We’re on the six-hour train to Thessaloniki. Our five weeks in Athens have ended. Most of us have never seen the rural side of Greece, except maybe when we took a bus from Piraeus to a UNHCR refugee camp a few days ago. But even now we’re passing snow-capped mountains and mustached farmers with boots up to their knees, walking through the edges of their towns with a pack of limping dogs, painted billboards advertising tractors (τρακτέρ, in Greek).
As we travel, and head into the next half of this outreach, we’ve all agreed that we feel a certain indescribable lightness.
Athens was a time of intense growth for us as a team, and the struggles that we went through seemed to affect all of us collectively–the more we talked about them and worked through them, the more we realized that these aren’t just our struggles, but our empathetic experience of the things that plague the Greek people: a difficulty hearing God’s voice, a fight for intimacy with the Lord, issues of miscommunication and disunity. I can remember distinctly the night where we came together and made a stand regarding these things.
We were sitting in our common area during the second week of outreach, and as we started to debrief about our day, a keen teammate started noticing that there was some undercurrent going on that had been hinted at but not mentioned. After one person admitted their spiritual struggles since arriving in Athens, a domino effect took over and we all started to see the common threads between our stories: a struggle with hearing God’s voice, battling miscommunication, and not feeling intimacy. And as soon as we got real with our struggles, God blessed us with his word through a "long-termer", Aaron, who we Skyped with shortly after. To our amazement, without having heard our issues, he mentioned these exact three things that we were struggling with as being native to Greece and Athens, and encouraged us to lean in to intimacy with God and into our quiet times, as this will be our weapon for victory in Greece. He left us with the reality that we ARE God’s church, not just a loose group of traveling missionaries.
This was three weeks ago, and the week after this conversation, over three hundred missionaries spilled into Athens for our YWAM United Outreach– both our battles and our victories became part of the entire group’s inheritance as a mission. These things have been going on for decades before we’ve been here, but we have the privilege of being a part of history as we triumph over these things in our unity and our intimacy with God. God is weaving a tapestry of the historical epic going on in Athens, and has used the smallest instruments for the most important tasks: we are the proverbial needle-and-thread for the amazing picture that God is sewing, the minute mustard seed that precedes the immense harvest to come.
And a harvest has come- the first fruits of the immense bounty that we believe Greece will encounter this year: a long-awaited awakening to what God has for this people. Since we’ve been here over two-thousand people have heard the gospel, at dinner events for refugees, public sharing, and through one-on-one sharing. We’ve seen forty-five people come to know Jesus for the first time, and over 130 people healed from various ailments including back pain, blindness, and lame legs.
In all this, my team and I are so clearly aware of our smallness in the context of God’s magnitude and power– something you can picture especially well as you ride a train through the mountains. Looking out of my cab, the drop into the valley is huge, and I feel tiny and precarious as I see the front cab of the train disappear into a tunnel, and then snake out onto a bridge, the mountainside dropping off below. And I am but one passenger, thankful for the golden rails that secure us to our destination, small as we are, but chosen for the panoramic vastness that is God’s kindgom.
On to new places!
Written by: Joe Saperstein