Kamp Kalamos is over. And what a wonderful week it was! Sadly, we fly out in less than 12 hours. 12 hours...
I'm a bag full of mixed emotions. I want to cry out of sadness and confusion, but I'm excited to see friends and family. Much has happened since I've been away. Long story short: my friends and I had a house in Nashville, and then we didn't, and now I have a new house with fewer friends. We have three days of debrief after our arrival in Atlanta tomorrow, and I was planning on staying with a friend for a few days after that. Now, we are going up to Nashville to move our stuff from one house to the other. The point: don't expect a very succinct and processed blog post about this summer right away. I've struggled to process much at all in terms of how I'm growing and learning, and with a whirlwind next few days I don't think it'll get any easier. Debrief will help, but I may not be able to blog again until after I make it all the way home to Houston on Saturday.
Back to Kalamos and the point of this post: The theme for the camp was the Church as a family and what that looks like in a number of situations. There were lessons on respecting elders in the church, lessons on the body of Christ, lessons on the different roles of people working in and out of the church, and lessons on relationships among Christians and what they should look like. At Kalamos there were teens from evangelical churches all over Greece: from Volos (oh, how wonderful it was to see them again!), from First, Second, and Third Churches in Athens, and from many others. There were also teens from across the world, most of whom spoke Greek. We worshipped together as a family at least twice a day, most of the time singing in Greek, but there were some times when we were able to recall the English lyrics ("Who Am I", "Here I Am to Worship", "Prince of Peace"). I don't think I can describe to you what it is like to truly worship alongside other languages if you've never experienced it. Language really is no barrier. Despite singing in two different languages, we were fully united as one voice praising our God, our Lord, our Jesus. We know Him the same. We worship the same God, with the same voice, under the same stars, which He created.
I know intellectually that I have brothers and sisters all over the world. That's also a fact that's become even more obvious to me as I've begun to pray for a different country everyday (thanks David Platt). But coming here? I've now met those brothers and sisters. I know exactly how they need prayer and support. I can see their hearts and their struggles. They feel like my brothers and sisters, and I love them dearly. Nothing, not language, not distance, can separate me from them, just as nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. Why? Because the love of Christ has been poured out onto each and every one of us. And this week that love was poured right back out upon one another.
I lived in a tent with the 11 youngest girls at Kamp. They are 12, 13, and 14 years old. They love playing bougello (water fights) and making farsa (pranks). They're young and innocent. They may not have opened up to me very much, but that doesn't matter to my heart. I love these girls. I love them like I love my best friends, like I love my sisters. I could never forget a single one of their faces. While I would much rather be with them to watch them grow, thanks to a world of internet, I can still keep in touch and watch from afar, all the while praying earnestly for them and waiting for God's timing in allowing me to return.
My heart feels so full, but I know that all this loving is making it work, just like any other muscle needs work to grow. This tightness in my chest, this heart that feels like it'll burst at any minute? It's a heart that's growing and stretching and learning how to love more abundantly, more selflessly, more purely. It's learning to love because it's been loved first.
Join me in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. But join me in prayer especially for our siblings in Greece that I now know personally. Because I've blogged about various ministries I've been involved with here, you can see just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the kinds of prayers needed in Greece. As I begin journeying home, let me know if you'd like to talk about this summer. I might need a few weeks to organize my heart and mind, but I assure you, I will LOVE to talk about these amazing servants of Christ and how you can be praying for them.
Well, I'll blog again from America. I can't wait to see you all!
We leave tomorrow morning for Kamp Kalamos, a camp for Greek teens. Our team will be running the games and living with the teens.
When we return from Kamp, we will have ONE DAY left in Greece. It's strange to look around my room tonight and see nothing but suitcases. Greece has been home for these past two months. I feel connected to the leaders here, the congregation here, the places here.
Kalamos is our one last ministry, our one last week as a team. It's going to be a hard week. We are going to be tired, hot, and itchy. We are going to lack quiet time and time as a team. It's going to be a challenge, but it will also keep our minds off going home and saying goodbye to each other.
At Kalamos, we will be reunited with the youth we met in Peireas, Volos, and Athens. It's going to be amazing to bring everyone together in the name of the gospel.
Prayers are definitely needed as we hit the home stretch. Thank you, supporters, for allowing me to be here.
I'll be without internet until July 23. We head home July 25. I'll talk to you all soon!
Sorry for the blogging hiatus. We don’t usually get back to the Bible College until pretty late and I head straight for bed.
I want to tell you about a huge opportunity we had last night. Exarchia is an area of Athens known for its crime. If you remember the huge riots in December of 2008 in response to the killing of a teenage boy (they protested police brutality), those took place in this neighborhood. It’s near the university so many of the residents are students. There isn’t a huge immigrant population, but it is an immigrant-friendly area. Compared to the rest of Athens (and Greece really) it’s the least religious and most postmodern neighborhood. In America, that wouldn’t be a good thing. But here in Greece, that is actually a fantastic thing for the evangelical church. Those who are against the government tend to side, or commiserate with the evangelical church. Just as they’ve been attacked by the government, so has the evangelical church been attacked by both the government and the Orthodox Church. They don’t go running to the church or anything, but they aren’t automatically against it.
But here’s how God is working: three men have moved themselves and their families into this neighborhood with the intention of planting a church. Right now they are still in the gathering stages, getting to know the community and its struggles and needs. They are forming connections and relationships. Greeks don’t trust one another. They trust no one. If these church planters walk in and start beating them over the head with Bibles, the people will flee. They are truly trying to become a part of Exarchia. They are intently listening for God’s direction, already having uprooted their families in response to God’s call, just as Abram did.
The three planters took my team and another team (from Canada) into the neighborhood to show us around and tell us about the process. They split us up into three groups so that we wouldn’t stand out and so that we could all hear what was being said. As we concluded our tour I thought about how much of an impact would come from these men taking the time to share their ministry with 16 strangers. The needs of this community, the planters, and the plant itself are now going out to two different countries, at least 16 different churches, 9 universities, and countless supporters and prayer warriors. The Lord multiplies loaves and fishes, doesn’t He?
Here’s what you can pray for right now:
- The planters are still trying to gather some young families from the church who would be willing to relocate to Exarchia
- The planters are exhausted. They aren’t being paid for this. They are missionaries, but without support. They have jobs but are trying to devote all of their time to developing relationships and making a presence in the neighborhood.
- The planters are also lonely, trying to uproot themselves from their home churches and implant themselves into a harsh environment.
- That the church would continue to support this ministry. Historically, the Greek Evangelical Church has been extremely introverted. They don’t reach out. They are comfortable where they are and don’t make too much effort to share that. The planters need all the support they can get.
There are many, many more prayers that this plant and this neighborhood need. It meant more than a lot to me to see this plant in action and to hear the hearts of the planters. I can’t wait to talk to you all about it in person.
God is moving. He’s not a God that doesn’t work among His people. He loves.
I'm still excited that I'm here. I'm supposed to be here. God had is hand over all that went into the making of this trip for me and my teammates. We shared with another missionary here tonight about how we all came to be here. It's pretty amazing what God can do.