Luke 10 Exploration Trip: A Report from Greece
The second of the ten Luke 10 Exploration Trips in 2022 went out last month (May 30-June 10) with a team of six to Greece! Thank you for praying for this team and EFM’s Luke 10 Initiative as Evangelical Friends discern where to launch new mission fields as part of EFM’s Five-Year Goal! See more information here.
The following is a report from the team, whom are all very grateful for your prayers and support.
|Who Was on this Trip?
The team was comprised of (from Left to Right in photo below):
• Jim LeShana – Newberg, OR, Superintendent NWYM
• Libby Penrose – Hutchinson Friends, Kansas, College student, Future Missionary,
• Jan Cammack – Newberg Friends, OR, Retired University Professor, Future Missionary
• Kenn Dirrim – Current missionary (for past 15 years) along with wife Lisa, working with refugees in Athens through the Greek charity, Helping Hands, From Rose Drive Friends, CA
• Ron Maestas –Friends Church Yorba Linda, CA, Accountant, EFM Board Member
• Josiah Muhr – Sherwood Friends, OR, Graduate of Barclay College, Future Missionary
|Where Did We Travel?
We were tasked with exploring the potential for EFM to plant churches among refugees that have fled unstable situations in the Middle East. Greece is the first point of entry into Europe for those escaping countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria. Once in Turkey it is a short boat ride to reach the close Greek Islands and potential asylum in Europe. Although Germany, France, and the UK are the primary goal destinations, COVID-19 travel limitations and European political issues have contributed to many refugees finding themselves “stuck” in Greece.
We concentrated on two areas in Greece that have a high concentration of refugees. We spent the first week in Athens (Athina) and then traveled north to the Thessaloniki area where refugees are currently being relocated.
We met with a variety of people from various backgrounds and experiences. Many of our contacts are former Muslim refugees who are now Christ followers and active in evangelism. Discretion in names and photos is often required to protect their ministries and family members in their home countries.
- We met with “IL”. A former refugee now working with a Persian Christian Church, he gave both encouragement and cautionary advice for the challenges of working with those of Persian culture as well as within the national Greek religious environment.
- Our friend “SH” had an amazing testimony of escape from Iran and God’s working in her life. She heads a thriving refugee medical ministry and evangelistic group that is seeing many Muslims come to Christ. She also gave encouragement and planted ideas of how we might come alongside and partner with her.
- The men of our group were able to spend a day at a “men’s retreat” for refugee ministry leaders. They spoke with several who are active in evangelism and discipleship with refugees, including two refugee converts who have recently planted churches among refugees (one on Lesvos Island and one in north Athens). The leaders underscored the need and importance of new churches, as well as some of the challenges.
- We spent a couple days volunteering with “Helping Hands”; a Christian Greek charity working to feed, clothe, and share the gospel with refugees. We made good contacts with both Greek nationals and other expatriates (from Germany, Ireland, USA, etc.) who work there.
- Our Airbnb was providentially very close to a park where many refugee families gather and their children play in the cool of the evening. Language barriers stilted conversation but it was a great place to sit and experience that aspect of refugee life and to connect with people we’d met at Helping Hands.
- We attended a Greek evangelical church and had encouraging conversation with a Greek national experienced in refugee ministry.
Enough salad to feed a multitude at Helping Hands.
The synagogue in Berea where the word was received from Paul & Silas with great eagerness. Acts 17:10-11
- We met with a retired Greek evangelical pastor with many years of experience directing refugee aide ministry and working within the Greek Evangelical and Greek Orthodox culture.
- In the small town of Mylotopos, an hour northwest of Thessaloniki, we were served an Afghan dinner by a refugee family also with an amazing testimony of Christ’s work in their lives. With the help of a local Greek Evangelical church they are now ministering to and planting fellowships for immigrants living in multiple refugee camps in the surrounding area. A retired couple from Finland, who previously worked in Afghanistan, is also part of their ministry team. They would love for us to come and help them.
- There is much need and work to be done with refugees in Greece.
- Muslims, having left their oppressive home countries, have new freedom to question their faith and are coming to Christ.
- Everyone we met expressed a need for more discipleship and help in the training of new believers.
- Culture and language learning (Greek, Farsi, Dari, perhaps Arabic etc.) is essential and years of commitment is required. Planting churches in new cultures is a marathon not a sprint. People willing to commit for the long haul as well as people who already know the culture(s) and language(s) are needed.
- Many refugees leave Greece as soon as they can. Actual numbers and locations are always changing. Those who become Christ followers are starting fellowships in Germany, France, and other parts of Europe even as new believers with little training. In this way refugee work can resemble ministry to college students with whom our influence may be temporary as we disciple them and then send them out.
- Refugees stay and become established in Greece if they can 1) get sustainable employment and 2) belong to a Christian community (church) that can replace the biological family that they lose when they convert to Christ. There is great potential for D4D work (Discipling for Development; whole life discipleship) to establish jobs.
Luke 10 Exploration Trips will continue taking place during the remainder of 2022. In November, teams will present detailed reports and recommendations at the national Luke 10 Think Tank.
How Can You Join?
Are you interested in exploring missionary service? Do you know of anyone of any age who might be interested in exploring the idea of serving as a missionary overseas for two or more years?
EFM is currently looking to contact and connect with people about opportunities to explore serving as missionaries with the Friends Church!
We look forward to sharing more news as it becomes available about what we are finding and discerning in EFM’s Luke 10 Initiative as we continue to explore where EFM may launch new mission fields.
Director of Mobilization