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Trips

Greece Fall 2013

Athens, Greece November 1-10, 2013

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.

Field Notes   Greece Fall 2013

Nov  7th,  2013Night Three Report to Home Church

Dear Grace Family,

Tonight we had a great class. I preached  a sermon from Ruth, helping people to see an example of the principles we have been teaching regarding preaching. There was a spirited and informed discussion following the sermon.

One brother, a new believer, asked what he should do since his wife is a Muslim. He was visibly relieved when we read from 1 Cor 7 that it is God's will for believers to stay married to unbelievers, as the believer is God's means of grace to the unbelieving spouse. We talked about how salvation is in God's hands, not ours. He was so glad the Bible addressed his situation.

The class had to be cut short because tonight there was a demonstration and strike in Athens, closing public transportation at  9 oclock. Many of the men would face a dangerous three hour walk if we went til our normal close at ten pm.  One dear brother was disappointed, saying, "I will stay til midnight if you keep teaching".

During our dinner half way through class, two brothers told me about the circumstances of their fleeing iran. One man sleeps upstairs above the classroom. He has nowhere to go, no work here. He lost his large company in Iran when the police found three pages of Scripture he had hand copied from a friend who had become a Christian. Even though he was not a christian at the time, the police seized his office, he fled to Dubai and then his lawyer got him to Athens. He is a dear brother that led two Iranians to Christ today and started teaching them the Bible immediately following our class. I could go on and on. It is all quite amazing.

Tomorrow the students begin preaching sermons from Ruth and Jonah. Should be interesting. I told them that they will get to use an interpreter so I could understand...unless God gave me the gift of interpretation of tongues tonight. They all laughed and thought that was funny.

Several men have requested that our church pray for them. I can't share their names, as this puts them at risk. But they want prayer for the conversion of their spouses, physical healing, regime change in Persia/Iran, freedom from depression, boldness in sharing the gospel.

Thanks for your prayers. God is good. The hour is late. Sleep is good.

For Christ and Kingdom,

Pastor Steve Krogh
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Nov  5th,  2013Update #3 - Summary of our second day teaching

The team here in Athens had a wonderful, blessed day. Most of the day was spent in study, preparing for our classes. But we did venture out of the hotel for a late lunch, where we ran into a missionary who works with refugees here in the city. He shared amazing stories of fellow missionaries and some of the very dangerous situations they have lived through. I was greatly encouraged to hear these stories of faith and commitment for the sake of the gospel.

Our second evening of teaching was held among the various language groups. Matthew Henry reports that the Romanian class continues to go very well. All his students returned. They have been very engaged and had good discussion. He is teaching hermeneutics, and tonight there was a great discussion on how to practically use hermeneutics as a parent who desires to raise children according to Scripture. Matt also gave thanks for the homemade Romanian pastries that the women of the church brought for him to enjoy!

The English speaking class, mostly composed of Africans, finished up the book of Ruth, hearing both lectures and sermons. Philemon and Matt said that they know the students are wrestling with what they are learning, particularly the implications of the sovereignty of God. They are beginning to understand their own lives within the context of Scripture.

Steve reports that the Farsi class listened very intently and asked many questions. Tonight he continued lecturing on Ruth, and he preached a wonderful sermon from Ruth 1. (I know it was wonderful because my class meet upstairs in the same building and we heard them break into applause.) Steve spent a lot of time walking through the process of writing a sermon. This will be a great benefit to the pastors and teachers in the group.

In my class, the Arabic speaking class, I preached from Ruth 1 and began lecturing on Jonah. The preaching brought up many questions from the students. We had a great discussion on respecting the limits of what the Scripture teaches by not reading too much into the text. We also had a great time walking through cultural issues in the introduction to Jonah. They were very sensitive to Jonah's desire that the Ninevites not receive the mercy of God. I can't wait to continue the story with them tomorrow.

Please continue to pray for our team and our students. God is doing a mighty work in Athens to reach the nations with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!

- Jake Porter

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Nov  4th,  2013Update # 2-Excerpts from our first day of teaching

 

What a blessing to spend the evening with six arabic speaking brothers and one sister, all hungry for God's Word! Our class had some very young believers and some who have believed for decades, but all were there ready to learn. Two are from Egypt, three from Syria, and two from Sudan. The interpreter I am working with, Abdeen, is wonderful. Though I don't know him well yet, I can tell by his countenance that he finds much joy in the Lord.

 

One of the most exciting parts of teaching the story of Ruth tonight was watching the faces of the students as they began to grasp the theology that the narrative is meant to communicate. Some of the students began the evening with the belief that Naomi's declaration that her tragedies were from the Lord was mistaken. Yet by the end of the story, as they considered how God had worked all things for the good of his people, they embraced the comfort of believing in a good God who is sovereign over all things, even when we do not understand. I look forward to the rest of the week and all that the Lord is going to do.

 

Jake Porter

 

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Today we all prepped during the day, and met with our groups of pastors from 6-10 pm. Philemon and I met with a group of 13 people, mostly pastors from Ghana, Eritrea, Nigeria, and Bangladesh. We got off to a slow start, opening with a song led by a woman with an amazing voice, and then we were soon neck-deep in issues such as the ultimate goal of preaching (to worship God), God's sovereignty over Naomi's destitution, and levirate marriage. Philemon did not shy away from the hard questions, and it was apparent that some of these things were challenging their thinking.

 

There seems to be a lot of trepidation about their preaching assignments on Thursday and Friday, but hopefully they'll feel more at ease after another couple of days studying Ruth and Jonah, and hearing four example sermons from us.

 

Matt Reimer

 

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What is it like to teach the book of Ruth to a room full of Farsi-speaking Iranian and Urdu-speaking Pakistani believers? As the two interpreters explain what I am saying, it is like watching a delayed reaction come over people in waves. They have a comprehension of hunger, famine, danger, heartache of leaving homeland, being a displaced refugee, at the mercy and care of God, turning away from culture to embrace the one true God. It is like Ruth could be their long-lost sister.

 

How wonderful for them to know they have a caring Redeemer who, like Boaz, has spread His wings over them in redemption and protection. How wonderful for them to know that the same God who watched over Ruth in providence is now watching over them.

 

The class is a wonderful combination of experienced pastors and new believers. Some have served Christ well for years. Others have come to know Christ in recent months.

 

When I closed four hours of teaching with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, telling them that the God of Ruth was the same God that watches over them, the same God that has purposes in famine and death and traveling refugees, the same God has plans spanning centuries that neither Ruth or them could see, but these plans are for God's ultimate glory and the good of His people among all nations including theirs, and that they needed to bear Christ's yoke with joy and share the gospel of Christ's kingdom among their people with courage wherever they are scattered, the class broke into a round of applause...applause that said, "amen, it is true, we believe it!"

 

As they said, "good night, God bless you, thanks so much, see you tomorrow night", they then kissed me on both cheeks.  As their stubble-faced cheeks pressed on mine, I thought, "boy am I glad I grew a beard this summer for the first time in my life. Now I am one of the 'brothers'!"

 

Thanks for your prayers, they are deeply appreciated.

 

For Christ and Kingdom,

 

Pastor Steve

 

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My first day with the Romanian students was a true blessing.  I have a group of men who have been well taught and am again reminded of the value of a faithful pastor to the health of the Church.  The first couple of lessons on hermeneutics are a bit difficult and require attention from the students, yet these men persevered throughout it all.  There were good questions and quite lively discussion at times as we tried to apply what was taught.  I walked away encouraged and blessed while I saw yet again the vastness of the Lord's Church.

 

--

Thanks!

 

Matthew Henry

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Nov  4th,  2013Udate #1

The Athens team has landed and settled into their lodgings.  Initial meetings have occurred and today the classes begin in earnest.  We have done a bit of sight-seeing of this city that figures so greatly in the life of the early church.  During that time we were able to pepper our guide with questions about how the work of the gospel functions in such a unique place as Athens.  What we learned helped us to begin to prepare our lessons to the various people groups.

On Sunday most of the team were given an opportunity to preach to a group of Christians.  Two of the groups were Iranians and one was Romanians.  For those preaching to the Iranian Christians there was much to rejoice over.  Most of the people present were very young believers and during the service some men repented and trusted in Jesus on the spot!  These are a much persecuted people who are very aware of the dangers attached to following Jesus as their Lord. 
One of the groups had a baptism service but only a select few were allowed to stay and be witnesses.  The windows were closed and covered and the doors were locked and even then the men showed nervousness as they gave testimony of the faith and hope in Christ.

At the Romanian church the opposite was seen.  It is a solid and mature group of believers who have been well taught and show a spiritual stability as a result.  Here there were multiple generations singing and worshiping together. The economy here is threatening to destroy the existing institutions as people are forced to leave and go back to Romania for work.  Along with this there is also the challenge of the second and third generations continuing to stay within the Romanian churches rather than assimilation into other churches that share a more Greek culture rather than a Romanian one.

This leads to an observation about church planting in such a setting as Athens.  There cannot be a typical American vision of establishing a new church.  Too often we see the goal as starting a new church and then helping grow it numerically, ideally through evangelism and the intake of new believers.  Here that simply doesn’t happen.  Take the Iranians as an example.  One pastor who labors with the Iranians noted that over the last year or so over two thousand people have come through that church and then moved on to other places.  What is the size of the church right now?  About eighty people.

The methodology of how the church functions with that sort of mobility is something that must be considered by anyone wanting to labor among Iranians in Athens.  The same could be said for many of the other ethnic groups.  There must be a vision that sees the numerical growth of that particular church as secondary to the greater task of equipping these young, new saints in sound doctrine before they move on in their personal journeys.  Those laboring as teachers and pastors must be content to watch people come and go.  In ten years the Iranian churches in Athens may be no bigger than they are now, but consider the impact that they have among the Iranian people who are coming, hearing, believing and then moving on with that gospel in their hearts and on their tongues?

Pictures of our team outing in Athens: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151961217451170&type=1&l=743c48ffc0


Matthew Henry

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Nov  3rd,  2013Preparing for the week ahead

The Greece team has arrived in Athens and is now preparing for the week ahead. Please be praying for them and for those they will be teaching.

 

 

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