Our April / May prayer letter & update is now available. It can be found through the drop down menu “About Us”, and then clicking “Prayer Letters”. Thank you for keeping the work in Athens, and across Greece, in your prayers!
We are still experiencing some difficulties with getting our home WiFi system connected. We purchase our service from a telecom company who works in conjunction with the Greek national phone company called OTE. Some of you may have seen the name Cosmote while traveling in Europe or watching soccer matches- same company. OTE does all the line work and they’re usually not in a hurry to do anything for the other telecoms because it isn’t “their” customer. Anyway, I scheduled the transfer of our service 3 weeks in advance of our move based on the 4 weeks it took them to give us service last time. When they came, they said there wasn’t an available line at the box for us to have phone & internet. Calls were made and eventually they “found” one. The telecom came out to install the service and said we had a wiring problem in the house because they couldn’t get the signal from the box. The tech failed to see the wire connecting our home goes to a different box almost directly in front of our house, which we discovered by paying a private electrician skilled in these matters to come out and check the wiring. So they came out again and are now telling us we have to wait for OTE to come and move the line from the other box to the one we’re connected to. No one knows how long this will take. We started this process almost 7 weeks ago. In that time I’ve paid our bill and yesterday was forced to purchase a mobile hot spot so I can keep up with our responsibilities. In fairness, our provider did give us one but it quit working after a few days and after spending quite a few hours trying to get it sorted, I opted to purchase our own.
While we are definitely frustrated, it surely isn’t the end of the world. I am all the more reminded to be thankful for all the things we do have like a home, food, clothes, a car, and most of all- salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. I spend many hours a week trying to reach people here with the Gospel, and some of these people are reasonably well off. They have nice homes, expensive cars, maybe a vacation home on an island, and probably good internet service. However, they lack the most important and valuable thing in the all the world- a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is why we are here. This is why a few weeks without internet really doesn’t matter when people next door, all over our neighborhood, and across Athens are heading to a Christ-less eternity. We’re counting our blessings, not as someone who takes pride in them, but in gratitude and to strengthen our commitment to sharing them with others. Its truly been said, “You can’t take it with you”, but you definitely can take someone with you… whether you have internet or not.
Please take a moment and catch up with our latest prayer letter & update. You can find it by opening the drop down menu “About Us”. Just click on “Prayer Letters”! Thank you for keeping us before the Lord!
After months of meaning to get started revamping our website, we’re finally starting to make some updates. It is has been our desire for some time to produce a monthly 2-3 minute video update detailing what is happening in our ministry. Honestly, I’ve dropped the ball on that but we are in the process of adding a link to a new YouTube channel where we plan to regularly upload ministry updates and related videos. We will have a an update completed very soon!
We are also adding more Greek language content. We’ve translated our doctrinal statement in Greek and added it to the “What We Believe” page. As we continue to reach our community in Athens, this site will play a vital part, and using this platform in Greek is a must. We will continue to add more Greek content as the ministry grows and impacts the people around us. I’m looking forward to adding some Greek discipleship files and even some audio files of short Bible lessons as I work toward proficiency with the language. To that end, please continue to pray as I complete my Greek language instruction courses. I attend classes twice a week, working toward acquiring the C-2 level compentancy certification. I also am completing full TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification and plan to use English instruction as an opportunity to employ the Bible as a primary text while building relationships through the classroom environment.
Thank you for praying and supporting our family. Keep an eye out for a new prayer letter and that video update in the very near future.
Wanted to post the link to our current update video which gives a brief glimpse of our first term ministry on Zakynthos and where God is leading us upon our return to Athens in March 2018. You can find it under the Video Updates page here on the site! Happy Thanksgiving!!!
It’s been six years since we created this site and I am ashamed to say that I’ve never updated its primary content one time. Sure, we’ve added our prayer letters and the occasional blog but we largely have not kept up with the site as we should have. Well, after much prayer and a renewed commitment to using the gifts of technology to reach people for Christ, we will be revamping and posting more information here and at our new Facebook page, @GrecoMissions (see the link at the bottom of this page).
Please keep an eye out for our furlough update video to be posted, sermons, songs (Joanna singing, not me!), and video updates. If you have any suggestions or ideas that would make our site more informative and useful as a ministry tool, please do not hesitate to send me a message.
We’re looking forward to the next phase of ministry in Athens beginning in March 2018. We’re hoping you will follow us along this amazing journey as we share the good news of the Gospel and begin a new Baptist church in the city of Athens.
I’m a planner. I like setting goals, arranging details, and sticking to the program. I’m one of those people who immediately arranges a place setting to my preferences and can instantly tell if something is out of place at my desk. When things go off plan, I tend to get a bit freaked out. It may not be visible on the outside but trust me when I tell you, my mind begins to race and my body starts to respond to the stress. And yes, with God’s help, I’m working on it.
When we learned my previous lawyer did nothing he said he had regarding my residency application, my mind went into crisis mode. “What are we going to do now?”, I thought? I had carefully planned out 2017 and loosely planned for furlough to begin mid 2018. Beyond that, I had planned for us to return to Greece and get busy planting a church. The big problem being that, “I had planned.” Although I prayed over these things, they weren’t God’s plans. He simply hadn’t revealed His plans to us until just a few weeks ago at which time I asked myself an important question. Who is in charge of my life, me or God? It certain seems much clearer now than when I first faced these circumstances. My life isn’t my own. I am bought with a price. Yet, I began to stress when I should have simply trusted God.
Now that things have settled down and I’ve placed my trust where it should’ve been in the first place, God is showing us more of His plan… and it is exciting! Do I still need to make plans and attend to details? Of course, but it’s so much more peaceful following God’s direction than trying to blaze my own path. What seemed like a big disappointment at the time is proving to be a huge blessing.
The road ahead is definitely clearer now than at any time in the past three years. Because of my visa situation, we are moving our furlough up one year. We’ll be returning to the States at the end of June 2017 and returning to Greece at the beginning of March 2018. After our return, we will be moving to either Athens or Thessaloniki (the Lord hasn’t showed us that part of His plan just yet… and that’s OK!) to begin the preliminary work of establishing a new Baptist church! I’ve never doubted God called our family here to plant a church and now He is giving us the desire of our hearts sooner than we expected.
Things I figured would need countless hours of planning are falling into place even without my involvement. “Lord, please show me where we should look for furlough housing?”, I prayed. The next day, I receive an email that a family in our home church is making a house available to us for the duration. I didn’t even have to ask! “God, please show me what to do regarding residency.”- Done! Our new lawyer did some digging and made some recommendations which are so easy, she doesn’t even have to be involved in the process which will begin when we return next year. It’s so nice to focus on the important thing, getting the Gospel to the people God has brought into our lives, rather than sweating details of things God is already attending to.
I’ve heard the following statement many times in my life but I believe I never really understood how until now- “Let God be God.” I need to trust Him more without going in front of Him. I’m to be a follower of Christ, not one who goes my own way hoping to find Him wherever I wind up. The road ahead looks better than ever.
We’re starting to feel like Bedouins. We will have lived in Greece two full years mid-June and we will soon move into our fourth home. Nothing like keeping the grass from growing under your feet. The house we’re leaving was a big answer to prayer and is actually the one we’ve lived in longest over these two years. It’s big, modern, and actually has screens on the windows (I hate mosquitos)! However great as it is, the Lord wants us to relocate.
The first home we lived in was on the smaller side but quaint. A nice big yard with plenty of fruit trees offset its biggest shortcoming- one bathroom among six people- you do the math! It was close to church and our ministry partners home too. Little did we know when we moved in that the landlord was actively trying to sell the house. After eight months he came to us and asked if we could move in three months as he’d sold the house. We agreed, taking it was from the Lord we find a new home, and began casually looking for a new house.
A few weeks later, he knocked on the door and said he had a problem and invited us to come to his house to discuss it with he and his wife. Joanna and I went, uncertain of what we would hear, with open hearts hoping to show the Lord in anything we would say or do. They related to us how they had the house on the market for some years and finally had a buyer but he wanted immediate possession or would walk away. “Would you move out in a week?”, they asked. We said we had no where to go so they offered us their summer home for however long it took for us to find a house- rent free! We agreed on the spot and their jaws dropped. Most people here would never have accepted that deal. No one wants to let someone else get over on them here. “What is it that you believe that makes you so happy to help us when you’re so inconvenienced?” he said. “We know the Lord will provide and you need help.”, was our reply.
So we packed up what we could move into that house (it was furnished), stored our other things where we could and spent six weeks there while looking for another house. We got to know Stephanos quite well while living there. His wife would come by with flowers and chat. They brought their son to meet us. They wanted to know what was different about these crazy American Baptists. We had great opportunity to develop our relationship with them and often talked of spiritual things. Eventually we found this big house and agreed to rent it. Stephanos even helped us move, loading up his pickup with more than a few loads. I stop by his office, he’s a doctor, in town now and again to say hello and we’re always glad to see each other. Maybe one day they’ll come to visit us at church as they promised.
In June 2015, we moved into this big, modern house. 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms with a modern kitchen, balconies off all the bedrooms, and a grill house in the back. We were thrilled to have found such a great place as houses this size are few and far between on our island. Our new landlords were downsizing and would be moving into an apartment- in our basement! We scoffed at first as we thought it would be a bit too close but we truly liked them and since they own a couple stores in town and would be out most of time, we decided it wouldn’t be so bad.
We immediately hit it off with them. Though they speak little English and our Greek is not always enough to effectively communicate, we enjoyed meals in the yard together, getting to know each other’s families. We got to know “Papou Kristos”, the father of the landlady, as he would talk to us frequently, usually making fun of my Greek. We became friendly with their adult children when they visited. We always had opportunity to speak about the Lord with them as they asked many questions as to why we came here when America is the best place in the world to live. They came, so did Stephanos and his wife, and enjoyed fellowship when we had a large housewarming party with our church family. Things weren’t meant to be in this house though…
Greece has her share of problems, many of which the world has seen on the nightly news over the last few years. Financial instability has effected almost ever segment of the population. Statistics tell us 30 businesses close their doors daily in Greece. Since 2010, 30K businesses have moved to Bulgaria and in 2015, 3K millionaires moved out of Greece. Greeks have not been the best about paying their taxes, at least all of them anyways. They’re always trying to find an angle to keep a little more of what they’ve worked hard to earn. Such are the effects of Socialism. When a landlord doesn’t file a lease to avoid taxes or wants to file a lease stating you pay half the rent you actually pay it becomes a problem. Especially if you’re a missionary / pastor committed to living honest in the sight of God and men. This is where we found ourselves.
Our landlords never filed our lease and when I started asking for legal receipts, I knew something was wrong. They asked if we could have a meeting and it was then they explained their situation. I would be in error to divulge the details but to put it simply, we were at an impasse. We want legal transactions and receipts, they do not want to expose themselves to higher taxes. Long story short, we knew we could not be part of the situation. They were genuinely apologetic and tried hard to find a situation to work for them but in the end they asked us to pay more rent to cover their taxes which we believe would not truly help them. We began looking for another house.
In a matter of a few days, a house near to our first one became available. We went the next day to see it and Joanna and I agreed on the spot to rent it. Though the house itself is smaller and not quite as modern, it is a good house with everything we need. Does it have everything we WANT? No, but as I said it has everything we NEED- except screens on the windows (did I mention I hate mosquitos?), plenty of room for a garden and our dogs to run around, which we lacked at our big house. Still, the daunting task of packing, moving, and unpacking again loomed large on our minds.
Last Saturday night, our current landlord came to our door. He wanted directions to our church so he and his wife could come the next morning. I wasn’t sure what to think about what was happening. Maybe they were hoping we’d stay if they came to church? I eagerly told him they could follow us. After a year of inviting them, we found ourselves bringing them to church on the day we were to tell them we were soon moving out.
They were a little surprised by how friendly everyone was but they remembered many faces of those who often visit us at our home. After the service we talked and my friend and ministry partner, Taki, helped me explain we were moving out in a few weeks. They took it well despite knowing they would be losing a chunk of their income. Most importantly though, when we asked if they enjoyed the service and understood the message, they said, “We did and we want to come again soon because what you believe is real.” Hearing that makes moving again completely worth the effort. I pray they truly mean what they said, come back soon, and accept God’s free gift of salvation.
Last Saturday afternoon, before the landlord came up to ask for directions, Joanna and I were at the new house doing some measuring and things. John was exploring his new digs and making plans for where the tree swing I promised to hang for him would go. Taki and I were in the yard looking at where I could put the dog kennel when a lady came to the gate and introduced herself. She lives next door and was wondering what we were up to. She’s not a Greek (she’s from the UK) and admitted to having little interest in spiritual matters. She and Joanna chatted for a while as Taki and I went back to planning the kennel.
As we were getting ready to leave, we talked about how God had led us to this house. How the English couple who rented it two months prior up and left after a month to return to the UK for some reason or another. How the house’s adjoining apartments will be ours after the summer renters move out, giving us more room than our big house had- at less rent! Then Taki said to me, “God has already given you some new prospects.” I agreed and couldn’t help but praise the Lord for His witness relocation program.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time with the five independent Baptist missionaries / pastors (another man working in Thessaloniki couldn’t join us) that are serving the Lord in Greece. We spent roughly two days and one long night fellowshipping, praying, posing deeply challenging theological questions to one another (we’re still grappling with some), and eventually talking about church planting. We all had a great time but Taki, the missionary / pastor whom I work with full time, and I began to dive deeper into the reality of church planting in Greece later in the evening. It’s amazing what three or four hours, dedicated to how we can better serve the Lord, can alter best laid plans.
As much as I love the island and people of Zakynthos where we live and work presently, I’ve never planned to stay here beyond our first term. We committed these years to learning the Greek language and assisting our friends, Taki and April Korianitis, grow the ministry here and then head to the mainland to establish a similar church. I have long held that Zakynthos doesn’t need two Baptist churches yet as we’re still working hard to fill up the one we have. I still hold to that belief but God showed me it is more important to follow Him than to attempt to cut a road of my own. My plan was to identify a city that would be the most receptive to the Gospel, move our family there, begin the task of evangelizing, and plant a new Baptist church. I know this method works but is it the best one to reach Greeks?
I have long known church planting in Greece is an extremely difficult task. Pastor Taki has told me, in his experience, the average time to lead a Greek to Christ and join the church is nine years. During our visit, all the missionaries shared their difficulties in building a decidedly Greek church. One man is pastoring a church predominantly composed of Filipino believers… in Central Athens! Another has a small Greek church but the Lord is blessing him with a tremendous ministry to Muslim refugees. The others have yet to accomplish the goal of starting a new church. I started to feel a bit overwhelmed by what the future might hold. Maybe everything I’ve learned about church planting won’t work here. How could that be?
Later in the evening, as Taki and I talked, he asked, “After 20 years, would you be satisfied pastoring the same church you planted?” That is when it hit me… we’re trying to force a square peg in a round hole. That is certainly not where I envisioned myself to be in 20 years! I figured I’d be on my third or fourth church in that time but Taki’s honest assessment of his own experience opened my eyes. The tried and true method of church planting in the 20th and 21st Century is not working in Greece. The role of the missionary, especially a non-Greek, must be reconsidered and reformed. As we talked, many realities became so much clearer to us. How could we have missed such obvious signs? The most important thing is that we’ve decided to do something about it and we have purposed to do it together.
We talked of the biblical church planting model of the 1st Century found in Acts.Two men working together itinerantly, evangelizing cities along a route to establish small groups of believers who would become churches such as those found in Corinth, Thessaloniki, and Philippi. Hey, these are cities in Greece! Was the Apostle Paul was on to something regarding Greek missions? Maybe this old method is the best new way to establish churches in Greece? We are convinced, more than ever, that it is and we’re making plans to update and apply these principles and get busy with the work.
Modern communications such as radio and easily printed newspapers and other literature will take us from town to town. Websites will allow us to connect instantly with searching souls, and possibly believers, who are longing to join together. We will meet regularly with small groups along the route, preaching and teaching to ground them in the faith. We will identify, train, and ordain Greek men to eventually become the pastors of new IFB churches, and we will continue to assist them in the work of the ministry. We believe God will continue to grow the work on Zakynthos as we labor here together to build a “mother” church that the Lord will use to birth indigenous churches across Greece. We realise we must stay this course and we must keep our eyes on the Lord for direction and wisdom. We’re convinced this is the way in which we must walk if we’re to effectively reach the people of Greece for Christ.
Is it a long and hard road? Yes, but it’s also an old road God has placed in His scriptural map that we might follow and see Him work again to establish lighthouses across Greece to illuminate the path of 12 million souls to find Jesus Christ and the free gift of salvation He offers.