Incredible. Amazing. Life-changing. These are all words I’ve used to describe my recent missions trip to Greece with a team of 18 other CrossBridge Church members, but to be honest, these simple words don’t seem adequate to fully capture the experience we had in Athens.
For seven days, our team got a front row seat to what God was doing in Greece. From the ministry center, to Mars Hill, to the the streets of Athens, we saw God move in the lives of not only the Greeks and refugees, but in our own hearts as well.
At Voice of Truth, our team was able to minister to refugees coming from Pakistan, Iran and other middle eastern countries. Some of them came on foot—a journey that could take anywhere from 30 days to several months—while others came on a raft designed for 20 people, but filled with more than 50 men, women and children.
Our team helped prepare meals and serve food to the refugees, as well as cleared plates and washed dishes. We also helped clean and organize their children’s area, in addition to watching children during services.
The refugees fell across the spectrum of faith. Some were Muslim, while others were recent converts to Christianity and many had come to Greece seeking freedom from religious persecution. Each week, Voice of Truth offers services in Persian, Arabic and Greek/English, as well as a “Seeker’s Class.” These men and women spent hours seeking the word of God, sitting in service after service, day after day, to learn more about who God really is.
“My biggest takeaway from our trip to Greece was the salvation of the nine Persian men, 10 Persians baptized and to see the joy and happiness on Pastor Nate’s face when he was teaching these men and women. That brought a lot of joy to my heart,” said Pastor Terry, who taught at the Persian outreach.
Through the help of translators, Pastor Nate was able to lead the seeker’s class, as well as a men’s Bible study, while Kim lead a women’s Bible study on joy.
“Siamak [the translator] talked to his people like a mother to their children. With his passion, it seemed like he was climbing into their hearts. It was beautiful,” noted Kerry Thornton. “This experience of seeing people come to Christ in another country was a joy above all joys. This exceeds anything I’ve seen yet. And there was a level of excitement in not knowing what God will do next. There was a joyful excitement in watching the Lord move.”
Jimmy Ablaza was also able to preach the Word during Sunday’s Greek/English service, which brought congregants from all over the world, including Greece, Iran, Pakistan, China, the Philippines and, of course, America.
“This mission trip reinforced my faith in the saving power of the gospel (Romans 1:16),” said Jimmy. “The truth of the Word of God when preached boldly will penetrate someone's heart, regardless of nationality or the religious tradition to which a person belongs. Being part of this mission team was an amazing experience since I witnessed the actual work and sacrifices that the Dimakoses have been doing for over 20 years on that foreign soil.”
Though we didn’t always speak the same language, our team was able to experience rich fellowship with the people we met at Voice of Truth. That includes the Filipino small group, which welcomed us in like family during a fellowship at James and Christina Sinde’s home, as well as with the staff of Voice of Truth, who displayed a Christ-like love for each one of us.
That love and humility reminded Kim of Matthew 22:37, which reads “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
“It seems as though our American culture takes this command very lightly, if at all,” Kim said. “My desire is that we would be completely immersed in scripture and prayer—through corporate worship, fellowship, and evangelism. The people of Voice of Truth—our family by extension—thrive on hours spent together in study, preaching, and fellowship over meals. How amazing if in the American Church we would desire the same thing!”
While the refugees we spent time with often didn’t have much—leaving comfortable lives, families, and everything they’ve ever known to move to an unknown country—they welcomed us with open arms and extreme generosity, living examples of joy and contentment. Our time with them put into perspective what was of utmost importance—not comfort, not things, not even a safe place to lay your head at night; but pursuing Jesus wholeheartedly and making Him known.
“The opulence that we live in in America is not our friend at all,” Pastor Nate noted. “There is something greater than the fulfillment of things. It’s very easy to get wound up in being satisfied/happy when that doesn’t really matter at all. It almost seems like our current culture is structured to be completely against biblical Christianity.”
And though our team is now almost 5,000 miles away from Voice of Truth, the people and lessons we learned still weigh heavy in our hearts and minds.
“The Greece missions trip has made me realize the need that I have to be more like Jesus,” said Jose Bermudez. “I need to have more of a servant’s heart. Jesus said, ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to be a servant.’ George and Luisa Dimakos truly impacted me by the love, compassion, and most of all, the joy of the Lord they have in serving the people. My prayer is that this trip will not only be a goose bump experience for the team and myself but that our hearts will be forever changed.”
What stood out most to Martine Kruger about the trip is how God uses people wherever they are to fulfill His purpose. “George and Luisa went to Greece 22 years ago to minister to the people of Athens and now they have the privilege of serving people from all over the world who have migrated to Greece as refugees or as immigrants in search of opportunities not afforded to them in their home countries,” she said. “We can go to the mission field or the mission field can come to us. It’s important to view the place where you are right now as the mission field to which God has called you. There are many opportunities to reach people right in our own ‘backyard.’”
Jennae Wiese had a similar takeaway from the trip. “Being part of the Greece mission trip was heart-stirring for me,” she said. “The Dimakos’ have a unique ministry with refugees that come through their country. God has given them an open door to evangelize these (sometimes) transient people. Most come looking for freedom, but many found that and more in Jesus Christ! Their lives will never be the same...neither will mine.”
Written by Betsy Abraham