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Seven weeks in Athens are over

Posted by gramma on November 17, 2018 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

  Our four-week, turned seven-week project, is now over. What a blessing it has been. We, and especially Steve, have thoroughly enjoyed teaching English to these refugees. Most have fled war or oppression, some have been on the move for more than four years and most are separated from their extended families. Mama Eleni and the Omonia church offer them the opportunity to be a part of a family, to be loved and accepted regardless of their beliefs or their ethnicity, to be part of what we call 'church'. One only has to be in this community a few minutes to see the smiles and hear the laughter to recognize that Omonia has become 'home' for many.

 

  For those of you who are interested in the demographics of this family, we have included in the picture album some statistics for 2018 thus far. It is obvious that many meals have been served and a lot of clothes have been distributed. But we don't want this ministry to be thought of as a place to receive a handout, rather a family that loves each other, protects one another and helps each other. The refugees that come here not only receive but they also give. This is best illustrated by what we refer to as the 'wee' family (so named by Laura, long term volunteer from Scotland, because of their small stature). When they first began to come to Omonia, they were very stand-offish and were not interested in becoming part of this community, God has changed all that. Now they are really the heart and soul of the growing christian refugee group. They generally arrive before any of the other volunteers, patiently waiting till someone with a key arrives. They are three generations. Grandma and daughter, who has a 10 month old and is six months pregnant, help with the cooking and serving on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, grandpa sees that tables and chairs are set up, the two sons help with clean-up, and all three of these adult children are in English classes. Refugees do virtually all the cooking and cleaning up in the kitchen for the Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday meals.

 

  While Mark and Sherrylee were here, we all worked on developing an 18-week curriculum consistent with European standards. The hope is that this will make it easier to manage the many volunteer teachers who come for various periods of time. A standardized curriculum with clear goals for each week of instruction will help provide more consistency in the abilities of students in a given class. The new curriculum and the assessment test that was also developed will be implemented in the new year. We want them to succeed in their efforts and having a curriculum that all will follow will help that happen and for them to progress through the various levels.

 

  We are now in Hamburg, Germany and will return to Santa Barbara in early December. Thank you for all your prayers and support. It was a blessed time for us. Please keep the millions of refugees spread all over the world in your prayers.

Our sixth week has come to a close

Posted by gramma on November 11, 2018 at 6:45 AM Comments comments (0)

  Our sixth week here in Athens has come to a close. The second week of this teaching term is history. Our students continue to make progress. English teaching happens throughout the year using a wide variety of volunteer teachers who come for different periods of time. The two of us are highly unusual in that we will have taught the same classes for six straight weeks of instruction. More commonly, a teacher might only teach two or three weeks. Therefore, it is easy for some topics and capabilities to 'fall between the cracks.' Consequently, Mark and Sherrylee and the two of us are trying to develop a 12-week curriculum with consistent goals for each week and to find tests that we can use to assess goals achievement of the students along the way. This will allow more quantitative criteria to place students in the 12-week curriculum. We better hurry up in our spare time and get this done. We only have 4 days! Mark and Sherry have to leave on Thursday.

 

  Sadly, Friday was our last day of one to one conversation sessions. We will miss these times when we can get to know our students better. We have gotten to see their reading abilities increase markedly, but also we have gotten to introduce them to Jesus and His teachings. One of Steve's readers was a police officer in Mosul, Iraq before ISIS invaded and he and his family were forced to flee to a Kurdish area in Iraq, where they spent over two years before a failed attempt to immigrate to Germany. Eventually, as with most of the refugees, they trekked across the border to Turkey and then made their way to the west coast and into a boat to one of the Greek islands and on to Athens. He has had a hard life; he has lost a stillborn child and two brothers.

 

Our schedule might be of interest. We generally leave our Airbnb that all four of us share shortly after 9 am. We walk about 17 min to the closest Metro station and we ride it a total of three stations but we must change lines in the middle. From the Omonia Metro station we walk about 8 minutes to the Omonia church. We usually arrive about 9:45 so we can have a few minutes to prepare our classrooms and run off handouts on the printer. At 10 am we have prayer time, led by Ana, one of the long-term volunteers. At 10:30 we have an organizational meeting to match volunteers to tasks, etc. Classes begin at 11:30, with a break for tea and cookies at 12:30. We come back at 12:45, that's the goal anyway and then between 1:20-1:30 we meet downstairs in the church auditorium for a devotional before eating a meal at 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. After classes or the the meal we clean up our classrooms, sweep and mop and often stay a while to prepare for the next day's classes. We then head home, ususally pretty well spent.


  The Omonia church is named after the part of the city where it is found. We recently learned that Omonia means 'harmony', many voices as one. If you come to a Sunday morning worship service, you will hear many voices. Alex usually preaches in Greek in short segments, alternating with Joseph, an Egyptian-Greek who translates into Arabic. English and Farsi translation is heard through two sets of headphones while Joseph is speaking. Also one of the ladies provides Russian translation for Eastern European, Ukranians and Russians who might be present. It's a regular Pentacost experience.

 

This week is our last week here. Please keep us in your prayers as our time here comes to an end.

 

We have been in Athens five weeks

Posted by gramma on November 4, 2018 at 8:30 AM Comments comments (0)

  We have been here five weeks now and we had another fantastic week. It was the first week of our second teaching term. Some of the A0 students from the first term were passed on to A1 and some from A1 to A2 and some new people were added to A0 so every class had new students along with continuing students. All the classes are a little larger now. We are able to see progress in our students but only meeting four days a week for about an hour and a half, the advance is not mercurial by any means. Most of our A2 students are still 'beginners'.

 

Thursday we were blessed to hear wonderful testimonies from three individuals with very different backgrounds all demonstrating the power of God. When Steve was here in March, there was a young teenage girl of Bulgarian descent here at Omonia, who could have been described as demon-possessed. She had been lured to the UK by a 'christian' group only to be caught up in human-trafficking. When she came to Omonia she was totally traumatized, basically catatonic, not speaking, having to be fed and she would spontaneously run into traffic and once tried to jump over the railing of the patio at Omonia. With fervent prayer of many, especially a family from Hong Kong who frequently volunteer here, God brought her back. Thursday, without any prompting she came to mama Eleni and asked if she could tell her story during the devotional before our meal. She shared (in excellent English) how God had overcome the darkness in which she lived, how His Word had brought hope to her, how prayer had changed her life.

 

A while later on Thursday in a volunteers meeting, Rostom related his story of how he came to be a christian serving at Omonia. Growing up in Kurdistan (in Syria) he believed in one God but not the one the Muslims call Allah even though he was muslim. On more than one occasion he tried going to Syrian Orthodox churches, but when they learned his muslim name they told him he was not welcome. Eventually he found a christian community that welcomed him and his family, then the war came to Syria and they, as most of the refugees do, made there way to Greece by boat. He said that only one of the three boats that were in their group made it to Greece, one sank and one disappeared. He wanted to go to Luxembourg at first but that door kept closing and finally they decided to go to the UK. They were supposed to get their passports on a Friday and he bought plane tickets to leave immediately afterward, but the passport office delayed the passports until Sunday and his wife, who was pregnant with their fourth child and due to deliver in ten days delivered their third son that Friday night. Rostom said, 'I guess God was saying: stay here, so here we are.' Rostom and his family are strong leaders among the Arabic (and Kurdish) christians here at Omonia.

 

Finally, immediately after Rostom told his story a visiting Egyptian-American who had recently dedicated his life to serving God full-time, testified about his journey. He grew up in the Coptic christian community in Egypt. They were often persecuted by the muslims. He said that when he decided that he would serve God full-time, serving muslims was the last thing that he expected to do. But after being at Omonia a few times, seeing how so many muslims respond to being included in a 'family' that just tries to love everyone no matter who they are and what they believe, his heart was changed and now he serves full-time working with muslims in Egypt.

 

This last week and next week we have a team of christians from South Africa here helping with all the various ministries. It has been great to get to know them. Also on Thursday we had two groups from Singapore, totalling 28 people visit, and they all rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to help out so it was crowded but it was nice to have the help. Mark and Sherrylee Woodward arrived Thursday evening and the four of us were able to read one to one from Luke with 11 different A2 students. Sherrylee will teach the A1 class for the next two weeks and other activities are in the planning. Keep us all in your prayers.

Our fourth week in Athens

Posted by gramma on October 28, 2018 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

  Our fourth week is the so-called 'Coffee week' at Omonia. Everything was closed down or at least it was supposed to be. The two of us worked 'upstairs' all week, having one to one conversations using the gospel of Luke with six or seven of the students from Steve's A2 class. The Omonia church occupies two floors of an office building, the lower floor(on the third floor of the building the way Americans count floors) is where the church meets, where the kitchen is and where there is space for people to eat. The floor above is rented to provide space for English classes, the 'clothes closet', a tearoom and space for an immigration attorney to meet with refugees. Upstairs at least, there was a pretty steady stream of people in spite of being closed! The bell rang often, a little too often sometimes. People came with all kinds of inquiries: could they register for classes, was there a meal, were diapers being handed out. Someone else delt with some of these but often we had to just tell them the best we could it was closed this week and best to come back. So I hope next Monday won't be a crazy day with many new people. It will be the first day of classes which is its own busy!

 

We were able to read a total of 37 hours in one to one sessions this week. We can have reasonably good conversations but even the best of our students are in the beginner-intermediate range in their abilities. Steve also met every day with two A1 students who will be in his A2 class. He introduced them to the material he had covered the last three weeks so they could catch up a little bit. In Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan there is little opportunity nor encouragement to study English so most of the refugees come here having almost no English and six hours per week of classes do not bring them along very quickly. This means that the depth of our conversations is limited, but we can still share some of ourselves and Jesus. Our time has been good and our readers have been coming every day with almost no misses, only for doctor's appointments, appointments regarding their papers or asylum and the like. It has been great to see the improvement in their confidence and their ability to communicate.

 

On Tuesday evening we were invited to the home of Rostom to celebrate one of his four children's birthday. They are a wonderful family who love the Lord and are bullwarks of the ministry to Arabic-speaking refugees. They are christians from the Kurdish part of Syria. We were treated to a typical Syrian Kurdish meal every bit of which was absolutely delicious and there was enough for a small army. It was a delightful evening with lots of laughter, it did our hearts good to see the huge smiles on their faces, as they have found a new life away from the strife in their homeland. Rostom's daughter, who is 14, was baptised recently at her own insistence. Steve has a reader who is a 13 year-old Afghani-Iranian girl who isn't in school. She shared that she has no friends here so we are trying to get her together with Rostom's daughter. One speaks Farsi, the other Arabic but they both are studying English so hopefully that will allow them to grow a friendship that will draw both closer to the Lord.

 

We've been working five days a week and coming to two worship services on Sunday, with Steve preaching at the evening English service, so we took today off and rode the ferry to Hydra, one of the islands. It is also the only island where no cars are allowed, and there are also no bicycles. That is probably because of all the stairs. They walk everywhere and this is not a flat island. They use donkeys for delivering all of their supplies that arrive by way of ferry or other boats. That means everything you need to run a household, shop, school, restaurant is brought to you on the back of a donkey. We hiked up a very long hill, through the neighborhoods, up the cobblestone steps, down the paths to only find we turned left when we should have gone right. But, after climbing one peak, we saw where we should have been and went down across and back up. What a view. It left Steve breathless.

 

Regarding the pictures we post: please do not post them on any kind of social media, especially those of children. If we have permission from those in the photo, we will make a note of it that you can use them.

The End of Our Third Week

Posted by gramma on October 20, 2018 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

  Our plan had been to be here in Athens until October 31 and then move on to do a two-week Let's Start Talking project at Books and More library in Amman, Jordan, but that has changed. Apparently they have 'a local man who is determined to disrupt the goings on of the library.' He has been contacting library members and accusing the library of having a hidden religious agenda and making things very tense there. LST does not want to put the library in jeopardy so the project has been postponed indefinitely. Consequently it has been decided that the McLeans will remain here in Athens for an additional two or three weeks and Mark and Sherrylee Woodward, former directors of LST, will join us in serving the refugees here at Omonia until mid-November. Please remember the Books and More library and its staff in your prayers, that they may continue to provide 'a place where light and encouragement can come to many people.'

 

We have finished our third and final week of the current teaching term. Cindy will attend a retreat for single women missionaries next week before returning to the US and we will read one to one with most of our upper level (A2) students during a one week break from group classes. They seem to be excited to have the opportunity to meet every day to practice their conversational English. All those who have come so far for conversation sessions on Saturday are muslim and at the start of this teaching term most did not join us for the Tuesday-Thursday devotionals, which Mama Eleni usually leads, followed by a nourishing meal. But as the three weeks went by more and more stayed for the devo and meal. Also Steve has been sharing some of the more well-known scriptures (e.g. the greatest commands, the golden rule, the Lord's prayer) at the start of class for reading, pronunciation and vocabulary practice. Initially the response was somewhat tepid but now some are writing the scriptures down.

 

While many services are provided here, those who work in the ministry to the refugees at the Omonia church don't want this to be considered just a good place to get something like food, clothes, legal advice, etc. They strive to make those who come feel a part of a family, one that not only receives but gives as well. Some help with cooking, some with serving, and many just come to hang out, spending 4 or 5 hours at the church or upstairs where the English classes are held. Services are not provided to just anyone who comes to the door, usually new people are invited in by those who already belong to the family. Most have huge smiles on ther faces while they are here.

 

The refugees who come to the shores of Greece are overwhelmingly muslim so the love that is shown to them and the structure that is provided has a life-changing impact on many. On Saturday evenings there is an Arabic bible study, led by Rostom, a strong christian who speaks several languages including English and Arabic, and Jackson, a young American long-term volunteer who is studying Greek and Arabic. So far they have met in one of the classrooms upstairs but last Saturday there were 31 adults crammed into the classrrom that should only hold about 15 and more than 25 children who were cared for by Cindy and two other long-term volunteers in other rooms. This week the adults will probably meet downstairs! A nice problem to have.

 

Our second week in Athens

Posted by gramma on October 13, 2018 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Our second week of teaching went very well. It is a joy to be able to touch the lives of those who have gotten the 'short end of the stick' in so many ways. Eleni sent us this link: https://vimeo.com/185717440?ref=fb-share&1 this week about a Greek Coast Guardsman who had had a hand in rescuing over 5000 refugees from the waters between Greece and Turkey. He has now passed away (at the age of only 44) and we wonder if it wasn't from a broken heart. We urge you to watch this documentary if you have time. It certainly exposes the desperation of those fleeing inhumane conditions in their homelands and their hope for something better.

 

Several of those who pre-registered for our classes never attended so people on the waiting list were contacted and all of us had some new students come this week. Both Val and and Cindy regularly have more than 15 in their classes. Steve has a very steady attendance of about 6-8 in his A2 class. They are mostly men, but he does have a young lady who is only about 13. She, along with a few others in his class do not know exactly when they were born! Interesting.

 

The ministry of the Omonia church to refugees is called the Agape project, seeking to reflect the love of Christ to refugees. Consequently we have relatively little interaction with Greeks. However, on Friday we were blessed to spend most of the day with our landlord and landlady of the Airbnb where we are staying. Actually, Alice is an Egyptian-Greek but she has been here for about 50 years. We had a delightful day with them as they drove us around the south end peninsula Athens is on, visiting the temple of Poseidon and ending up at their home for a wonderful Greek lunch. They have such a great sense of humor and also hearts for those who are in need.

 

On Saturday, we had five refugees come to read one to one and thay stayed for a total of eight hours evenly divided between the two of us. We were able to learn more of their stories, about what brought them to Athens, ISIS, desire for better education. One is a former Iraqi policeman who lived in Mosul before ISIS overran it.  The 13-year old girl was born in Afghanistan but moved to Iran; she said she came here to learn English.

We are back in Athens to teach English to refugees.

Posted by gramma on October 6, 2018 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (1)

We have been in Athens, Greece for a week now and God has blessed our time. We arrived Sunday evening and began teaching the next morning with no problem, a lttle jet lagged but not bad. There had been no English classes and no meals served in over a month because Operation Mobilization, who supplies many volunteers for the Omonia church refugee ministry, took a break for the month of September. Consequently numbers are down some but those refugees who come are the ones who appreciate the sense of family that this ministry seeks to create.

 

Val is teaching the A0 class for people who basically know no English. Some can not write in any language. Val has a 19 year old that has been having great difficulty learning the alphabet, etc. This is not her first time taking the class. Some of the workers here were concerned or sure she must have a learning disability. I used a translator and asked her if she would like to come on Saturday so we could work one on one to help her catch up. I had the translator ask her about her schooling...she has had only one year. I think that answers our question about her difficulty learning. We will continue to start from scratch, be patient and encourage. It is a challenge but the students are very grateful to have the opportunity to learn. Val has about 11 students, mostly Kurds from Syria.

 

Cindy, our teammate from Abilene, TX by way of Zambia, teaches A1. She has taught ESL for over 30 years so this is old hat for her. She also has about 11 students. Steve is teaching the A2 group. These are students who are what we would consider beginner to intermediate. He has about 8 students, from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Morocco. Some speak Kurdish, some speak Arabic and some speak Farsi. Several students, for one reason or another, did not come the first week. So, as is the practice here, they will be dropped and we will have several more join our classes this Monday who are on the wait-list.

 

Saturday we held one to one conversation sessions with a few of the students from Steve's class; two of them stayed for nearly three hours. One who is a former Iraqi police officer shared that he had lost two brothers to the conflict with ISIS. Our readers seemed to enjoy the face to face English practice opportunity. Their levels of English vary but we were able to have good conversations. We hope that more will come next week.

The three week teaching session is over

Posted by gramma on April 8, 2018 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Wow, three weeks went very fast, but it has been a blessing in many ways. It has been humbling to see how much is done for so many as this church, and the many people who volunteer, seek to be followers of Christ. Eleni told us the other day that someone had estimated that in the last two and a half years over 1000 refugees had been touched by the ministry and around 600 volunteers from all over the world have given of their time to this work. Every Tuesday and Thursday, when lunch is served, it is rather hectic and opportunity for disaster is always there but volunteers and refugees alike step in when there is a need. Everyone looks after the myriad of kids that are everywhere, keeping them safe and in check.

 

To give you a taste of what some of these refugees have to go through, here is more of 'Mohammad's story. When he and his wife and son came to Greece 5 months ago, they walked from Iraq, all the way. This is his second attempt at asylum in Europe. In 2008, when he was still single, he left Iraq for Europe the first time. He flew from Iraq to Turkey to Jordan to Dubai to Tunisia to Libya to the Seychelles (Islands in the Mediterranean) to Dubai to South Africa to France. This all took 3 months. He stayed for a while in France but from there he travelled through northern Europe and ended up in Sweden. He sought asylum in Sweden for four years then they denied him and deported him back to Iraq! Back to square one.

On Thursday he shared that he is running out of patience. That's easy to understand. He and Steve prayed together that God would work in their lives and that he and his family be given patience to wait for God's timing. Keep them in your prayers.

 

'Mohammad' and his family live in what is called a 'squat'. Yes, it means what is sounds like. They live in one of several buildings that has been abandoned. They are squatting. Apparently it is more civilized than you might imagine. These buildings have been taken over by what Eleni described as 'anarchist' groups that are serving refugees outside government channels. 'Mohammad' showed me pictures and they looked clean and well-maintained. There were bulletin boards with neatly posted announcements, etc. Steve didn't get to visit a squat but last week he and a number of volunteers were able to visit briefly at a camp with 800 refugees about an hour and a half north of Athens. We were not aloud to take pictures except at the entrance, so a couple are included in the photo gallery. All in all it was not too bad, much of the camp was brand new, still a lot of people in a very small place and far from any town.

 

One theme that is emphasized over and over at Omonia is that 'We are a family; we are all on the same journey, Muslim and Christian.' Consequently everyone there, refugee and volunteers alike, has a sense of ownership in the ministry. As an example, a couple of young refugees were delighted to take some flowers that Eleni brought and create 'the Omonia garden' on the patio. And speaking of family, at least 3 of the refugee families have little daughters named Eleni and 3 more have little sons named Alex.

 

The progress of the students in Steve's class has been varied. Some have made great progress. Some are able to say a number of sentences about themselves with ease and answer questions about themselves. For others progress has been more difficult. At a gathering of refugees before worship last Sunday one of Steve's students shared(through an interpreter) that she does not read or write in ANY language. She may not be the only one in class either. Virtually all materials produced for teaching English as a second language are based on being able to read English. Consequently, Steve spent the last week of classes spending time teaching how to sound out words. Our classroom was often too small for the number of people who came(smaller kids and younger brothers were commonly there), it was usually hot even with paper blocking the sun somewhat, but everyone seemed to learn and enjoy the experience.

 

We are looking forward to returning to Athens in September to work in this remarkable ministry that only functions by the grace of God.

Steve's second week

Posted by gramma on April 1, 2018 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Another week has gone by and this three-week teaching session is already two/thirds finished. Steve's students are making progress but fluency is not yet in sight. When your students start with essentially no English, it is a challenge when you are teaching IN English. So we are trying to focus on words and concepts that they might need in their daily lives; simple greetings, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, simple sentences using 'to be', vocabulary using pictures, etc. It is amazing how much they can understand between body language and pictures, its remembering that is tough. Repitition, repitition, repitition.

There are about 14 in Steve's class, from Syria, Iran, Kurdistan in Iraq, and Kuwait. They range in age from 11 to 43. They are equally divided between men and women, though most of the 'men' are boys and most of the women are over 25. Not surprisingly, the kids are picking English up more quickly.

This week Steve was again not able to read very much with the two Iraqis, let's call them 'Ahmed' and 'Mohammad', but here is a bit of their history. 'Ahmed' is from Baghdad and his father is a 'police engineer'. If I understood correctly, he operates a mobil unit that can scan the insides of vehicles from outside. Because of 'Ahmed''s father's work with the police, his family is not popular with terrorists. Consequently 'Ahmeds''s brother is a quadriplegic from shrapnel from a bomb blast, his sister has lost the sight in both eyes and another younger brother is blind in one eye. We are so blessed to have not had to experience such carnage.

'Mohammad' is from Kurdistan in Iraq and he fought with the Peshmerga, the US-supported Kurdish militia that Turkey has been bombing. He shared with me that he has been around war virtually all his 37 years of life. First Iraq was at war with Iran, then Iraq invaded Quwait, then the US invaded Iraq, then Hussein attacked the Kurds, then the US invaded again, then Daesh (ISIS). He said he doesn't want his 4-year old son to experience what he experienced, but even here last week 'Mohammad' was beaten by a couple of other refugees.

 

Every Tuesday and Thursday lunch is served to about 100 people at the Omonia church. But for most of the refugees, it is not just about food, Eleni is 'Mama' Eleni. For the last 10 days she has been on 'Cloud 9' because one of her refugee 'sons', Husam, one of the first to come to Omonia, but who later immigrated to Lithuania, came 'home' to Athens for a 10-day visit. Husam is a barber and has opened a barbershop in Vilnius with a partner and he is doing quite well. Because of his experience with the Omonia church, he didn't just want to visit, he wanted to give back a little, so be bought an old barber chair and spent most of his 10 days teaching young refugee men how to cut hair and give shaves! Omonia is a full service ministry! Husam is Muslim, but Eleni thinks that Jesus has gotten hold of him. It is encouraging for everyone here to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that a new life away from the wars is possible.

Keep us all in your prayers and have a blessed Easter; Easter here is next Sunday.

Steve's first week in Athens, Greece

Posted by gramma on March 25, 2018 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (0)

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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