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.