Wildwood member Julie Costas has settled into her home away from home in Athens, Greece as she works there as a church planting missionary. Read her latest update below.
Dear Wildwood Church family,
It’s been almost a month since I arrived in Athens, and it’s gone by so fast! I owe so many people thanks for helping me get here, and I also know people are curious about how I’m doing. I’ve wanted to create a blog or a newsletter, but I’m struggling with the technology and as more time passes, I get further behind in communicating. Therefore, I resolved to sit down and write a brief email and ask for your patience but also give you a glimpse into my life.
I arrived here on March 22nd, and temporarily stayed in an apartment owned by the church MTW partners with–the First Greek Evangelical Church. My first days were hazy, but I overcame jet lag and time changes, and started to make introductions and learn my way around. I also moved into a small apartment owned by Alky Macris in the Neos Kosmos neighborhood. Alky is a widow, but she and her husband were Greece’s first couple to serve as foreign missionaries, and for 16 years they served on the Indonesian of Irian Jaya. One of Alky’s six adult children is daughter, Manon, who is married to Stefanos Mihalios, a teacher at the Greek Bible College who also serves as the pastor of the church plant in Kypseli. I met Manon and Stefanos on my first trip to Athens in April 2015, and I have been asked to serve in the Kypseli church.
Kypseli is an older neighborhood in central Athens with a large immigrant population. The Kypseli church has actually been holding services for about a year. It meets in a small store-front community center known as Pxida (which means “compass”). Shortly after I arrived in Athens, Stefanos and Manon left for six months in the U.S. to raise financial support for their work at the Greek Bible College. In their absence, a very capable young man named Xristos Koufos is leading the Kypseli church.
In addition to worshipping in Kypseli and getting to know the members, I helped serve in an Easter Week Bible Camp for children last week. Xristos’ fiance, Elina Karamelina, organized it, and about two dozen children and several adults participated in it. I enjoyed getting to know the kids but really struggled to remember all of their names! We played a game each day that divided the participants into two teams, and they took turns saying their counterparts’ names. I played too but was a big handicap to my team. On the last day of camp, I recorded each child’s name in the Notes page of my phone, hoping that would help me remember their names, but I still wasn’t fast enough to win points for my team! We had lots of laughs though.
I hope to move into an apartment in the Kypseli neighbourhood later in the summer, but for now, living in Neos Kosmos and traveling to Kypseli by subway and bus is an adventure, and I have been made to feel very welcome and included by the members of the Kypseli worship community.
Last week was Easter here in Greece, and I got to see and experience some of the traditions and celebrations of the Greek Orthodox as well as the evangelical community. With 98% of the population identifying as Greek Orthodox, evangelical Christians are a very small minority of less than 1%. Still, Easter is the biggest celebration of the year here–much bigger than Christmas–and Christ’s resurrection is at the center of it.
God is knitting together our MTW team here in Athens. Phillip Luther is our team leader, and his wife Kay, has become a dear friend. They both have been great in helping me get oriented and connected. The coming weeks are going to be busy, as several teams are coming to Athens to see what God is doing here. There are also several conferences planned, and next week, all of the MTW missionaries serving in Europe will be gathering in Crete for a retreat. Also this week, a family who has been serving as MTW missionaries in the Ukraine are coming to meet with us and are considering joining our team. I am meeting them at the airport and helping to show them around, which is pretty funny when you remember that I have only been here about a month.
I have had a couple of Greek language lessons from a private teacher, but between my schedule and my brain overload, I don’t feel like I have made much progress. Thankfully, many Greeks understand and speak a little English!
Summer will be busy as four MTW interns will join us, and I have been asked to help coordinate their activities. A dear friend from Tallahassee may come in late May and help us equip these interns to teach English to refugee adults and children, as well as Greek kids. I am so thankful to be able to connect us with these types of resources!
I have spent one day serving at the Center of Hope, the FAROS-run day center for women and children near Victoria Square. I made friends there last August when I was here with a short-term team, and it has been a blessing to renew those friendships now that I’m back. I was asked to help teach English to the refugee women who come there, and am hopeful that this can begin soon.
Back in Tallahassee, Alyssa’s wedding planning is in full gear, and Samantha has accepted a position with a law firm in Pensacola and will start there on May 1st. She has found an apartment and Alyssa and C.J. are helping her move this coming weekend.
I do hope to get better at communicating and not rely on Facebook only. Please bear with me, and please keep me in your prayers as I continue to serve here with great joy and love.