Greece – Ancient glory and big hearts

16 Mar, 2016 | Greece
Anne Viljoen
The tea station, OM Greece team member serving refugees and homeless people in Athens.
In spite of the recent news of financial crisis, strikes and endless waves of refugees and migrants streaming into Greece, the beauty and class of the once-so-proud nation is still evident. While many have lost their jobs (the country faces 25 percent unemployment), others continue life as before. The ancient ruins of the Acropolis and Areopagus are still there, along with the busy streets, rugged coastline, islands, and sunny beaches.

In one of the narrow tree-lined streets close to the Acropolis sits the OM Greece office. Nine team members and a few local volunteers divide their time between office work and reaching out to poor Greeks and refugees in Athens. Another important part of their ministry is recruiting nationals for missions, and OM Greece is heavily involved helping refugees on the island of Lesbos.

“God started this work,” said Gabriel (Gabby) Markus, OM Greece’s field leader, “and he will finish it no matter if missionaries come and go; we are just small parts of the big puzzle.” Gabby continued, sharing the quote from Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi (Phil 1:6), a key verse for the OM Greece ministry, and he emphasized: “until Christ returns”.

The ministry in Greece started small in 1999, with a few people working among the Albanian population. Later, an office was established in Athens and in 2008, OM Greece was officially registered. The team connected with churches and reached out to prostitutes in the red-light district (in partnership with New Life Ministry), and also helped translating and publishing Christian literature.

In 2012, OM Greece brought nine people to Transform (an OM-conference in Rome followed by outreaches to the Mediterranean nations). News came out about TeenStreet (OM’s teen-camp in Germany) and the Greeks got excited. The following year 24 youth signed up to go.

“It was kind of sudden,” smiled Gabby, “it took off and in record time we prepared to go!” Before joining OM Greece, Gabby and his wife, Evie, were youth leaders in one of the local churches in Athens. With the relationships and trust they had built over the years, parents were comfortable letting their teens go. “TeenStreet has become the catalyst for recruiting in Greece,” Gabby said. “The teens came home so excited, God had touched them and they realized what a big evangelical family they are part of. They were also exposed to the needs in missions.”

In Greece, refugees have been around for over twenty years, but last year the situation exploded. The overwhelming number of Syrians and others arriving in small boats on the island of Lesbos was an issue the OM-team could not ignore. They had to help. Since September 2015 a team has been stationed on the island and many, many volunteers and short term-groups have come to help. “I would say that the refugee ministry quadrupled our ministry in Greece,” Gabby shared. “We also help in Athens, through the churches, but until now Lesbos has been our main refugee outreach.”

However, with the recent closure of the Macedonian border thousands of refugees are stranded in Athens. To help the new situation, OM Greece, in partnership with a Filipino church, is in process of renting an old closed down restaurant to cook meals for the refugees.

“As we partner with several churches in helping refugees, relationships are growing deeper—between the different churches as well as between OM and the churches,” Gabby said. “Helping refugees and migrants give common ground; we get to know and help one another, and find our unity in Christ richer than before, a great blessing. However, it is important to not neglect the ongoing work among the Greeks. Our team still reaches out to the ladies of the night in the red-light district and helps the homeless and poor among the Greek population. Family ties are strong and families help one another, but those without relatives face many difficulties.”

Please pray for OM Greece as they reach out to nationals and refugees alike. Pray for God’s strategy in helping the refugees and migrants stranded in the Athens area. Pray for divine opportunities to share the Gospel, and for more short- and long-term volunteers to come and help.

An OM project, called ‘Safe Passage’, focuses on meeting refugees at their initial entry points, providing information as well as water, food and essentials. To give to OM’s relief efforts, or for more information about how to get involved, please contact your local OM office.

Credit: Anne Viljoen · © 2016 OM International This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

OM’s role in the Church is to mobilise people to share the knowledge of Jesus and His love with every generation in every nation. OM pioneers and leads initiatives to redeem lives, rebuild communities and restore hope in over 110 countries.

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