Five Days in Athens
A Diverse Mission Field
We left for Athens, Greece, on July 3 not quite knowing what to expect – other than that God had purposed our seven-day trip. We fully expected an interesting visit with many opportunities to share the Gospel.
Ultimately, our visit was intended to be one of reaching out to those in refugees the camps. The Greek Embassy baulked at the idea of us bringing the Gospel to those fleeing Islamic terror. They told us, “No, you may not go for such a reason.” Yet, we did get to visit those who are sardined under the highway that passes the Port of Piraeus. In the stifling heat, the highway provides the only shade and affords some respite from the hot sun and the baked concrete wharf.
We arrived in the city of those who in the Scripture are known as those “who seek wisdom” (Acts 17:16-34) via Istanbul, Turkey. Sadly, as we came to understand, the city of Athens can no longer lay claim to such a high ideal. It appears that many no longer truly seek wisdom. However, as Paul wrote concerning the Corinthians, “I [God] have many people in this city”; it appears that God does have His people in Athens, even given the fact that many, as in Paul’s day, “are very religious.” The form of the idolatry has changed from Paul’s day as the worship now is of the Orthodox Church and its hierarchy.
In such city centres as Victoria and Omonia consist of swathes of humanity moving from one continent to another. Iranians, Afghani’s, Syrians, Pakistani’s, and Muslims from Bangladesh can all be found in these centres. The area around the Acropolis is, as one would expect, full of tourists. All are a diverse mission field: the refugees in camps; refugees with greater freedom due to finances; the tourists; and, of course, the local Greeks too of course.
Hitting the Streets
With the Lord going before us, our accommodations had already been arranged, and we had Demitris to help us get around when we were not using the trams and metro. Days began early with us catching the tram, our bags packed with Bibles in nine languages, for the half-hour trip to Victoria and Omonia. Our first venture onto the metro resulted in problems with pickpockets. We remained vigilant after that.
The week began in earnest with our walking the streets, looking for opportunities to meet people. There was never a dull moment from as we continually distributed Bibles to Muslims. I estimate that 80 percent took the InJils (Arabic for Gospel which is whole New Testament ) in a good spirit with only a few being verbally abusive towards us. Concerning the Muslims, we were disappointed that we did not having Bibles in Urdu and Bengali and Albanian . Many wanted these, but we could not help them, something we need provide for in future visits for these other people groups.
We had numerous conversations regarding sin. Trying to point out faults in the Quran under these circumstances is counter-productive. One Iranian man, Sadeak, who was miraculously saved, pointed out that the truth of our Scripture is what will draw Muslims. Although it is difficult to gauge the impact we made on them, the overall impression was that the Muslims were grateful, even thankful, for receiving a copy of the Word of Life.
Many Nationalities, Many Viewpoints
The Greeks fell into two distinct groups. One group is Greeks from orthodox backgrounds who apparently regard evangelicals as a cult, on a par with Jehovah Witnesses. The second group consists of those who had less “church” background. The disdain and contempt towards us reflected by the “orthodox” is difficult to understand. There is a shutting of eyes, pulling up of the mouth, and a throwing of the head backwards – it is obviously cultural as all appeared to have gone to the same school. On the other hand, it was a real joy to give out many New Testaments in Modern Greek to the Greeks who wanted them, and we were able to engage in positive conversation but sadly the majority of Greeks today don’t seek after wisdom.
Besides Greeks, we came across many Bulgarians who for the most part were very happy to receive a Bible. Numerous Albanians were looking for work; unfortunately we did not have their language. The Chinese we saw were very timid, and though we handed out a good number of Bibles to them, many others refused to accept one. We also spoke to individuals from “Christian” countries, and there is no doubt in our minds that the apostasy spoken of by both Jesus and Paul is under way.
The refugees we visited and spoke to listened and accepted Bibles. Because their plight is so precarious, it is easy to see why certain Christian ministries only want to offer humanitarian aid. However, what use is humanitarian aid to the soul if the lost are not enlightened and shown the light that can draw them out of darkness.
I was given the opportunity to speak at several churches and preached the Gospel. While do so, I challenged believers to be active in reaching the lost that were either living in Athens or only passing through.
Demitris and his family hosted us on our last evening, and we enjoyed delicious Greek food. They expressed great thankfulness for our visit, apologizing for not having greater involvement. They asked if they could help facilitate any future visits.
It was finally time to wish our new friends in the Lord good-bye. Our suitcases were well over the weight limit, not packed with clothing, but Bibles around 50 Kilograms of urgently needed in Jerusalem. Yet, they passed through security without any questions being asked; they merely saying we were over our limit, but did nothing about it. The Lord once again confirmed that He had been with us the entire time.
We are grateful that He used us in this “new” mission field. Believers have not been able to go to the Muslims with the Gospel in their native countries, so the Lord has brought them to “us” in Greece. He is indeed working miracles today.
We hope to buy a large quantity of NTs in Albanian and Urdu and Bengali , for distribution in Europe, they usually are very expensive but we have a way to buy them cheaply and give them to the groups and churches that will distribute them without charge from us and them.
Shame on us for our silence. A short message from Mars Hill, Athens.