Recap of Trip to Athens, Greece1
From Sunday, March 12 to Friday, March 17, our team of college students and young adults got to spend time with Emmanuel and Bethany Tsoustas at their church, Pangrati Church, in Athens, Greece. Pangrati Church is made up of Greeks mostly in the Pangrati neighborhood and is hosted in one multi-functional room. In Greece, as Emmanuel explained to us, there are two main groups of people: People in the Orthodox church and those who do not care about religion at all. Evangelical Christians are viewed with skepticism by both groups, as well as the government- since the Orthodox Church is the state religion. The way Emmanuel, Bethany, and their church live and function in the community raises questions—but in a positive way. Some Athenians do not want anything to do with Evangelicalism, but many become curious when they see the events and community within the Pangrati Project. Our team witnessed this repeatedly during our time there; folks would walk by and see a group of people laughing, talking, and worshipping God and would stop to ask what was happening. There were countless opportunities to invite others into community!
The Pangrati neighborhood is made up of young people and families, including college students. While the “Pangrati Project” center is used for a church service on Sundays and a prayer service on Wednesdays, their space is also used for ministry during the week as the “Study Space”. The University of Athens has only one library study space for 40,000 undergraduate students and coffee shops charge for the use of Wi-Fi. Therefore, they opened their multi-functional room as the “Study Space” with free Wi-Fi and coffee. It has become a great resource for students and a wonderful opportunity for Emmanuel and Bethany to meet people in their neighborhood. We spent some of our time cleaning their room, organizing their library inside (since public libraries are not common in Greece), and picking up trash outside the church space.
Several of the students on our team have musical gifts, so we were also able to host an English worship night at the church halfway through the week. For an hour, we sang together to our Savior, with folks from Greece, America, and many other countries. After the service, it was a precious sight to see so many people linger together! Another night we were there, we were able to host a parents-night-out for local pastors and their wives. The last night we were there, our team was able to participate in Pangrati Projects’ famous game night. We played late into the night with members of the church and several new people who had recently become connected through friends of friends. It is an amazing ministry opportunity. Consistently, we saw this one room that the church had used in so many ways—they steward what space they have in a way that honors and serves their body, as well as their community outside their walls, all in order to make their community better and share the hope of Christ.
I was so challenged personally to assess my own ministry—am I stewarding my own resources well? My home, my time, my things, my money? Am I as excited as Emmanuel and Bethany were when I meet new young people who could be included in our ministry? Our team of young adults was also able to see God’s worldwide church in action. For some, this was the first time they had been exposed to God’s Kingdom in this way—what an amazing picture! It was heaven come to earth. I was struck by the few believers in Athens. I take for granted the number of Christians I know who know and love me. This community in Athens is so precious!
The last morning we spent in Athens, Emmanuel took us to the outside of a building that their church is hoping to purchase as a permanent space. The current space is fine, but they are renting and their church body is growing. This new space, which is looking more promising by the day, Lord willing, would provide a more permanent space and a space in a different part of the Pangrati neighborhood. This would automatically connect their church with a whole new set of people. As we looked at the space, listened to Emmanuel’s vision, and prayed for God’s provision and blessing, it is like we could see how God would work in their new space.
Please join us in praying for the details to work themselves out, as well as for the financial means for this church body to purchase this new building. It was an honor to see it and imagine what God will do with this space. They would have a larger space to hold community events, classrooms for small group teaching, space for a children’s program, and more. As our team continues to pray for God to bless this church, we ask that you would join us in that prayer for God’s kingdom to grow in the heart of Greece!
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