23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 24 In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing[a] on the earth. 25 The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” Isaiah 19:23-25 (NIV)
We set out Friday morning for Beirut, but our missionaries warned us not to come because of public rioting. We flew over most of Europe with two connections as God didn’t just change our plans; He wrecked them. It’s a humbling lesson in who is in charge and whose mission this is anyway.We finally got off the plane in Athens 23 hours after our departure from Seattle.
The first stop was Areopagus, a smoothed rock formation in a grove of olive trees and at the base of the Acropolis. Paul addressed the crowds in Acts 17 here. What a blessing to worship at a nearby Afghan church, started by and ministering to refugees. After the service, we met privately with the local missionaries who shared how they are raising up Christian refugee leaders to lead the new believers. These people are on the front lines! Praying over them brought tears to many of us.
At an Iranian Evangelical Church, we met privately with an Iranian refugee in Greece illegally and homeless living outside an Orthodox church for nearly 20 years. An intelligent carpenter who speaks numerous languages, he described a dangerous life on the streets, with no help from the government. He is angry, hopeless, and not a believer, pushing back hard on the value of prayer to have any impact on his life. We left him with broken hearts, wondering what we could do to help him. We stopped on the sidewalk and prayed for him.
The evening found us in Victoria Square, a destination for many refugees when they first arrive. Previously, it was filled with refugees sleeping and living in the park. Now, police are present because human trafficking is happening, mostly of young boys. Refugees linger there, with nothing else to do but wait the three year period for their paperwork to go through.
The next day, we faced the reality that it is not safe for us to go to Beirut, so we asked God to show his plan for us here in Athens. He provided a “chance” meeting with a refugee from Iran who lost literally everything to follow Christ and an inspiring time with the leader of a flourishing nonprofit that serves thousands of refugees and sees God show up daily to perform amazing miracles. We left with the overwhelming and unmistakable feeling that we had been on holy ground.
At Good Samaritan the next day, we spent time with the children of mothers classes learning English and other skills. A welcoming place for women and children refugees (Iranians, Afghans, Syrians, and Africans) providing various services. Many of the children loved conversing in very good English and taking photos with us. We prayed for an Iranian employee who shared his heartbreaking and astonishing story. We laid hands on him for protection, safety, and his strength while he brings others to Christ. The prayers coming out of our team members were straight from God. He started to shake and dropped to his knees as the Holy Spirit filled this man up along with us and the room we were in.
The following day, we traveled about an hour outside of Athens to help our host lead the conference teaching the biblical view of marriage and parenting to mostly Iranian refugees, knowing that they have in many different cultural practices. In our free time, the men and women played a lively game of dodgeball. This was something that would never happen in Iran, our mission partner told us. Amazing things happen when the Holy Spirit is at work, and we respond to the guidance given.
The heartache from more stories of the pain of being a refugee separated from parents and other relatives and not having the dignity of caring for their families well themselves. Many are still separated from wives and children. Please pray for the Lord of us all to continue revealing himself to them in any way he pleases to do so.