TLI provides the curriculum and teachers for a Bible Institute in Athens, Greece that serves the needs of the immigrant community. Classes are offered in four separate locations and in four languages for the following: Arabic, Farsi, Romanian and English speakers (for African and Filipino church leaders.) The immigrant community of Athens is roughly 20% of the city's population and there is very little theological training offered in these languages. You are invited to come and help provide leadership training for current and future church leaders among the immigrant community. Many current church leaders are former Muslims who now have a great opportunity to reach Muslims who have emigrated to Europe from Middle Eastern and North African countries.
Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.
Jun 10th, 2013Fruit
Fruit. In every mission trip or ministry project, we
are always looking for it. We want to
see it, we want to know what we did made an impact. In a results oriented culture, we want to see
the effect of our efforts. But God does
not measure us merely by visible outcomes.
If he did, Moses--who led an entire generation that died in the wilderness
and was prevented from entering the promised land himself—probably would not
have been considered successful, would he?
God calls us to be faithful regardless of the results. We are to follow him and leave the rest to
Him. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians
3:6-8, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the
growth. So neither he who plants nor he
who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who
plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to
his labor.” Sometimes we are the ones
who plant, sometimes the one who waters, and other times the one who harvests
the field. When we do see fruit, we want to give God the
glory knowing that he produced the growth.
With all that being said, on this trip, we had the blessing of seeing fruit. As we have mentioned before, we were teaching
a course on peacemaking and biblical conflict resolution. One of the points I emphasized was that we
all sin in conflict. Even if we did not
instigate the conflict, we likely have sinned against the other person in some
way. We are to confess the sin we
committed against the other person regardless of whether we “started it.” Thursday we were encouraged because one of
the men mentioned that the material we are teaching is needed for the
church. Friday, we were even more
encouraged. After concluding our time,
we stayed around to talk with the men in the class and say our goodbyes. After most had left, a man came up and spoke
with us privately. He told us that immediately
after the class, that he and another from the class had met privately to confess
sin they had committed against one another.
They acknowledged that they still had work to do, but the major work of
reconciliation had taken place. Needless
to say, we were amazed at how God had providentially planned for this
particular material to be taught and for both these men to be in the course together.
We praised the Lord together with this man as we hugged and said our
goodbyes. We were humbled to know that
God had used us to answer prayer in such a clear way. Thinking of the joy we felt that this
reconciliation had taken place, Ben remarked to Anna and I as we walked to the
train that night, “It is like a taste of what heaven will be like.” Amen.
I had been teaching for 3 days, and we were progressing through the
material well. I had run into a few
cultural differences, but overall, we were moving along at a good pace, yet I
found myself discouraged. Speaking
through a translator—even when he is as good as Ben is—is difficult. You have trouble hearing some of the more
subtle cues of language. I could read
body language, but that is of limited help at times when you are not sure
exactly what everyone is saying. The
students had good questions, and seemed to be tracking with me, but it was hard
to tell. Even though Ben assured me that
the students were very open and eager to learn, I still was not sure.
Then that evening, I realized why the Lord had brought us
here. One of the men asked to speak with
us after the class was over. He told us
about some conflicts in his church and the pain they were causing. He asked our advice on what he should do, and
Ben and I were able to listen, counsel, and encourage him. He expressed that he thanked God when he
heard what our teaching topic was for the week.
He said it was exactly what the church needed. He had been praying about these issues and
saw us as the answer to his prayers.
How humbling it is to know that you are an answer to someone’s prayers. Ben and I marveled at the providence of
God. Even more amazing was how God had
worked through us that day. This man
told us that some of the topics we focused on that night—forbearing in love,
patience with others in sin—were directly applicable to their situation. What he didn’t know was that the Lord had put
it on my heart to add that material in my lecture prep earlier that day. Praise God for the guidance of the Holy
Spirit and his power in softening hearts and using us to share this material.
How gracious is our Lord, to not only answer this man’s prayers,
but also to encourage us by using us!
“And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”
Our trip has been full, challenging, thought-provoking, heart-engaging, busy and tiring. We are finding much to enjoy about Athens and are growing together as a team. The guys have been pouring themselves out in teaching each night and the wives have been actively serving them in the role of helper/encourager. As you may know the guys are teaching a curriculum on biblical reconciliation and peacemaking for 2 groups of Iranian and Romanian ministry leaders. All week they have been wrestling with their students to apply the truths of love, peace, repentance and reconciliation to real life conflict and relationships- both personally and in the church. This is sensitive stuff. You can’t talk about conflict long before those in the room find their own hearts and lives exposed. Add to that a language barrier requiring translation and cultural differences and you can see why they might be tired. Please pray that the Lord would be free to do his work in these men’s hearts, relationships and churches through this time.
Kathy and Anna were able to visit a refugee center today and have tea with some ladies from Afghanistan. One of them arrived eager to talk about spiritual things. She shared that she had not left her house for the past three days because she had not been at peace. She came to the center looking for peace and one of the Farsi speaking staff was able to share the gospel, explain the differences between faith in Christ and other religions, and give her a Bible. Interestingly enough we could almost follow the conversation through expressions and gestures despite the language barrier- I can’t exactly explain how that was other than the fact that it was a gift from the Lord to be a part of that conversation. She later pointed to several of us and said you all seem to have a peace about you- Why is that? What gives you peace? What makes you good people? (Don’t you wish the opportunities were always this clear?!) One of the ladies shared the fact that peace and goodness are not from herself but because she has trusted Christ. She shared about an experience in her life in which she was able to trust Christ in the midst of difficulty.
Upon hearing the translation of what was being said, John 14:27 popped into my head- “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” These are Jesus’ own words expressing that he himself is the source of our peace. I thought about how Jesus life was marked by some similarities to the situation of these refugees- he was not of this world, he did not have a place to lay his head, he was rejected and scorned. And yet Jesus Christ lived in perfect peace because he himself, being God, embodies perfect peace. Here in John 14 he offers that peace to those who would follow him- unshakeable relational peace instead of fear/anxiety. How blessed is the one who trusts in him. The conversation ended with the woman pronouncing that she will not believe until she sees a miracle. One of the staff members encouraged her to read the book of John.
Please pray for this woman (name intentionally withheld). Pray that she will read the gospel of John and know Jesus through it. Pray that her heart will continue to be drawn to Christ and that she will find peace in him alone. Pray that she will come to see that the miracle she seeks is her own salvation.
As I reflected on this interaction, I was struck with the fact that as the guys were away teaching about acting as peace-makers in Christ, we were getting to take part in one woman’s search for the peace of Christ. May the peace of Christ be with you all.
By: Local Field Rep
The team arrived safely on Saturday evening. After getting checked-in at the hotel, the team ate a Greek dinner before calling it a day. On Sunday morning, we spent time with the local field rep who organizes the TLI courses in Athens. He gave us an orientation regarding the status of the gospel in Athens as well as specific information about the two groups which we will be leading this week.
In the evening, Russ & Kathy attended the Farsi Church where Russ preached the message. Afterwards, they joined the congregation for a meal and fellowship. Benjamin, Adam and Anna went to the Romanian Baptist Church for the evening service. The local field rep preached while Benjamin translated. Adam brought a greeting to the church and the pastor asked the church to be praying for the leaders who would be attending the course this week which Adam will be teaching. Afterwards, they were invited to the home of a church member for dinner and fellowship.
The course "Conflict & Reconciliation" will begin in just a few hours from now. Please lift up the team as they make final preparations before the week of teaching begins.
The team is ready to begin the course and looking forward to a great week!