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Trips

Greece Winter 2012

Athens, Greece January 5-14, 2012

Over 80% of the immigrants in Europe have come through Greece! You will primarily be working with Muslim background believers who have very little training, teaching the Attributes of God. These new Christians are primarily from the Middle-East and Africa. The team will also have a chance to work with the leading evangelical church in Greece to promote unity and cooperation among the Greek and Ethnic churches.

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Field Notes   Greece Winter 2012

Jan  13th,  2012Athens update by Nate Winters

All 8 TLI team members feel as though we’ve done a year’s worth of ministry in less than a week.   To say we have been stretched is understating: we have been travelling through multiple ethnic groups, teaching pastors and church leaders 4 hours per night, through multiple translators, presenting to people who are invariably well-read in Scripture.   These people want deep truth from God’s Word.   Yes, they are interested in deeper theology and sometimes there has been an expectation that we endorse a particular church tradition, but more than this they desire to know God more deeply –and there is a difference between these things.   Every group we have met with: African, Romanian, Albanian, Persian, Arabic, Afghan, etc. sees the difference between the “academic” wherein mental assent can be given to theological and philosophical ideas, versus the “spiritual” (for lack of better word) wherein the Truth of God’s Word changes hearts, makes us more like Jesus Christ, and enables our drive to share Him with all peoples.   These people do not simply want “The Attributes of God” -they want GOD!   And they “get” the difference.

 

On Monday night, talking about the strength of God in Isaiah 40, one African Pastor from Nigeria asked, “Where is God’s strength when my family is being charged by Muslim men with machetes?”   We spoke of God’s strength always present on the brink of possible martyrdom, whether God spares us (Daniel 3) or brings us home (Acts 7).  On Tuesday night a Romanian Pastor asked about the “control” Jesus had over the Pharisees (Luke 7:30) and we were able to discuss the foreordination of God in Acts 4:28, etc.   On Wednesday night an Albanian Pastor needed to talk through issues of “Eternal Security” and we took an hour to wade through appropriate passages –he rejoiced most earnestly in Paul’s confident attitude in Romans 8:38-39!   And last night a Pastor from Iran, who intends to return to Iran next month, expressed great sorrow in his lack of encouragement from others, even brothers and sisters from America in some instances, who had denied the miracles he had seen God perform in his home country as he sought to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ there.   We spent time in 1 Corinthians 12 and all these men at the table rejoiced to see that God gives gifts to each of His children for the building up of the Church. This man is returning to Iran knowing that he will probably be jailed and might be killed for his faith in Christ. It is so humbling –terrifyingly so- to be among these people.

 

A few more brief notes: the team was in Corinth yesterday visiting the excavation.   Among other things we saw a “shop” –about 6 feet by 10 feet, which would have been (and could have been) the very shop Priscilla & Aquila sold their goods out of.   But the city-site was massive, maybe a hundred acres worth (West Shore EFC property size J) and there was so much –I was amazed by the size of the “bema seat” judgment, where the people of the city would report for matters of justice.   And the “acropolis” of Corinth –up on the mountain, had a view that stretched to snowcapped mountains at least a hundred miles away, with Ionian and Aegean seas to the west and east respectively.   I have rarely, if ever, seen a more majestic view of God’s creation in my life, and if you know me and where I have been in the world, that is saying something.

 

I need to finish.   It is our last day.   We go to the Parliament building (where a riot is actually scheduled to occur Sunday) and then to the market to shop.)   Athens is massive with approx. 5 million people; but the people of the world, and especially ravaged countries, are here.   Continue to pray for them and for us and, Lord-willing, we will see you Saturday (and Sunday morning) with much more to share.

 

Love,

 

Nate

 

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Jan  12th,  2012Teaching in Athens

We were prepared to be flexible during our time on this trip, and there’s no doubt that it has demanded our flexibility, but not in the ways that most of us expected. Our team has lead teaching sessions this week with the Albanians, Romanians, Farsi speakers, Arabic speakers, and English speaking Africans. We’ve experience wonderful fellowship with these believers. Seeing the body of Christ in this part of the world has truly blessed us all. We have encountered some varying expectations among the different language groups. Some want more lecture-based, almost collegiate level style of teaching, while others are content to look at God’s character and discuss passages that shed light on our God’s various Attributes. I’ve found communicating the depth of the content to be difficult to do through a translator at times. We’ve tried to accommodate as much as we are able, which in some cases has meant a considerable amount of ‘prep’ time from our team. However, God has been faithful and provided some rich discussion with these blessed believers in Athens.

I’ve been humbled by the stories they’ve told and the kind of hardships they’ve faced in their lives. There’s men here who’ve lived through persecution and traumatic events that read like a novel. But it’s real-life to them. They have counted the cost for their faith in Christ and pressed on. In many ways, teaching these types of men seems backwards. I find myself wanting to sit at their feet, hear their stories, and learn from how they’ve seen the Lord provide throughout their hardships.

The team also had the chance to visit the Acropolis yesterday which was a cool experience. We stood on Mars Hill, where Paul famously preached in Acts 17. It’s powerful to think that we’re in a places where the early church was taking roots. 

 

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Jan  9th,  2012A post from Nate

Yesterday I had the blessed opportunity to preach in two churches, the second of which was in downtown Athens (Greece).   There were approx. 150 people in attendance and less than 20 of them were Caucasian: Sudan, Syria, The Philippines, Somalia, Indonesia, Nigeria…so many countries were heavily represented.   One man stood and introduced his two guests as fresh from Afghanistan.   Heaven does already and will someday consist of such a gathering.

 

I preached on Job 42:5 wherein Job says to God, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”   I explained that our team was in Athens to teach the attributes of God to bi-vocational pastors in ethnic neighborhoods in and around Athens, not only to those who understand English, but to Arabic, Farsi, Romanian, and Albanian peoples as well.   As Job walked through Satan’s (God sanctioned) trials he comes to some conclusions that he finally shares in 42:2-6: God is sovereign; God works in “wonderful” ways; we need to listen to God and not just question; repentance is a good idea when presented with a bigger, clearer view of God!  

 

Also, yesterday, our team spent the early evening worshipping with approx. 40 Iranian Believers –how humbling it was!   We heard stories from those who had been persecuted for their faith in while in Iran, testimonies from those who desire to perhaps plant a church among their people, and from at least one man who intends to return to Iran to spread the good news about Jesus Christ there.   In Iran Christians can legally receive the death penalty for expressing their faith.

 

To worship with these people is unforgettable: we do not understand their language, hence lyrics, and the music is so strange to our ears.   In Bosnia last May, while worshipping with Serbian Believers there, I would describe their style as “Beauty & the Beast” like; now, among people who insist they are “Persian” (not Arabic!), I would describe their style as “Aladdin”.   Your kids or grandkids can help explain the differences J   

 

The food is great –plenty of gyros!   Interestingly, while our team expected to eat lots of lamb, the Greek gyros are inevitably pork or chicken, scrumptious regardless.   From our hotel, where we are living in the Presidential Suite on the seventh floor, we have an awesome view to the west over the city of Athens, which is surrounded, for the most part, by mountains.   We see the water -just barely- to the south.   Unlike American cities, inevitably grey, Athens is cement-colored, making it more white –brighter- which is relatively more cheery.   The alleys are tight; people double-park here also!   And pedestrians do NOT have the right-of-way here, so we must be careful of cars and motorcycles.   We have been past the parliament building (where the riots have occurred and have plans to visit Mars Hill as well as Corinth later in the week.  

 

Last night our Albanian team taught its first session, 16 people in the room.   And here is something for all to pray for: the difference in translations between English versions and the other versions of other languages in the world.   We are so blessed to have the level of scholarship poured into our English versions –American & British Isles- that we do!   But sometimes the nuances of other languages or translations may not be in sync with the original languages of Hebrew and Greek the way that English versions have (hopefully) been.   Please don’t take this as provincialism.   We are so blessed to have the NIV, NASB, NEB, ESV…and so blessed to have had the King James Version in 1611!   It is humbling to ponder.

 

Well, I should wrap up for now.   All teaching teams will engage their groups tonight at 6:00 p.m. local time, teaching for four hours straight tonight and every night this week.   We have approx. 70 pastors from approx. 15 countries, mostly countries where Christianity is severely oppressed.   At church services yesterday, as 4 team members preached at 5 separate churches, congregant leaders from all churches were invited to attend the week’s sessions each night.   Men and women, pastors and leaders, will now attend.   One young woman from Indonesia asked me after church yesterday if she could attend the “English speaking” session tonight and was encouraged to do so; she was part of the worship team at the International Church just up the road from our hotel (The Oscar Hotel).   So, it’ll be a mixed but expectant crowd.

 

It is 5:00 a.m. EST in the States, noon here.   Have a good day, everyone; we’ll write again soon.  

 

For Christ, and on behalf of the team (Craig Skurcenski, Ben LeClair, Kyle Stuckey from PA; Jens Paulson from MN; Josh Hutchens from KY; Tom Diecks and Dave Winters from IN)

 

Nate Winters (from PA J)

 

 

 

 

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Jan  8th,  2012Arrived in Athens, Preaching on Sunday

After about a day and a half of traveling, our team of 8 guys from the states arrived in Athens on time and with all our bags. We were met at the airport by Ryan, who will be our main point of contact for the week and does humanitarian aid work in Athens including running a refugee center. Over some amazing gyros, Ryan gave us further details about the groups of men that we’ll be meeting with. He also briefed Nate, Josh, and Dave on the 3 churches where they will be preaching on Sunday. Nate Winters will be preaching two services at Saint Andrews Church which is an English speaking congregation that will be a large mix of African, Pilipino, Greeks, and other nationalities. Josh Hutchens will be preaching at Athens Bible Baptist’s Greek service, and Dave Winters will be preaching the following Arabic service at the same church. Additionally, Tom Diecks will be at a Farsi-speaking service held at the refugee center and will share briefly about his story and also what our team is doing this week. The rest of us will split up and attend these various services.

For now, we’re all anxious to get some sleep and work off the jet-lag, but it’s good to be here and we’re excited for what God has in store for the week ahead. Thank you for your prayers and support. 

 

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Jan  6th,  2012Traveling

The team is off!

They stayed in MN for a day to meet with Darren and Philemon and then boarded their planes for Athens.  They land tomorrow at 8:00am (CST).  Pray that they can sleep.  Many of them have been asked to preach on Sunday.

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