November 14th through 19th, 3W Teammates Dave and Kathy Simpson and me, were joined by Nathan and Stacy Tatman from County Line Church of God as we visited with the Athens Church of God. The Tsimparas family were our hosts and we had a very nice time connecting with this congregation which is located in a very important city at a time of great crisis for the country of Greece. The ministry opportunities are significant, but we have focused on getting to know the congregation over the past year.
The church has experienced difficult times in recent years but their is renewed optimism about it's future--which we spent a lot of time discussing over the course of our visit. This winter they will be getting a visit from Anderson University students. This is the first group to visit in many, many years. They still remember when future 3W teammate Daniel Kihm visited many years ago! We'll speak more of Athens in the future as we continue in this encouragement, reconnection, planning phase.
As a country, Greece is under great strain. People don't have their medications, malaria is making a comeback, and basic services are under threat. A Reuters article highlights that religious groups are making an appeal:
GENEVA (Reuters) - Greece is facing a humanitarian crisis and growing racism, two international church groups said on Thursday, and appealed to the European Union to help the struggling nation.
In an open letter from Greece, the secretaries-general of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC) said the country faced youth unemployment of over 50 percent and basic services were at risk.
Noting the EU had been awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize, they said: "The economic and humanitarian tragedy today in Greece challenges the EU as a peace builder for the next generation."
Olav Fyske Tveit of the WCC and Guy Liagre of the CEC urged EU leaders to give "urgent and proper attention to the emerging humanitarian crisis in Greece."
The Geneva-based WCC and CEC represent Christian churches in the world and in Europe respectively, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church. Their leaders met government officials and Greek Orthodox Church leaders during their visit.
European leaders were due to meet in Brussels from Thursday for difficult negotiations over EU spending in the period 2014-2020.
"In Greece, basic human services such as health care and even the availability of medicines are at severe risk," the letter from the WCC and CEC said.
"Together with the Church of Greece, we also take seriously the political and societal implications of growing racism and extremism in Greece," it said. "These are storm clouds on the horizon that cannot be ignored or wished away."