June 6, 2016. 1900 EET (7 p.m. Eastern European Time). Athens, Greece.
In an old theater building in downtown Athens I find myself standing between two college students passing out trays of bread and heaping bowls of spaghetti to men, women and children from Syria, Iraq and Iran who have literally escaped tyranny and risked their very lives to be in Greece. That is how they have come to sit in this theater, at very long tables, waiting patiently for spaghetti and bread. Yes, we have spaghetti and bread, but our hope is this, that we are giving them the Bread of Life. After all, truth always comes out (an American saying, which I desperately hope is real!). I wonder—Where will these people sleep? Will they be safe? What will they eat tomorrow?
Out the window to my left is the Parthenon. Before this night, I dreamed of seeing it, but the real beauty to be seen was in the faces of the people at the tables. This ministry is literally saving lives. They give food, they provide showers, they provide a place to do laundry, and they preach Jesus. They minister and counsel, they assist with jobs and housing. The truth always comes out.
After the meal is finished, and the room is cleared and cleaned up, I go up one floor to the ‘balcony’ with plans to go outside and take a picture of the Parthenon. But, the picture that is seared into my brain is of the man I passed on my way out to take the picture. I asked him if he had eaten, thinking maybe he was late. He said no. I asked him if he wanted a plate, he said no. He looked so sad, and I knew that between his broken English and my nonexistent Greek or Farsi, I was NOT getting the whole story.
I make it to the balcony and meet a German man, who is the leader of one of the teams of college kids that I met downstairs. His English is very good and he excitedly tells me how long they have been in Athens, and all that he has seen, heard and done, and he is filled with hope. He is preaching Jesus, and he has plans to come back again as soon as he can. I could have listened to him for hours.
As we are gathering up our group to leave, Matt Gulley, the director of this program, asks us to come in and pray with him for someone. We enter the room and I see the sad man from the balcony. I will call him Ahmad and he is from Iran. He is living in the refugee camp in Athens while his wife and 5-year-old daughter are still in Iran. He is waiting on a passport, and desperately trying to find a job.
He is one of the lucky ones—he has a welder’s certificate obtained from a reputable German company while in Iran. The same company is also doing work in Athens. It turns out the German man I met on the balcony has plans to take him over to where the German company is working and try to help him get a job, and Ahmad is hopeful, but he is also afraid. Two weeks before that he and a friend were baptized. His friend was just badly beaten at the refugee camp because he gave his life to Jesus. Ahmad knows that is the only place he can go, and he is afraid to go back there. The truth always comes out.
As we place our hands on him and pray for him to be safe, to find a job, and to be able to bring his wife and daughter to Greece, my tears are dripping on his arm. When Amen is said, I start to apologize to him, only to see his own tears falling. In that moment, I know the truth. We are one, this man from Iran and me. There is no Jew or Greek (Iranian or American), slave or free, male or female. We are one in Jesus Christ. The truth always comes out.
Contributed by Wendy Smith, Searcy, Arkansas (USA).
EEM has provided over 80,000 Farsi and Arabic Bibles and New Testaments to ministries serving the growing refugee population in Greece and Eastern Europe.