Athens: an opportunity

Posted by Jon Burns on 24-Apr-2018 in Athens

What you have done is truly wonderful!

Last November, I wrote to you about a spiritual awakening among Muslims, an outpouring of God's Spirit among refugees in Frankfurt that was unprecedented. Stephen Beck, GEM's lead missionary there, reported:

"We had no idea what God was going to do, or that civil war and ISIS would soon drive millions of Muslim refugees into Europe- 1.5 million to Germany. Nor did we dream that thousands would arrive disillusioned with Islam."

I wrote to you about a great awakening among German pastors. They were turning to Stephen and the Mosaik (GEM) church movement he leads, asking for their congregations to be trained and equipped to lead thousands of refugees to the Savior. You responded to this wonderful news, generously so! I cannot thank you enough! Please refer to the enclosed information sheet to see some of the fruit of your giving. Again, thank you!

But, today I'm writing with more joy-another wonderful opportunity to expand His Kingdom. Let me give you some exciting examples.

"We are Muslims, we don't need your help!" Zolfan had just made the dangerous crossing across the Aegean Sea to Greece in a small rubberized boat. He and his Muslim companions had come ashore on the Greek island of Lesvos, where they found people waiting for them with tangible aid, food and water. Zolfan refused the help, saying, "No, we are Muslims."

"That's fine," they answered. "Here's some food and blankets." Wherever they went, this kept happening! Zolfan kept saying, "No, we are Muslims, we don't need your help," and they kept replying, "That's fine, how can we help you?"

Zolfan said he came to realize that all he had been taught about Christians was a lie. Later, he publicly testified, "We learned that Christians don't hate us. They are not evil. I kept seeing them love us over and over and realized it was real." He and several of the Muslim men he had traveled with accepted Christ as their Savior and are now part of a GEM partner church!

Zahid is another young refugee man. He had been receiving help at a GEM church in Athens. He finally opened up to a Christian man, Mihalis: "I feel lost. I feel like I've been lied to all my life. I don't know what the truth is anymore. I don't see the purpose to life!"

Mihalis replied: "That's great! This is exactly why Jesus came. He is the Way, He is the Truth, and He is the Life!" That was the turning point for Zahid. Touched by the love of the followers of Jesus and the Gospel, he too accepted Christ as his Savior.

 


 

I could give you many more examples of what God is doing, of lives that are open as never before. That brings me to this current opportunity. Greece has been a primary entry point into Europe, a narrow funnel for a multitude of refugees seeking a better life. But tens of thousands have found themselves stopped at the borders, unable to move on, trapped in Greece. Many are in the capital city, Athens, a strategically important city for GEM.

You are likely familiar with GEM's European urban strategy that we called 50 Cities in 5 Years (50 in 5). If you gave, prayed for or participated in this strategy, thank you! In Athens, we are engaged in the next step, CityReach, which is carrying forward what was started-movements of church planting and discipleship, reaching out to all nationals and the flood of refugees in Europe.

The opportunities to reach Europe are immense. This is why many more new ministry teams and missionaries are needed. These teams will be drawn from North America, Europe, and elsewhere to partner with local church teams-people who will demonstrate the love of Jesus, ministering to all people. With so many needs, Athens is a key city to expand this ministry, which we pray will be replicated throughout the continent.

A key ministry hub in Athens will continue to be the Greek Bible College, established by GEM in 1973. The college has always focused on raising up and equipping national leaders; many of today's most effective Greek, Christian leaders and pastors were equipped there. Mark Doebler, a GEM missionary and the Dean of Students says:

"The ministry of GEM through the Greek Bible College has had a profound impact on the burgeoning church plants we are witnessing. We are seeing multiplication through discipleship training of nationals, and the transformation of refugees into pastors, evangelists and church planters. We have high hopes."

Mark and I agree that Athens is an ideal focus city for expanding this promising strategy. Given the many challenges of Athens, if a strategy like CityReach can be effective here, it can also work in Europe's other cities, spreading through places like Paris, Frankfurt, and Birmingham.

When I think of the thousands who can be reached by the Gospel in Athens and in the refugee camps, when I envision the influence of awakened churches, of short-term teams reaching out together with the compassion of Christ, I rejoice. For here in Athens, this troubled city of 5 million, so many are without hope.

Muslims are disillusioned with Islam. Greek nationals are disillusioned with secular and material bases for faith. They are waiting for good news, to hear someone tell them that "Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life."

Just as you gave to mobilize and greatly strengthen the ministry in Frankfurt, would God lead you to do the same in Athens and across Europe? May I request that you prayerfully consider a gift for GEM urban ministries across Europe, including Athens?

 

Please consider giving at: www.gemission.org/teams-athens

 

As you can see, the potential is vast, not just to reach refugees, Greeks, or Athens, but cities throughout Europe.

Please pray for the Athens staff, and for the Greek Bible College. Pray for the many teams that will continue to join in this grand endeavor. Pray for the teams of Greek Christians from local churches, and for former Muslims who will also minister in the name of Jesus.

What a wonderful time to witness all He is doing, to join with you!

I look forward with much anticipation to how God will use you in this grand partnership!

Jon Burns

President and CEO, Greater Europe Mission


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