Ever-rising numbers of refugees and migrants, a smaller than 1% evangelical population and recent fires and floodings make Athens, Greece a city ripe for gospel outreach through compassion ministry. On Sept. 8-16, more than 65 Serve Tour Volunteers from 13 churches joined Greek local churches to bring physical help and gospel hope to a diverse city.
Projects ranged from painting walls at a future community center, to distributing school supplies in underserved neighborhoods, to cleaning up lower-income areas. Each project helped local churches take their ministry outside of their walls and establish more influence and credibility within their neighborhoods.
Greece’s unique geographical location makes it a hub of various people groups, allowing Send Relief volunteers to minister to Greeks, North Africans, Ukrainians and the Romani people during their week in Athens.
“Our Greek leaders identified these projects and are leading our volunteers on the project sites,” said Jenny Wheeler, a director of the Athens Serve Tour. “This was an effort to align with them in the vision they have for their communities.”
During Saturday’s Opening Ceremony, Jason Cox, Send Relief Vice President of International Ministry, told volunteers, “We are here to serve local churches and come alongside them and engage in compassion ministries as we are working to fulfill the Great Commission which tells us to go and make disciples.”
Delivering food packages to Romani families
Working alongside a 110-year-old Greek church, Serve Tour Volunteers from Weems Creek Church in Maryland prepared and delivered 100 food packages to Romani families, a people group from northern India, with whom the local church already had relationships.
Some of the volunteers who were also nurses were able to conduct health seminars for the Romani women and gift them hygiene packs.
“We want to share the gospel; that’s really our number-one aim,” one project leader said. “At the same time, we want people to know that it’s not just words. We want to, where we can, meet a need and encourage them with a practical gift.”
Even though witnessing among the Romani can be slow work, the local Greek church has already seen Romani people come to Christ and become active members in their congregation because of the partnership with Send Relief. One of Send Relief’s ministry partners said, “We’re grateful to the Lord for this team that has come and blessed these folks, both spiritually and physically.”
Back-to-school festivals for Greek and Ukrainian children
While a group of volunteers served the Romani people in the Peloponnese, another Serve Tour team partnered with a Greek church in Athens to conduct two nights of back-to-school festivals for Greek and Ukrainian children and teens.
During his week in Athens, Chris Wright from New Life Community Church in North Carolina learned that many of the Ukrainian refugees felt unheard, unwanted, rejected and cast out. The festivals were designed to help Ukrainians integrate into their new Greek community and brought many opportunities for volunteers to share Christ’s love in word and deed.
Wright said, “My prayer is the kids that we encountered by showing the love of Christ to them will receive that, go share it with others and there will be a big harvest among those people.’
Serving a community affected by wildfires
During Serve Tour, volunteers from Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisiana and London Village Baptist in Delaware served alongside a small, Greek church plant to organize two evenings of outdoor field games for children on an island two and a half hours outside of Athens.
After fires devastated the island in August 2021, a couple started organizing relief efforts through a partnership with their local church and Send Relief. What started as a clean-up effort ended in the first evangelical church in the community being planted as scattered believers and those touched by the love of Christ started to gather.
By setting up a fun night of games for kids to enjoy, the church is slowly building credibility in the community.
The husband said of the Serve Tour Volunteers, “They helped us very much. Without them, it would be very difficult. We are few, so we wouldn’t be able to run it [the event] without them.”
During their time on the island, volunteers prepared field games, painted equipment, prayer walked the surrounding community and even showed the love of Christ by helping locals prune their vineyards.
Conducting grief, loss, and trauma seminars for a hurting church
Volunteer Darnice White of Uptown Church in Chicago put her expertise to use by leading a seminar on trauma.
White said, “The Lord says we’re here to comfort each other and carry each other’s burdens. So, getting them to understand that it’s okay to feel bad and still come to church. The body of the church is there for you as a whole.”
Another couple from Uptown Church also led seminars on grief and loss.
Kade Wheeler, a director of the Athens Serve Tour, said, “We’re praying that through this Serve Tour, Greek churches would know that there are people out there that love them, care for them, support them and that they are not alone.”
Serve Tour Athens was the last international stop in the 2023 Serve Tour. Serve Tour will return in 2024 with stops in cities like Augusta, Dallas, and Flint, as well as international stops in Armenia and South Africa.
Learn how your church can participate in a Serve Tour stop in 2024 at servetour.org.