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Trips

Greece Spring 2012

Athens, Greece June 6-18, 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 Biblical Theology class from TLI curriculum. The team will also have a change 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 Spring 2012

Jun  17th,  2012Ongoing ministry and praying for elections

This morning most of the TLI team returned home after a significant and rewarding trip.  We have stayed behind to build further relationship with the Greek evangelical churches in the city.  There are about seventy migrant churches with a total of about 25,000 believers.  There are about 15,000 believers in the Greek Evangelical and Pentecostal churches.  There is one Bible college and seminary in the entire country.  These Christians are also an important piece of God’s work in Greece.  I visited a church plant in Glyfada in the southern part of Athens.  There were about sixty people gathered and the church has doubled in recent years.  The First Greek Evangelical Church is also planting another church in Exarcheia near the Polytechnic University.  This is where most of the anarchists live.  A generation ago this area housed jewelry shops and upscale shopping.  Today is filled with graffiti and has become a dangerous neighborhood.  Yet, God is working here as well. 

I was honored to preach today at the First Greek Evangelical Church on such an important day for Greece.  I preached from Ephesians 3 about God’s eternal purpose to display His wisdom in the life of the local church.  It was a moving day.  The election results are coming in as I write now.  It appears that the Greek people have voted to remain in the Euro zone.  Their next task will be to build a government.  Our task ahead will be continued ministry with local church leaders and missionaries.  I have had three more preaching invitations for the days ahead.  May the Lord continue to make a name for Himself in this historic land.  May He grant traveling mercies for our team members returning to their home ministries.    

 

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Jun  16th,  2012A Scenic Review

This morning we met with Ryan to debrief and unpack what we have experienced over the past several days.  He is a dedicated servant here in the city who is helping to connect the Migrant churches with humanitarian aid and to strengthen church leaders with theological education.  He has already become a treasured friend in Christ.  There remains a tremendous ongoing need.  They are already anticipating further teams to help support all that the Lord is doing here.  As I look across the room at our team, I am thankful to God for the attitude, willingness, humility, and dedication to teaching the Word of God that I have seen.  The Lord has brought us together for this specific task.  Each member has played a vital role.  Each of us has been impacted by those we have met and what we have seen.  Each of us has felt challenged to apply what we have experienced to our own ministry contexts.  We are profoundly grateful to have been sent here by our churches, our families, and our friends.

We decompressed and absorbed what we have experienced with a scenic drive, Greek style.  We traveled to ancient Corinth and wandered around the Roman city where Paul planted churches, developed leaders, and wrote the letter to the Romans.  We stood at the Bema (platform) where Paul addressed the city almost 2,000 years ago.  We found the inscription of Erastus, the city treasurer (Rom 16:23) who had come to believe through Paul’s ministry here.  His name is inscribed at the front of a large public walkway that he had paid for at his own expense.  It is still there where the stone was first set and can be clearly seen today.  We continued twenty minutes south and back one thousand years to the site of ancient Mycenae, the city of Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek side in the Trojan War.  This city took us to the time of the Judges and we saw some tombs that were carved at the time of the Exodus.  There were perfect acoustics inside the vaulted tomb.  We gathered in a circle and sang “Be Thou My Vision” and the “Doxology” in praise to our God.

After returning to Athens, we walked back up to the summit of Mars Hill in the shadow of the Acropolis and Parthenon.  We read Acts 17 again and it made even more sense than before.  “God does not live in temples built by human hands…”  He is the living God who carries out His purposes in this world through living people -- a pastor from Ghana, a Romanian construction worker, a Greek pastor, an Indonesian worship leader, a Farsi believer, a Pakistani doctor, an Albanian pastor, a team of teachers --  all living by faith in Him.

 

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Jun  15th,  2012We already miss you

Tonight we concluded our course in biblical theology focusing on the New Testament letters and how we live our part of God’s redemptive purpose.  It was a bittersweet evening.  It was moving to pass out certificates of attendance.  As we called each person forward, the entire class applauded them.  We ended our time with heartfelt prayer for one another.  One of the African leaders came forward to lead us in worship.  We sang “Salvation Belongs to our God” with a syncopated rhythm and rising cadence of praise.  We had been teaching all week that biblical studies should always lead to worship.  The other groups also concluded with praise.  We know that we have been privileged to share this course with these leaders.  They have already shared their plans to re-teach the material. 

Several leaders asked when the next TLI course would take place.  “We already miss you,” they said with the same affection that we have come to feel for these leaders in our own hearts.  We have poured ourselves out this week “like a drink offering” and count it a blessing to strengthen their faith in Christ.  We are grateful for the opportunity to build the body of Christ here in Greece.  One leader tried to give us a gift which we politely refused.  They kept insisting, we kept refusing.  I finally explained that we have all been sent here by our churches to serve.  The leader finally understood, paused to pray, and said: "We will give this to one of our classmates who has no work."  Amen.

 

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Jun  14th,  2012I believe He is God! I have seen it clearly tonight!

Our course in biblical theology arrived at the person and work of Christ tonight as the fulfillment of the hope of Israel.  There was a spiritual intensity to the classes tonight as the Son of God appeared in a new and powerful light for many.  Our own class burst into praise when we reached the topic of Christ’s perfect obedience as the basis of our justification.  There is no legal fiction in heaven.  Jesus is the Lamb of God without defect.  He is the last Adam, the Son of God.  In the Farsi class, one of the students exclaimed: “I see Him.  I believe He is God.  I have seen it clearly tonight!”  Can you dream of any other place you would want to be right now?

We spent the morning walking through the ancient Agora or marketplace.  Each footstep traced the places where Paul walked, conversed, and eventually was brought up to Mars Hill to defend his teaching about Christ.  The city was filled with idols and lacked knowledge of the living God.  It is almost indescribable to feel a part of the ongoing teaching ministry of Jesus Christ in this place.

Tonight we asked the church leaders to share with us about their church life.  People are somewhat reluctant to share their personal stories except in individual conversation.  Part of the reason is language.  More significantly, they see their identity much more as part of a local church, rather than as individual believers.  We started with basic questions such as “How long is your service?”  “What languages do you use?”  “What happens throughout the week?”  Many things impressed us about their life together in Christ.  Most services were 2-3 hours followed by a meal.  They have mid-week Bible studies.  Above all, they are Christians of prayer.  Each community had some form of an all-night prayer meeting each month.  One group meets at Mars Hill twice a month for sunrise prayer for revival in Greece.  The leader explained with a smile that they used to call this service “High Five.  But people had difficulty with the buses getting to the service on time.  So now we call it High Six!”  

 

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Jun  13th,  2012We are ready for suffering

"We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Rom 5:3-5)

This morning we visited the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the arch of Hadrian which are in the heart of the city.  This temple was just being finished when Paul was in the city.  Everywhere you walk in Athens, history abounds.  It is an amazing place.  We spent the afternoon with Pastor Giotis Kantartzis who is the leading evangelical Greek pastor in the county.  I interviewed him for two hours about God’s work in Athens.  He spoke at a rapid pace about the unique opportunities of this historical moment.  An Arabic congregation meets in his church in the afternoon.  A member of his church is helping plant a Farsi congregation.  He also spoke about the spiritual openness of the younger generation in Greece who have become disillusioned with the empty promises of materialism.  At the same time, many are hoping in political solutions.  There is a crucial election on Sunday which is on the minds of everyone.  The most moving moment was when Giotis paused to consider the economic hardship and personal suffering which looms ahead.  “If suffering will open the hearts of the people to the gospel, then we are ready.” 

We have come here to teach, but we are learning even more... 

 

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