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Greece Winter 2015

Athens, Greece January 9-18, 2015

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 Winter 2015

Jan  18th,  2015Day Six: Diaspora

On Friday night TLI students from nearly ten countries gathered in a hotel ballroom in Athens, Greece to celebrate the completion of four years of training. This was the first group to complete the curriculum cycle through TLI and it was a tremendous blessing to hear the impact the teaching over the years has made on these students' lives.

Many of these students will not stay in Athens. They are immigrants and refugees, temporarily in Athens on their way further into Europe. TLI students from Athens will land in at least four continents, where churches will be planted and the Word of God preached. The strategic impact of ministry in Athens is phenomenal.

This is not the first time this sort of diaspora occurred. In Acts 2:9-11 we find that "Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians” were gathered in Jerusalem and heard Peter preaching the gospel. Further on in Acts, this first round of believers take the gospel news back to their home countries and churches are planted in Asia, Europe, and Africa.

And just as the students are dispersing so are the teachers. After a day on the island of Aegina to celebrate a great week, we went our separate ways. Darren, Matt M., and David headed back to the cold Midwest. Matt H. went to Romania to teach 2 Timothy to another TLI group finishing the cycle. I (Josh) am currently in Bidart, France for a couple days visiting with missionary friends and seeing the gospel move into an unreached people group here.

In 2 Timothy 2:9, Paul exclaims that even though he is in chains, "the Word of God is not bound!" Carried by the men and women we trained this week, the unbound Word of God will be proclaimed among many who have never heard.

"To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (2 Timothy 4:18)

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Jan  16th,  2015Days Two-Four of Teaching: Finding a Rhythm

After a few days, it’s easy to get into a rhythm on a TLI trip to Greece. Wake up, breakfast, visit something ancient, lunch, prep, class from 6-10 pm, late dinner, bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. 

Our team of teachers have been walking our students through 2 Timothy, a sober, but encouraging call from an aging Apostle Paul to a younger church leader, Timothy. Paul has encouraged Timothy to hold fast to the gospel, share in suffering for the gospel, and preach the gospel to the end. As we’ve taught these themes to groups of immigrants and refugees from eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, the parallels are striking. Paul has seen his friends move to all regions of the world and is sitting in a Roman prison lonely and cold.

In many cases, the students we’re teaching find themselves in a similar situation—in a foreign city, far away from friends and family, lonely, disconnected, but strengthened in the gospel. He’s reminded Timothy that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (1:7). He knows Timothy will face times of difficulty and tells him to “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2:1). 

Teaching across cultures is difficult when we’re examine the details of a text. It’s been a great deal of work as we examine the text, searching for the central messages of 2 Timothy. And it’s been rewarding when students grasp the message of the text. 

A few days ago we visited a ministry run by one of our host missionary’s wife. New Day / Threads of Hope provides opportunities for trafficked girls, teaching them job skills so they have an alternative. In a city with five hundred licensed brothels, the amount of women and men enslaved is staggering and it was so encouraging to see first-hand a ministry that is working hard to rescue those entrapped in this evil.

Last night our students had the assignment of preaching various passages from 2 Timothy. Hearing Iranian, Afghanis, Eritreans, Ghanans, Pakistanis, Romanians, and Nigerians lifting up the Jesus and calling each other to gospel-based perseverance in the face of suffering is the highlight of the week. Getting to visit Corinth and the Acropolis is icing on the cake.

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Jan  13th,  2015Day One of Teaching: 2 Timothy in Athens

Slightly less than two thousand years ago, Paul of Tarsus wandered the streets of Athens, and eventually proclaimed to the Athenians, "The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25)" As we wandered through the Acropolis on Sunday, these verses took on new life. Once can almost see Paul pointing to the Parthenon as he spoke.

Paul was in the city as a refugee, pushed out of Thessalonica and Berea, and wandering the idol-filled streets of Athens alone. He had left two of his companions in Berea and would rejoin them to the south in Corinth. One of these men was Timothy, a man Paul loved dearly, and to whom he would later address one of his final letters. In the epistle of 2 Timothy, Paul, facing death, urged Timothy to hold fast to the gospel, be willing to suffer for the gospel, and preach the gospel to the end.

Monday evening, our team of teachers began teaching this wonderful letter of 2 Timothy to refugees and immigrants from multiple countries, who, like Paul, had fled persecution or hardship. David is teaching a diverse group of English-speakers. Matthew H. and Matthew M. are working with a group of Romanians. I (Josh) have the privilege of teaching a small group of Iranian men.

When I taught last year, there were close to thirty men and women in the class. Most of the class has immigrated further into Europe and now resides in cities like London, Paris, Stockholm, and Hamburg. The six men in my class have elected to stay in Athens, not because they have great jobs or family. In fact, not one of them have any family in town. They have chosen to stay because there is a unique opportunity for evangelism in this city. Every Sunday evening, nearly two hundred Iranians and Afghanis gather in a five story building to worship and preach the gospel. Two days ago, ten new believers were baptized and more were in line to be baptized, but had to leave in order to catch the last train of the day. Most of these new believers will be in Athens for only a matter of weeks. The men I am instructing have the duty of discipling these new believers for three to four hours a night in an effort to ground them firmly in the gospel before they continue their journey into Europe. They do this as volunteers who love the Lord and their Farsi-speaking brothers and sisters.

What a joy it is to open the Word and read with them the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:8-9b

Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling...

Please pray for these Gospel workers as they tirelessly lift up Jesus to their fellow immigrants. Pray that they would follow Paul's call to hold fast to the gospel, be willing to suffer for the gospel, and preach the gospel to the end.

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Jan  11th,  2015Arrival in Athens

After a few rerouted flights, our team of five met up in Paris and then arrived safely and on time in Athens yesterday afternoon. Battling jet lag, we checked into our hotel and spent the afternoon and evening with our host missionary, learning about the state of the immigrant church. God is continuing to work among the million immigrants and refugees in this gateway city as people from many nations repent and believe in the gospel, churches are planted, and then believers go out to new areas of Europe to plant churches.

After coffee with a tremendous view of the Acropolis, we retired to our hotel to catch up on sleep and get ready for a week of teaching 2 Timothy.

Today, we'll worship with a Greek evangelical church, visit the Acropolis and Mars Hill (where the author of the book we'll be teaching engaged the Athenian philosophers), and spend the afternoon doing final prep on our lesson plans. Matthew will be preaching at a Romanian church this evening.

Prayers are appreciated as we get ready to teach these brothers and sisters this week and encourage them to "Preach the Word!" (2 Timothy 4:2).


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