Recently I was invited to visit Greece for an inside look at Gospel work among the tens of thousands of refugees there…The refugees I met in Athens are from some of the most war-ravaged and Gospel-destitute regions of the Middle East, including Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran. They fled here looking for a better life, and many among them have truly found it in Christ.
Athens, Greece, April 22, 2018
I walked from the train station this morning and grabbed a cappuccino on the way. The city, like me, was slowly wakening up; so the coffee helped, as did the brisk walk through the twists and turns of Athens’ streets. There’s a reason the Greeks invented the word “labyrinth”!
After traversing graffiti-lined streets, I came to a graffiti-covered building. Inside, the pastor greeted me warmly. Masoud is from the Pansjir Valley north of Kabul. He came from Afghanistan, then went to Iran, and eventually came here, all in search of a better life. He said his desire was for a passport to Germany, but now he has a passport to heaven! On the wall of the church, he keeps a painting of a map of Afghanistan with a cross over it. Masoud said this is his vision.
Masoud’s conversion to Christ was met with utter horror and shame by his family. His brother told him that it would have been better for the family if he had committed obscene sexual acts and posted pictures of them online than it was for him to become a Christian. When Masoud told his wife Anneeta that he was a Christian, she said, well, actually she screamed, “you have killed us”. “We are dead”! But after six months, through the life-giving Gospel, Anneeta also became a Christian.
Being in this worship service was a Revelation 5:9 moment for me. Over the years, I spent time in Afghanistan and saw firsthand the sacrificial, risk-taking work of Christians there, some who even laid down their lives for the sake of the Gospel. My joy in worshipping today with scores of Afghan believers was overwhelming and indescribable! Their singing was powerful and joyful, and a friend translated their Dari into English for me. Here’s one of their songs:
I come on my knees
I am sinful, you are holy.
You forgave me through the blood of Jesus
You showed me: the healing of my pain
The healing of my heart
The healing of my mind
The healing of my spirit.
After the service, there was a fellowship time. It was a delight to meet Anneeta. The one who screamed “you have killed us” now greeted me as a brother. She and her husband are bold in the faith. I asked Masoud if I could take his picture or if he had any restrictions about sharing it. He said he didn’t want his face blurred or covered in photographs. He said, “to hide my face would be to say that I am ashamed. I am not ashamed of Christ.”
By Tim Keesee, Director
Dispatches From the Front