few missionary familes as well. With the end of the Cold War and the drawdown of US military in Europe, this gathering is now more heavily weighted toward missionary families working in Europe, but there are still a number of former military folks who joined this church years ago and are loathe to leave it. And as we found out, new members are embraced and it was as if we had been a part of this family for years.

 

There were people there representing about 15 different countries and many were not American and a few did not even speak English. There was a lot of beautiful singing and worship. It was a special time with a lot of special people. It was a time of refreshing for many who are a long way from home and who are working with small struggling churches where they are depended upon to carry a heavy load. And from our experience kids growing up in those environments are exceptional, strong in faith and long in talent. We are already making plans to meet with this family again next year. And Rothenburg, what a spectaular setting for a retreat. A rich city begun in the late 1200's that then fell on hard times, which caused it to lay fallow for about three hundred years and thus preserve its middle ages architecture.

 

After leaving Rothenburg we travelled to Grevenbroich, Germany to visit with our Iranian friends we first met in Athens when we did an LST project with the Glyfada church. There are two couples, two sisters and their husbands. We have been blessed to be able to maintain a connection with them now that they are in Germany. This was our fourth time to visit them here and now they have their own apartment instead of living in a camp, but they are suffering under the system here. Both of the sisters have been granted asylum, but both of their husbands have been rejected. They all requested asylum based on their conversion to christianity. Because they have been rejected, the men have had their work permits revoked so they can no longer work or study. Before this they were self supporting, now the government is paying the rent on their apartment!

 

When we were in Marseille, we shared with Philippe, one of the missionaries there, about our Iranian friends and he told us his brother, Justin, was working in Cologne, Germany, near Grevenbroich. The church in Cologne has worked a lot with refugees and have a lot of experience. We contacted Justin and told him about our friends and our schedule so he invited us to a special Thanksgiving gathering for Americans in the area, but another Iranian couple who worship with them would also be there. So on Thanksgiving day we, along with one of the couples, Hessam and Hani, drove to Cologne and had Thanksgiving dinner. It was a wonderful evening. Hessam and Hani spent a lot of time with the other Iranian couple. There were many smiles and much laughter. And it turns out one of the American couples who are opera singers and active members of the church 'happen' to live in Grevenbroich. Hessam shared that they had been a part of a church in Grevenbroich for over three years but they had not yet felt as welcome there as they felt in the couple of hours at that Thanksgiving gathering. Addresses and phone numbers were shared and they seemed to forget their troubles for a while.

 

We are so thankful for these last few days. Please keep Hessam and Hani and Ali and Zara in your prayers. Also please hold up Jo and Marion Reinhold, whom we are now visiting in Hamburg. Jo has had trouble with his heart for the last couple of weeks and on Friday he had a pacemaker inserted so his heartrate would stabilize. He seems to be doing well and he is in good spirits but he is still in the hospital.

Four weeks are over

Posted by gramma on November 25, 2019 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Four weeks are over, where did they go? It has been such a blessing to be here. We have made many new friends and seen God working in many ways. The Chapelle de Fuveau is a dynamic place with activities for every age and there weren't many times when there wasn't something going on around us as we read. We generally arrived at about 9:30am and left shortly after 8pm, with an hour reserved for lunch. We didn't both have people for all those hours but there was usually someone reading with one or the other of us. We were able to complete about 175 hours of one to one reading sessions, mostly from the Luke book, though we also used Acts, John and the Good News books as well.

 

As this is our last blog from France, we have a few observations. We have experienced none of the famed rudeness of the French people if you don't speak French. To the contrary, the few times when we have needed assistance, we have found the Marseillians(?) to be completely pleasant, helpful and to have a great sense of humor. Last Saturday we wanted to catch a bus to Cassis from a poorly-marked 'stop'(a placard attached to a tree). We went to a regular bus stop that had a flier for the bus we wanted to catch but others around us quickly let us know that we needed go further up the street(in both English and French). As we headed in the direction indicated, we would periodically turn around and with our hands ask our 'friends' at the real bus stop if we had gone far enough. With big smiles they would indicate we should go further until we finally found the magic tree. It was quite funny, but very much in keeping with our experience at other times when we needed a little guidance. Also we find French drivers to be the most polite we have ever experienced. There are 'zebra' crossings all over the place and if you approach one to cross the street the cars, almost without exception, will stop until you have crossed, sometimes they stop when you are just near one and look like you are going to cross.

 

We continued to have good reading sessions this week, and Val picked up another new reader. One of Steve's readers, a retired ocean engineer, who only came a couple of times didn't believe that 'God can do anything' because of all of the evil in the world, a God that can do anything could end evil. After we talked about free will, he shared that he could not understand why martyrs did not renounce their faith, why would they choose death. That led to a great discussion about hope and the christian's perspective on death.

 

Saying goodby to our readers is always a difficult thing. Another of Steve's readers had a few tears in his eyes as he realized that it was his last day of reading. His English is limited but he worked so hard and he loved learning both English and thinking about what we were reading. He said he would never forget our sessions and that he would never give up on learning English. When Steve gave him an English New Testament, his eyes lit up. Yet another reader who is bipolar, but has been stable for the last 6 years, had shared that he feels close to God when he is in a manic state but doesn't feel the need for God when he is 'normal'. On his last visit he shared that he had been thinking a lot more about God lately and he wondered if it could have something to do with our discussions. Hmmmm.

 

Val had several readers this year that she prayed with. One came by for just a few minutes as he waited for a friend that had sent him a somewhat ominous message needing his help. They prayed together before he left to meet his friend. Another was concerned about family members and was overwhelmed by it. They prayed for God to help and also to calm her spirit. After their session she said she felt better and thanked her. Readers have a tendency to share very private or emotional things going on in their lives. It always give an opportunity to talk about them, share common experiences and how God might help with it.

 

From Marseille we have already travelled to Rothenburg, Germany where we are attending the Euro-American Family Retreat. From here we travel to Hamburg by way of Grevenbroich where we will visit two refugee couples we met in Athens three and a half years ago.

 

Thank you all for your prayers and support. We have been blessed in so many ways.

We are already three weeks into our time

Posted by gramma on November 17, 2019 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

We are already three weeks into our time here. It was another good week of reading with over 40 hours of one to one sessions. As usual both of us picked up a new reader this week. It seems like for every project we pick up new readers when our time is almost over. Val's new reader is the father of one of the CEMers. He is muslim and speaks no English so Val is starting from the beginning, but he is very enthusiastic and coming every day and often for two hours. Steve's new reader is a retired ocean engineer so they had a lot in common to talk about. As a number of our readers, he has a catholic background, but is not active with the church. At one point he said 'The Old Testament, it's not important, right?', so an opportunity was opened.

 

We have begun to get far enough into Luke with several of our readers that the conversations grow deeper. One of Steve's readers shared that until he was about 21 he didn't believe in God then he got really sick and nearly died, or perhaps he did die . He said that he felt like he left his body and saw a bright light and then returned to his body. From then on, he believed, but he shared that he doesn't go to church very often. We hope to get him connected with the church here. I think he would love it.

 

Last weekend we were blessed to be part of the Chapelle de Fuveau family retreat in the Ardesche area. The church owns a fabulous facility there, it is a four-hour bus ride to get there and it is in the middle of nowhere, but a beautiful place in the middle of national forest lands. The Centre Bonnefoi is a large building that can easily and comfortably house over a 150 people. The program included talks about how we can overcome the barriers erected by the post-christian world to reach out to the community, how we can serve the church family and even how the church can act responsibly to protect the environment. Several of those there were kind enough to serve as interpreters for us so that we could follow it all. The CDF family is highly taleted in singing so we did a lot of singing while we were there. The only cloud over the time there (besides the ones in the sky) was the sudden and unexpected passing last Thursday night of the father of one of their long-time members, and one of Val's readers. Please keep Vero and her family in your prayers.

 

On Saturday we took a day off and visited Cassis, a small town with a picturesque port along a spectacular part of the French coastline. The area is called 'Les Calanques', which means 'the creeks'. It is an amazingly beautiful area. We have one more week here in Marseille; we covet your prayers.

Week two in Marseille continues to be great.

Posted by gramma on November 7, 2019 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Week two in Marseille continues to be great. This blog is coming a little sooner than usual because we have been invited to join the Chapelle de Fuveau(CDF) on their retreat in the foothills of the Rhone Alps. We leave at 6pm on Friday and don't return until Monday evening. It is a three day weekend for the French so the church is taking advantage of that. They have 105 people signed up to go, the most they have ever had. It will be a lot of French for us but there are a lot of English speakers that will be there so we won't be too isolated.

 

Last Sunday afternoon the owner of our Airbnb, who is also an LST reader, took us to the village of Allauch, just outside Marseille. We had lunch and wandered around the village and had a very pleasant time. The view of Marseille is fabulous. We had a wonderful time.

 

We have mentioned that CDF is a busy place. The most intense activity is the Chretian en Mission (CEM) program. This is a program aimed at young people who commit a year of their life to train in ministry. On Mon, Tue, Thu and Fri they have three hours of course work in Bible, theology, ministry in a post-christian culture, etc. In the afternoons they participate in various ministries such as convalescent hospitals, neighborhood youth programs and activities at the church.

 

The CDF 'compound' consists of a chapelle for worship, a large building that has a fellowship hall with a complete kitchen and four classrooms (with paper-thin walls), two of which we usually use for reading. On Tuesdays from 4:30 to 5:45 the building is overrun by kids learning English (taught by CEMers) and we have to retreat to use the chappel for our reading sessions. On Mondays 4:45-6:15 kids come for tutoring sessions. On Tuesday nights from 6:30-8 they rotate between a men's Bible class, a women's Bible class and learning new songs. On some Wednsday evening the young guys have soccer matches, they practice on Sunday afternoons. On Thursday evening the church chorus practices. On Friday from 4:30-6 there is 'Club Cool' for kids. We have not yet experienced that but we are sure it is 'cool'.

 

We had our first party on Wednesday evening and we learned that that is not the best night of the week to have a party but it was a good party anyway with over 20 in attendance of which 8 were readers, but about half of those were CEMers. Several of the young men had to leave early to play a soccer game, soccer being a way to minister to the local young people. We dusted off our tower building activity (this is the first 'normal' LST project we have done it two years), our play-doh sculpturing experience and our drawing on the back version of telephone. Everyone seemed to have a great time and we had fun.

What a great first week in Marseille!

Posted by gramma on November 3, 2019 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

What a great first week in Marseille! We have enjoyed wonderful hospitality from the church (Chappelle de Fuveau) and from our Airbnb landlady, Marie-Ange (Mary Angel). The church here is quite active. There has been something going on every day this week and it has been school break so some activities didn't even happen. There are a lot of young people here and the enery level is quite high. The singing in worship is heavenly.

 

After church last Sunday we were invited into the home of an Algerian family who live on the grounds of the church. They hosted over a dozen of us and they made it look so easy and they made us feel very much at home. While we were in their home, they shared how they came to be a part of the church. He came to Marseille almost 20 years ago, before they had any of their four children. His wife followed him by a couple of months. Later after they had a couple of kids, through a 'coincidence', they connected with the church here and their kids flourished in the loving environment so, though they were muslim, they came to church every week and let their kids learn in Bible classes, thinking that it was too late for them to make a change. But after meeting with the church for seven years, they decided to follow Christ themselves and they have never regretted their decision. All the other members of Khaled's family are muslim, but he is the one they come to when they need help or advice.

 

We had our information meeting on Monday evening. Keeping our expectations down, we put out about 25 chairs in a couple of semi-circles. A lot of church members showed up as well as a lot of readers so we had more than 40 there by the end. Steve signed up 14 and Val had 9 on her list. The church advertised at the science and technology university nearby so we have a number of university students as well as several older pleople including our landlady. Attendance has been very good and we logged almost 45 hours with our readers in four days.

 

Our readers are a varied group, in their age, in their country of origin, in their English level and in where they are in their faith journey. They range from 18 to 64, they come from France (go figure), Gabon, Senegal, Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Romania, Mauritius, Madagascar, Viet Nam and Armenia. Some struggle to express themselves, often interjecting French phrases when they don't know the English word. One speaks American without an accent. Some are agnostic, some are muslim, some are Catholic because their parents were, some are christians and worship at other churches in the area, and some are participating in the year-long Chretians en Missions program that the mission team here teaches (in French).

Our fourth week in Athens has slipped by

Posted by gramma on October 27, 2019 at 3:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Our fourth week has slipped by. We had very good attendance for the most part. Val's class has been a joy for as most of them are there everyday and they are very attentive and they have a good time. She has seen progress in their English abilities and she has gotten close to some in spite of their limited English. Cindy has had good sessions with her small group that varies in number from 0 to 4. She likes to have them act out stories sometimes and one day this week one of Steve's one to one people came early and sat in her class. They were reviewing the lesson in Luke about Jesus' baptism. She asked them what baptism was and the class shrugged so she explained some and then Cindy asked him to act out baptism. So he asked Cindy: 'Do you love Jesus?' After she said yes, he asked: 'Do you want him to be the boss?' After saying yes, he put his hand on her head and pushed her down into the 'water'. This was from someone who has a great deal of difficulty reading more than about 50 English words.

 

Steve's one to one sessions have gotten better and better. One Syrian Kurdish young man, who hopes to immigrate to Hamburg, Germany where his uncle lives, talked about how he enjoys the stories we are reading. He is a very nice guy with high standards, he has a job and wants to make money so his father can quit working. The greatest progress Steve has seen is in a 14-year-old Afghani girl, who came here from Iran. Her English is pretty good and at first she didn't take the lessons too seriously but in the last 10 days she has really gotten into the lessons and asks lots of questions. Her family also wants to go to Germany where her grandmother lives. However; because her father is dead and her mother for some reason is not her guardian she can't get a passport until she goes through a court procedure. She goes to Greek school but her Greek is not strong enough for her to learn much. She has made Greek friends through her English. Her native language is Farsi(Persian).

 

Since the Omonia church doesn't have a Farsi translator right now, we took her and her mother to the Glyfada church to their Friday evening Bible study that was in English and Farsi. Both seemed to enjoy the experience and she made friends with another Farsi-speaking girl about her age. She had a big smile on her face when we left (with a Farsi Bible and an 'Easy to Read English Bible') Her mother also seemed to be very engaged in the teaching that was going on. They are planning on coming back Sunday evening for the English/Farsi Bible study and worship. It was a great way to end our time here. Please pray that this connection continues and brings them both closer to the Lord.

 

We had the opportunity to get together with Daniel and Karly Napier for lunch on Friday. Daniel used to preach at Turnpike and he and his family are now in the early stages of a ministry to refugees in Thesaloniki, Greece. He hopes to help muslims who have become christians to gain deeper faith and knowledge to equip them to become missionaries to refugee groups wherever they go. Daniel has already progressed to the B2 level of learning Greek which means when he passes that level he could attend university in Greece, but I think he feels like PhD in Philosophy he already has is probably sufficient.

 

As the sun sets on our Athens project we move on to begin a four-week project in Marseille, France. Please pray for our students/readers and those working with them here in Athens.

We had a great third week in Athens

Posted by gramma on October 20, 2019 at 2:20 PM Comments comments (0)

We had a great third week. We continue to have good classes and one to one sessions. Steve had 15 hours of one to one sessions. Cindy continued to have 2-4‌ in her small class everyday while Val averages 8-10 in her English class. The one to one sessions with a couple of readers are reaching deeper into the Word. The Afghani young lady asked Steve this week if God cried; a couple of days later we studied the story of the Prodigal Son and Steve asked her if she thought the father might have cried for his son. She said: 'Maybe'.

 

When refugees come to Greece they are given a stipend from the UN that is 400 Euros for a family and 150 Euros for singles. Most of this goes for rent, but it is enough for them to survive, especially with the help of a number of organizations and churches like Omonia by way of supplying meals, clothing, diapers and formula. However, this funding is limited to two years. During that time the refugees are expected to appy for an ID card that identifies them as refugees and allows them to work and then apply for a passport that allows them to travel throughout the EU. But when they leave Greece with a passport they forfeit their right to financial support. Many have family who have already immigrated to other EU countries so they have a support system in place. Also countries like Germany have much greater opportunity for employment.

 

The Greek economy is not very strong and there are very few jobs so finding work is hard, but not impossible. For the first time we are seeing several of the refugees having jobs, working in restaurants and cafes, painting, etc. You can see that earning money and being able to stand on their own gives them more hope in their lives and puts more smiles on their faces.

 

We had a wonderful evening on Thursday as we were invited to Muktar and Fidan's home. They have four delightful children and we laughed a lot. None of them speak very much English but it was incredible how much information they could share with us (with a little help from Google translate). Muktar never went to school and doesn't read or write, but he is taking Greek classes here and he did most of the talking in broken, but mostly understandable and informative English. They are a Kurdish family from Afrin, Syria near Turkey. Muktar shared that his father was 'arrested' by the Turks and taken into Turkey and beaten and then Muktar's sister had to pay a ransom to get him back. Muktar's family is an integral part of the 'Arabic' christian community at Omonia. Their 11-year twins speak Kurdish, Arabic, Turkish, Greek and English(that's right 5 languages) in varying amounts. One of them served as Alex's translator at church a couple of weeks ago. Muktar is a cake chef, a very good one, and he often cooks meals that are served at the Omonia church. On Thursday, they served us a wonderful meal and kept us laughing with stories, like how they met and married. It certainly wasn't an arranged marriage, apparently neither father wanted them to get together!

 

The Kurdish people we know here ( we have been in four different homes) are among the most hospitable, friendly and loving people we have met. They have had a hard life. Muktar and Fidan have four living children, but four others died young. Fidan is one of ten (living) children. Seven others died, mostly when they were small. Kurds are minorities in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran and for the most part they are oppressed in all these countries, but when they talk about that oppression, they treat it like it is a fact of life. There never seems to be hatred and resentment in their language. It's hard to understand why they seem to be hated by so many. Please remember the Kurdish people in your prayers. They are fleeing for their lives and they are dying.

Our second week in Athens

Posted by gramma on October 13, 2019 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (1)

Our second week here was a good one. Val's group class, which meets from 11am-1pm, averaged about 11 or 12 students. Cindy has typically had three students who meet as a group from 11-1 where she uses the beginning Square One LST book and teaches English as well. These students are more advanced but still are probably not ready for one to one conversation. Steve has three who are using the Luke book and one who he is helping to learn to read. He is heading to Ireland soon so he is motivated. All Steve's readers meet one to one with him between 11am and 4pm with an hour off for lunch. Of the three who are reading from Luke, two are searching and one is a christian already. Two are Kurdish Syrians and one is Afghani. The latter is a 14-year-old young lady who has been studying with us since we were here a year ago.

 

The Omonia church is trying to focus more on discipleship now. On Monday evenings there is a Bible class for men. This week it was in English and Greek, those who attended were a Nigerian, an Egyptian (who speaks Greek), a Netherlander learning to be an airline pilot, me and Alex Melirrytos, who taught the class. Quite a mixture. On Tuesday evenings there is a ladies class. This is taught in English with an Arabic translator. The ladies who are on the Agape Project ministry team long term, Eleni, Laura and Diana are taking turns teaching. There were about a dozen ladies in attendance this week. On Saturday evening they are hoping to have an Arabic study for everyone and Rostom will lead that.

 

This past week has been a painful one for many here. Most of our students and readers are Kurdish and several are from Afrin, Syria. The encursion of Turkish troops into northern Syria has impacted some directly. Rostom, who works with the arabic speaking refugees (the Kurds are forced to learn Arabic rather than to use their native Kurdish tongue) shared a story about his wife, Suzan's sister, who still lives in Afrin, Syria, very close to the Turkish border. Because of her husband's difficulties with diabetes, basically untreated and ignored, Suzan's sister and family have not been able to flee Afrin. Within the last few days Kurdish fighters fleeing Turkish soldiers hid in their house. Turkish drones bombed the house next door and Suzan's sister called them in tears telling them that they expected to die at any minute and asking them to pray. Suzan's sister's family are not believers. Suzan spent a few minutes sharing their faith in Jesus and promising to pray. The Turkish troops came through Afrin and went all around them but never came to their house!

 

Rostom then told us that Suzan's sister's daughter asked her mother for a Bible. She wanted to read it. 'She said we are in the middle of Muslim territory in Syria with Turkish troops all around, where can we find a Bible. Suzan's father, her grand father, lives nearby and had collected lots of things over his life, filling his house. Well, his house was bombed and almost everything destroyed, only a few small things were saved and, you guessed it, among them was a Bible! She wanted to know where she should begin and Rostom said Luke would be a good place to start. She, and the rest of the family, are reading it. God moves in mysterious ways.

We are back in Athens

Posted by gramma on October 5, 2019 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (1)

We are back in Athens, Greece working with refugees at the Omonia Church. Again Cindy Robinson from Zambia (and Texas) has joined us as we teach English and read from the gospel of Luke. The church here has adjusted their focus a little from when we were last here in February and March. Rather than offering three English classes at different levels and bringing in a lot of people, this summer they focused on those who are seeking to follow Christ by offering discipleship classes for adults and an extensive children's ministry for their children.

 

This Fall the church is offering only one English class that Val is teaching Monday-Thursday 11am-1pm for those with very limited English. Cindy and I are taking those with higher English abilities and meeting with them one to one or in groups of 2 or 3 in one hour sessions during Val's class and in the afternoons. Val is also offering those in her class the opportunity to have one to one or small group English sessions in the afternoon and we are all meeting one to one (or in small groups) on Fridays. A few of the higher level students are able to read from Luke and have conversations about what we are reading, but several are still learning to read effectively in English. We were able to log more than 40 contact hours in individual or small group sessions this first week, not counting the ones in the class. It has been a blessing.

 

Last Sunday evening we attended English worhip services at the Glyfada church where we, along with Mark and Holly Melton did an LST project more than three years ago. During the service an Iranian we'll call 'Ali', who came to Greece about three years ago and became a christian, shared a great story: After getting his passport he travelled to Brussells hoping to be re-united with his wife and children through the EU's Reunification program. Unfortunately he was not able to re-unite with his family but God was able to use him in other ways.

 

While in Belgium, he and another Iranian became roommates. The other man shared his plan to claim to be a christian so that he could get refugee status. 'Ali' told him you can't just say your a christian, he will have to be interviewed for 5 or 6 hours to determine if you are truly a follower of Christ. So the other man asked 'Ali' to teach him what he needs to know to pass the interview. So he said they started from Genesis. The other man often laughed at what he was hearing but after THREE MONTHS of studying for the interview the other man became a believer for real. 'Ali' shared that even though his family reunification was not successful, he felt his time in Brussels was a big success.

Four weeks have slipped by

Posted by gramma on March 9, 2019 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (3)

Four weeks have slipped by. Although group English classes were not held this week, we were busy with individual reading sessions from Luke as well as one to one or up to three coming together for English practice sessions with some who are not yet able to carry on a conversation. It was a blessed week with good conversaions and considerable progress toward better English capabilities. In all we logged about 30 hours of reading from Luke and about 20 person-hours of English instruction.

 

Some of those in the Reading sessions from Luke are already followers of Jesus, but some are muslim, but all seemed to enjoy talking about Jesus and what he did and said. One young lady upon hearing that Jesus would ultimately die, asked, with eyes opened as wide as possible, 'but why? If God can do anything, why did Jesus have to die?' Just the kind of question we like to try to answer.

 

That same young lady was part of about 10-12 young refugees that also got to participate in group activities this week with a team of 13 juniors and seniors from Forth Worth Christian School here on a Youngfriends project, another outreach ministry of Let's Start Talking. Phillip and Aimee Woodward were instrumental in organizing and bringing these young people here. The Americans and refugees got to know each other, they had small group discussions on questions that Jesus asked, they played games and on Tuesday and Thursday they ate Falafels and pizza. The refugee young people enjoyed themselves a lot and everyone was blessed by the experience. Wednesday was free day to go to the Parthenon, so the group from Texas and most of the young refugees spent the afternoon together. They loved it. After the outreach activities, the YoungFriends team painted some of the rooms upstairs. Some of the paint made it to the walls, but a lot of it ended up on them!

 

Our last week was chocked full with activities, dinners in homes and restaurants. There was very little free time. Our last night we were invited to the home of Camo and Deman, from Iraq. They are muslim but consider the Omonia church community their 'family'. Whenever volunteers are about to return to their homes, during a Tuesday or Thursday devotional they are offered a glass of water because one of the early refugees said that whoever drinks 'Omonia water' will return. Usually Deman is the one to offer water to the Omonia volunteers. The dinner she and Camo served us at their home was fantastic. There were eighteen of us including adults and kids but there was enough delicious food for a small army. We all sat on the mats they sleep on, gathered in one large room.

 

We have been truly blessed to have been here the last four weeks. We have seen the power of community in breaking down walls that have been built over the centuries. Though many of us are left-brained and like to emphasize the search for truth, most people are looking for a place to belong. Even when they are 'home' some people don't feel like they belong. The refugees here have been ripped from their homelands by various circumstances: war, oppression, economic stress, etc. and they have lost their belonging place. To find a community where they are accepted and cared for (ie. loved) by people who don't know them well and don't even believe what they believe is a transforming experience for everyone. Seeing the smiles on peoples faces is amazing.


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