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31 January 2007

Fancy Footwear


I love the image of feet, and love to take photos of feet! So helping to set up a give-away for men's shoes today was fun for me! Not to mention that now there will be tons of refugee guys with some snazzy shoes!





28 January 2007

Lost Coin Office


This is a photo of the building where Lost Coin has it's Athens office. It is located right in the middle of the 'ghetto' area of Athens. In fact, when people heard that I was coming here they said...go anywhere but to Omonia. Fancy that! And this is the very place where God is doing the most work!

Oppression and fighting


Have you ever wondered if there is a way to actually fight injustice? When it seems to be around everywhere and so very powerful?

"Do not fret because of evildoers...for they will wither quickly like the grass, and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good;...commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgement as the noonday." Psalm 37:1-6
I watched a movie called Human Traffiking this week, and was overwhelmed by the injustice. My heart wept at the plight of so many vulnerable girls, and I knew that I was no longer ignorant of their situation. Now God was opening my eyes so that I would be able to hear His call to follow and obey.

This week was a real challenge, and emotionally I was ready to pack my bags and shut down.
But yet His timing is perfect and His ways beyond ours...and so I hold onto His promises and character. And in worship and waiting I will see what He will do.

21 January 2007

Sundays

No matter where in the world Sundays are the best for good teaching, worship, fellowship, good food and naps! (And when on the way to church there is such a delicous shop, who can complain?)

In Athens my roomie Melana and I enjoyed some fellowship with Jennifer at the First Church of Athens, a Protestant church started by heros of the war. The music was particularly wonderful with old hymns and songs in a very classical Greek.

What followed was a lazy day of fellowship and walking.



Living Space


Just in case you were wondering where I live while here in Athens I thought I'd take a few inside photos of the guest apartment of Lost Coin.

This is my room near the entryway! The apartment is right downtown in the center of things near Omonia Square. The best part is that the office is only a five minute walk, and that there is Starbucks on the corner! It can't get better than that!

Peppers and Feta Cheese

Have you ever seen chaos?
I think that perhaps on Saturday at the Athens Refugee Center I saw chaos. It wasn't half bad.

It was a day for food, so people lined the stairway way before the opening at 11 am. While we frantically attempted to put the right number of olives, peppers, bread, cheese and napkins into a bag for each person they waited patiently. It is not easy to grab 5 olives, not 6 or 8 or whatever but 5!

Anyway, tea and food were served to around 500 people on Saturday.
That wasn't the chaotic part really.

It was what came later...groups of people here and there speaking, playing chess, watching a Jesus film, children running and playing, kids doing crafts, women chatting loudly over tea, babies crying and being put to sleep...this is what seemed to be like chaos.

And yet...it was a rather beautiful thing. As I sat in the corner holding a sleeping baby, I watched as this very random grouping of people from all over found a kind of beautiful fluidity in the chaos that is the Athens Refugee Center.

I was totally exhausted at the end, but I would never want to have missed it for anything!

Eyes of Sorrow


As I looked over I caught his eyes. He was hunched just so in his front seat looking flippant and unaffected as he smoked his cigarette. His hair was slicked down and long, his face made up just so. His whole demeanor radiated indifference and boredom.

And yet...when I caught his eyes there was a look of incredible emptiness and brokenness. It seemed as if I could see whole depths of sadness, hopelessness and apathy all in that one glance.

This was the face of one transvestite working the streets of Athens.
It was only a moment, and yet on Thursday night as we met people on the streets this is the thing that sticks with me. His eyes. I wondered about them. I wondered what brought such pain and suffering into those eyes? I wondered what happens in the life of a friend to bring such sorrow and brokenness? What happened to bring him to this point?

And is there any way back? Is there any way to hope for one with such sorrow?

For a minute, I forgot about the power of His hope. I was drowing in the impossibility of coming out of such sorrow.

But as we returned from ministry to share our impressions with one another, I was calmed to hear with what passion the guys told of their outreach. I was reminded of hope. I was reminded that transformation is just what His hope brings. And that God has brought others from pain and sorrow to wholeness of spirit.

And I pray that no longer will these eyes be filled with such bottomless sorrow.

"...to bind up the brokenhearted..." Isaiah 42:6-9

18 January 2007

Around town


Here are some fun photos from life around town here in Athens...


The metro system is great, but I actually prefer walking.


Especially when this is the view that I got this morning! (Housesat for a gal that lives right under the Acropolis, yeah!)




Here's a group of great Aussie gals here to volunteer for a month. We watched a movie about children in the red light district of India over falafel. The movie was rather daunting, but very eye-opening about the life and future of children of prostitutes. For those who might want to watch it is called Born into Brothels.

Little Rabiya sleeps after being played out at the ARC Tea House. She was one of our favorites this fall, and still smiles when I talk to her in Russian! Her parents are still in Greece and expecting another baby this summer!

A friendly face at the ARC, Susan has been a huge help in getting settled and praying with me during my time here in Athens. Plus she loves to go to Starbucks and support my habit, even though she doesn't like coffee.

17 January 2007

Beginnings



Zhanna stood in wonder when I burst into the brothel with two Bibles. We made a bit of scene actually, which would explain things.



Frankly speaking I was a bit nervous. After ministry on Monday night I had been plagued by the thought that we were abandoning those who maybe wanted more. How can you even affect those you see with only one five second conversation? And when two of the gals asked for Russian Psalms, well I was overcome. I promised to bring them Bibles the very next day.
It turns out though that the ministry only does outreach to the brothels on Monday nights, and really doesn't go back during the week. Crazy yet based on lengthy reasons.

I was determined in heart though that these gals should have David's Psalms if they were seeking. So I convinced several of the other novices to go back to the brothels and deliver the Bibles.

We were fine until everyone started telling me 'something' might happen. What could happen I wondered? Well it turns out that a number of things could happen, but most likely nothing would. Even that news though began to weave a burden and fear into my heart. And yet, I wsa commited now as I had a group of eager risk-takers at my back.

So on we went.

Still though, by the time we got to the brothel at 19 down I was a bit nervous, and broke into a rampage of Russian at the first sight of a person. And the girl standing before me turned out to be Greek, which is not that close it turns out to Russian!


However to the left stood Zhanna who took the offered package with the precious Bibles, and said a quiet and heartfelt (it seemed to me) thank you. She promised to call if she wanted to chat. With that, we exited.

Nothing really. We just gave two gals Bibles.

But oh what a victory it seemed to me! We had given two gals Bibles, and had invaded a bit of the darkness with His light. Maybe it is really nothing but it made me feel that perhaps, just perhaps this one day something light had been done.

Maybe next week we can drink coffee and discuss their favorite Psalm. Miracles eh?

16 January 2007

New Life and obedience

Last night I didn't want to go out on the street.

It had been a long week of trying to juggle both outreach to the women on the streets, and participating in feeding refugees. Not to mention trying to fit into a city culture, buy food in Greek, learn how to turn on the hot water, find my way around new streets and in general survive.

Yet, in the end I remembered Oksana.

Once on the street it seemed that there were Russian speaking girls everywhere. Zhanna...Zoya...Dianna...Oksana...


"What is your mission?" Zhanna asked as she clutched the Nea Zoi (New Life) postcard in her hands. A gal from Krasnodar living in Athens for almost 3 years, she was eager to know why anyone would voluntarily come into a brothel. I told her that we merely wanted her to know that God loved her, no matter what and no matter where. She was shocked.

Zoya then came rushing in and asked if she could get David's Psalms from us? Would I bring it to her? Could I?

Me, feeling that I had nothing to offer and no words to tell any of these girls simple talked to them about what it meant to be from Krasnodar, and how much I too love the Pslams. What does God plan to do through this? I have no idea.

But I came to the realization that I am not responsible nor capable even slightly of eradicating evil from Athens. My being here in Greece is not going to stop traffiking of Russian speaking women, nor is it going to necessarily lead to any significant changes in the industry of prostitution.

And yet...

I am here in obedience. I am here to follow the guidance of God. Maybe He has big plans for this time and changes in the lives of Oksana and Zhanna and Zoya. And maybe not today.

But I am going back tonight to give Bibles to these gals, and then I'll just obey Him further.

Potatoes everywhere!

Just for fun I wanted to remind you lovers of potatoes that God has a sense of humor.

Many of you remember how after 14 years of camps and wanderings in Russia that my desire to eat potatoes has become almost extinct. I do still love french fries, but I draw the line there usually.

So as I came to Athens I was looking forward to some of the more ethnic foods here - syflaki and falafel...to name a few favorites.

What does God ask me to do?



But to help cut potatoes on Sunday for Persian Fellowhip!
I laughed as I cut them, and realized that after 14 years I had developed a skill at cutting potatoes at a decent speed that made others jealous! It was a fun reminder of how even the thing not enjoyed can be used to glorify God.

Community and 29A


Jasonis Street, the heart of brothels in Athens. It turns out a rather sunny street amongst the tall downtown buildings. As I walked purposefully down Jasonis, I was affronted by the fact that I was walking in the light and yet I was the only woman. And really the only one it seemed with a motive for good that was on the street. I saw madames (the ones that run the brothels and keep an eye on the girls) and pimps and customers, but I didn’t see anyone just wandering. I wasn’t afraid necessarily, but more shocked. The sense that I had turned a corner into a spot that was not for me.

I wondered what the girls felt like every day when they had to walk down this street? I would asume that most who see them think - ah, there goes a prostitute. Was that what they were thinking about me? What if people only saw me on Jasonis Street. How would they value me? Would they see me at all?




And as I neared my objective, 29A Jasonis Street, I was motivated by the thought that someday God will redeem this street. That perhaps this very building will be the beginning of an outward show of what God is already doing. He is rebuilding and bringing beauty from ashes.
This building is for sale. It is now in ruins and seems to have been abandoned. Emma, Lost Coin’s local director, and her new Greek husband Yannis are interested in purchasing this building for their home. They both have a conviction to turn this place into a refuge, both a personal home and a refuge for girls on a street against them.

What would it mean to have a haven in the mist of this street? It would take a miracle. Yet it would only take the hand of God.

I can’t wait to see it. I can imagine it now actually.

Here I am sitting in the apartment in downtown Omonia Square, Athens reveling in the sounds of a city alive. I’m not much for cities actually, but there is something alive about seeing clumps of people standing on corners buying things from the backs of trucks, talking in random languages, drinking coffee and just being. The huge masses of humanity make up a community. Yet this community is alive, and throbbing with the sense that at any moment something is possible. What an amazing thing really.
The week has been made up of outreaches on the streets overnight, pouring tea for refugees, strategic planning meetings and strolling. And the best of all was a conversation with Ella the Philippino cook a we cut potatoes for Persian Fellowship (an evangelical outreach to Persians).
“Why do we pray and then not enjoy what we receive in answer? “, she asked curiously.


Indeed, why do we?
So for now, I am going to just enjoy the answer.

11 January 2007

Getting around Athens




Like most bigger cities in Europe the mode of transportation in Athens seems often to be...riding motorbikes...walking...buses...walking....riding motorbikes...walking...





You get the picture.



I would love to say that I have been using motorbikes to get around Athens, but alas, I have been walking around town. It is a rather great way to run into the average person though, and it seems that I can see all kinds of nationalities along the way. Today I ran into a Lebanese gal, a Russian, a Ukranian, an Iraqi, an Afghani, a Greek older man, an American, an Irishman, and several others that I am afraid to say were just labeled 'others' in my mind.


This city has such a different flavor for me than anything in Russia, because within the small confines of Omonia Square it seems as if the world has come together to buy oranges. And I must say that I am loving the sent of cardamon on the air. It reminds me of these wild cookies that my sister gifted me with while in the Middle East.







So today I helped with refugees and am now preparing to head out with the team onto the darkened streets to meet and pray for men in prostitution.




09 January 2007

Beauty from Ashes


Yesterday I arrived in Athens, Greece. All around me was sunshine and beauty. Until I went downtown to Jasonis street. There I saw fear, darkness, dirt, brokenness, ashes. My heart ached as I prayed with others for the girls trapped in prostitution. Who are these girls? How did they get here? Is anyone hearing their cries?


"Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Thy hand,

Do not forget the afflicted...


O Lord, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble;

Thou wilt strengthen their heart,

Thou wilt incline Thine ear

To vindicate the orphan and the oppressed,

That man who is of the earth may cause terror no more."


Psalm 10:17,18


So yes, someone does hear their cries. God hears. And He sends people to help...He sent us...me...


So I will go out and meet Oksana, who is from Voronezh and yet has lived in a life of prostitution in Athens, Greece since 1999. I will bring her hope and pray that God will bring her beauty from ashes.