Ed and Livi's prayer letters from Athens

Ed Longman and Livi Kellie spent some time during Summer 2018 volunteering with Omoni Church in Athens, working with refugees. While they were away, they send the following prayer letters:

First Prayer Letter

Dear Friends,

Welcome to our first prayer letter. We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on our letter (we're new to this!), as well as any encouragements from it or your lives. As we work here, we desire to be truly prayerful, and develop our relationship with God and others here in different parts of their lives.

We'd like to try and give you an idea of what life here has looked like in our first few days. Here goes!

On Sunday we attended the First Evangelical Church, Athens and then had our orientation,  with another volunteer (Kitty), to learn more about the work we will do every week. The pastor was preaching on Luke 15, the parable of the Lost Sheep, a great reminder about the welcome that the father gave to his son. This made us think, particularly as we are strangers in this new setting and also extending welcome to others in need and that do not know the love of Jesus yet.

Monday saw our first day at the Church where we are serving. This particular ministry at Omonia Church was set up 3 years ago. It is situated in a challenging part of Athens and the refugees come from across Iraq, Iran, Syria and some further afield. Members of this community include both Christians and Muslims;  the practical work we do is in assisting the running of their English teaching and aid work.

Livi has been helping in the beginners English class and also with the food prep for their meals that run on Tuesday and Thursday, catering for over 100 refugees. Both adults and children eagerly learn together in classes set on their ability.
Ed has been helping with serving of drinks and with the food prep, challenging with Greek electrical wiring that gets pushed to the max. Among those who volunteer, it is wonderful to see the trust they have that God will enable things to happen. Alongside the foreign volunteers, he will be the only man serving from this Thursday so the relationships built with the male refugees will be something he'll specifically be looking for help with. 

Today we attended a devotional along with all those who came to the classes. It was witnessing to the Muslims, but also that the Christians there could grow. One family of volunteers are leaving this week, and mentioned in their leaving message that although they may not be remembered by name, that the people they've touched will remember the one who sent them, Jesus. This seems to be a key theme amongst communities of volunteers who come and go, all of whom come to serve God and the people. Overall it seems important to remember we are a very small part in a much bigger picture of ministry here but there is so much gratitude shown for what can be done to help.

Please pray for:

  • Patience to see God at work in the people we are with and to see how we are being used.
  • Being able to rest well as the new situations are making us very tired.
  • Strength to continue the work, particularly when tasks become more challenging in lessons.
  • To build relationships and trust with other workers and refugees.

Best wishes and yours inexperiencedly,
Ed and Livi

 Church of Christ where the refugee ministry takes place 

 

Second Prayer Letter

Dear Friends,
One of the blessings of our time here is that we have a healthy amount of time to reflect and respond. Here are some highlights of the Lord at work this last week.

Praises:
Last Saturday we joined with the others serving at Omonia Church for prayers and worship at sunset on Mars hill, where Paul preached in Acts 17; "Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious....."
Whilst we were singing we were joined by another group from Croatia who heard us. A reminder of the way in which we all share in one voice of praise.

Provision:
This week our team has expanded substantially with the addition of brothers and sisters from the USA (for just one week) and Romania (for two weeks). The blessing has been keenly felt by all of us, particularly better activities for adults and children alike. The cost of running this ministry is not only finance, but also volunteers to make it happen so it is fantastic to have people that come and get so stuck in.

Transformation:
Sunday saw an evening baptism service of a brother. Oh, and then 3 more! Let us explain. Mohammad became a Christian whilst living in Syria along with his wife, brother and sister-in-law. He decided to baptise himself in a river; however, after arriving in Greece and speaking to the pastor at Omonia about declaring his faith publicly, he came to be baptised in front of his church family.
Commotion in the aisles in Arabic followed for a few minutes, why? Read On.
Spontaneously, his wife, brother and sister-in-law, who had been attending church regularly also came forward to be baptised. Witnessing this profound moment for these 4 individuals was very moving, sharing this occasion with people we have been serving this week. One of the women described this day as 'the best day of my life... a beautiful time to share with our family'. Wow!

Our response:
On Monday, we were involved in a prayer day; an opportunity to talk to God individually and in small groups about some missions that OM are sending out at the end of our time here. It was a privilege to pray with them and for the wider work of OM.

As we conclude, please pray:

  • That we would be compelled to be proactive in relationship building even in the short term.
  • For a short dramatised Bible story we hope to stage for the children before the Thursday devotional at Omonia.
  • To give thanks for feeling less tired as we continue to serve here.

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.

Love in Christ,
Ed and Livi

Omnia Team on Mars hillThe Baptism briefing! Before the main event

 

Third Prayer Letter

Dear Friends,

It has been really encouraging to see the students at Omonia come on so far in their English studies, two of the teachers remarking that their whole class had progressed up together to the next level (of the 3 levels of English class). Their desire to learn is obvious and it is reflected by their progress (honestly this isn't a school report!). Thank you for praying about the drama, we are hoping to do another this week, having learned lots from last week's, It was quite chaotic, so we hope to make it more fluid as it is a huge challenge communicating it into 2 other languages. Praise the Lord for all the attendees' patience with us and also for the astonishing translators blessing our community.

Radical Hospitality:
This week has seen the arrival of 13 new volunteers from all over the world. Some of them are joining us at Omonia church, whilst others are serving in ministries in refugee camps. Ed is delighted to be joined by another guy (finally!) who is serving alongside us.

We were both very moved by our Monday study with the other OM volunteers here. We highly recommend that you put aside an hour to follow the Group Leaders session we looked at. This study focused on how Jesus welcomed all people, in particular the man with leprosy, and the sequence was 'come near, and be clean', not 'be clean, and come near'; The challenge for us is welcoming all, those who have a lot or a little, with illness, difficult circumstances, lack of language and with different culture; and not restricting our open arms to those who already fit a stereotype.

At the Lavrio camp:
This is a camp of approximately 300 Kurdish refugees who have been there for anything up to 9 months.

Hearing the stories of some refugees is eye-opening. We ask, what would it take for you to give up a house, cars, job, studies and extended family?

Omar was a medical student in Syria before the war started. He was richly blessed in all he had but war, as it does, strips that all away and now he is here in a camp with nothing more than what he could carry on his back. He travelled with his wife and 3 children selling everything to leave Syria and get through Turkey. This is typical of all who are refugees here. When we visit we have an opportunity to entertain the children (skipping is a favourite)  and talk, via Google Translate, to some of the men there. It has also been a pleasure to get to know the children and a family at this camp, especially as this is not our main ministry.

We would like to reassure you, regarding the fires in Attica, that we are safe and unaffected by them. Thank you for those who have been in contact with your concerns.

Please pray for:

  • All those affected by the fires in the region.
  • Trusting God that he would put us in positions to proclaim the Gospel and that we would not shy from that.
  • Patience to develop relationships with those in our community, despite language barriers.

1 Cor. 12:4-6"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work."

Praise God for the varied team here.

Every Blessing,
Ed and Livi

The Βημα (Bema) in Ancient Corinth which we visited with some new volunteers, seeing where Paul preached on his travels The camp at Lavrio, housing in a 1950 school!

 

Fourth Prayer Letter

Dear Friends,

As we enter our final few days in Athens, we want to share with you some of our thoughts and reflections of places that have touched us during our ministry time. We are reminded daily, by our decreasing number of day trips shown on our month-long metro passes, of the relatively short time we have spent here, but also how much we have grown and depended on God in all that we have done in this time.

Some of you have asked what our daily timetable is like at Omonia, so here goes!

10:30 Arrive at the church for a meeting with all of the volunteers, chaired by Eleni, who runs this ministry, to discuss the previous day's work, particularly highlighting the positives and challenges, each day brings its own unique ones that are often unpredictable. Roles for the current day are then distributed according to the specific needs, such as if it is a shared meal day, or depending on the number of volunteers and their particular strengths. This session concludes with a worship time and prayer.

11:30 English classes begin. The students are allocated into beginner, intermediate or advance classes, depending on their ability and confidence in aspects of English. Any other people who attend socialise in the communal area, with refreshments available and the opportunity for the adults to colour if they wish to; for some of them, this was the first time they had done this, commenting 'this is so relaxing'! Ed's main role during this time is to man the door for the students; something they value having a man do. He has also orchestrated dramas of the Bible stories discussed in devotionals over the past 2 weeks, demanding given all the translation. Livi's role has included entertaining the youngest children in the nursery, clearing a storage room of unwanted clothing and books, and assisting in the classrooms.

12:30 break for all for 15 minutes. Tea and biscuits are served and this is an opportunity to chat to some of the refugees (sometimes via Google Translate) to hear their testimonies and get to know them.

13:30 School ends

Tuesday & Thursday - All attend a devotional talk spoken in English, Arabic, Kurdish and sometimes Farsi (due to the incredible translators in the community), based on a bible story or gospel theme. Eleni then updates everyone on new situations or events that can be prayed for, for example the birth of a baby. The devotional is then concluded in prayer.

Approx. 14:00 Food is then served, cooked by some of the refugees, usually consisting of chicken, rice and salad- incredible! All volunteers help to serve this, particularly helping mothers who have many children with plates! Usually we're finished by 16:00!

This week has felt more pressured, as our volunteer numbers have decreased noticeably, due to the departure of our Romanian brother and sisters. So it can be quite tough when there is more to do for all of us.

After the Sunday morning service at Omonia church, we were able to assist in the packing of 200 bags to go to those affected by the Attica fires. These bags contained essentials such as underwear, toiletries and footwear, and we were able to fund this thanks to support from all corners of the globe! 

We were then able to drop off the bags we'd assembled to a distribution centre in Rafina, which was held in a school gymnasium. The volunteers at this centre were very welcoming and appreciated the bags we'd brought, however small the contribution in the midst of everything; they reminded us that we are all a small part of God's work on Earth, and how our contribution was much needed. Some of the refugees had written letters of encouragement for those affected, explaining where they had come from and that they understood their current situation, praying for them at this time. As we drove back to Athens, 7 of us in a 5 seater car, we decided to sing a few favourite songs in rounds...... At Tuesday's devotional, Eleni described the meaning of John 3:16, and we sang a song set to this verse.

During our time here, we have also managed to be tourists, seeing more temples and pillars that we could've ever imagined! We have visited Corinth, the Parthenon, the National Gardens, Piraeus port, been to a classical music concert in the Odeon of Herodes, outdoor film theatre, swimming in the sea, and several museums. We've left no stone unturned, or clay pot for that matter!

As we reflect on our personal growth since arriving, here are some encouragements we have seen:

  1. The abundant love and trust the leaders and volunteers at OM and Omonia have for Jesus in everything they do. 
  2. The care and time that people go to to help those in need
  3. The generosity of supporters from all over the world
  4. The overwhelming sense of the Holy Spirit being at work.
  5. The way in which we can all be used no matter what our skills.
  6. All of these remind us of the massive hope for the kingdom we have in the future!

Please pray:

  • For a safe journey back on Friday
  • That we may continue to keep the people who have touched us in our hearts as we return home and that we preserve all that has changed in us over our time here.
  • That our hearts will continue to be those of selfless service in our home churches.

Every blessing,
Ed and Livi

The sunsets are pretty cool here, the end of a day reminding us to look back and be thankful for so much.


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