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14 July 2016 | Athens, Greece [Claudio Gulyas/tedNEWS]  Sea, sand and Ancient History. That is the way most people think of Greece. In more recent years it has also been known for economic turmoil and a major refugee crisis as multitudes of migrants have seen Greece as their entry point into Europe.

In the midst of the spectacular beauty and centuries of history, and the constraints of the economic crisis in their land, a small group of Seventh-day Adventists endeavour to share their faith among a community that, while very open and friendly, is strictly Orthodox in its religious background. Land at any airport and you will probably see more priests in ten minutes than you will find in a month in most Western European Nations.

Yet great things are happening. Pick up the report book prepared for the 13th Session of the Greek Mission, 8 – 10 July 2016, and you will find how one evangelistically minded family, moving into a small city in West Peloponisos, has managed to plant a church which is now filled with children. There may only be three baptised members, but they have 10 – 15 visitors every week and over 20 children who attended summer camps last year.

Those three baptisms plus the 46 other baptisms that have taken place across the entire country over the last three years has brought the total membership to 442.. Greek Mission president, Pastor Claudio Gulyas praises God for those 49 and praises the church members for their hard work and witness in difficult circumstances. However, he also notes that with deaths, membership transfers out of the country and some who dropped their membership, the church is not growing numerically.

Guylas pleads, "Please pray for the work in Greece, for the souls who will hear the message and for those who will preach it, as well as for the members and friends who have been absent from the Church for different reasons."

For Greek members, prayer goes together with action – including welcome support from other countries. For instance, the church owns a fantastic beach-side campsite at Kalamos, a short drive north of Athens. Volunteers from abroad, supported by Greek church members, have helped renovate the site, including building two new cabins and reroofing the church facility. The site is then well used, providing summer activities and spiritual growth for Adventist youth and their friends as well as for other groups and retreats at other times. Last summer the camp attracted over 100 children and youth and they had to add an extra week to the camping programme to accommodate them all.

Jump across to Corfu and you will find another church plant. In 2010 there was only one Adventist on the island. She gave Bible studies to colleagues and friends. Within a few months ten were baptised. While the group fluctuates in numbers, partly due to the economic crisis, they have baptisms most years and a current membership of eleven. Another baptism is planned for this summer, thanks to the work of Pastor Adrian Fernandez and his wife Raleigh, who visit the group for a period of 2-3 weeks each quarter.

A similar story is true on the island of Rhodes. A woman who lives on the island learnt about Adventists from reading some of our publications. She wrote to the Greek Mission office in Athens and this led to Bible studies by letter. She is now baptised and sharing her faith. An Adventist family has recently moved to the island and more outreach is taking place. The aim is to plant a church there within the next two to three years.

As a Mission with a small membership most activities are done by volunteers. You can meet Rozalia and her daughter Ifigenia volunteering at a refugee camp on a Sunday. Or Despoina Avakian, a dynamo of activity, leading women's ministries and Messy church not only in her home town of Katarini, but across the whole of Greece.

Members, and particularly youth in Athens have also created a 'Belief channel' on YouTube and via social media. In addition to Sabbath services the channel includes shows made by the church youth which are attractive to other young people. Running 24/7 the channel also includes music – both Greek and International. There is a desperate need to upgrade the equipment, but the members are confident that with donations and vision, progress will be made.

On the weekend of 8 – 10 July, delegates from across the ten churches and nine companies that make up the Mission, met in Athens to vote leadership and discuss plans for the next three years. The president and secretary-treasurer had already been appointed by the Trans-European Division Executive Committee, but other positions were voted by the delegates.

from left to right: Raafat Kamal, Dean Papaioannou, Nenad Jepuranović, Claudio GulyasPresident, Ministerial Association and Global Mission: Claudio Gulyas
Secretary Treasurer: Nenad Jepuranović (TED Treasurer)
Assistant Secretary Treasurer, Media & Communication: Yiannis Vrakas

Other appointments included: Family Ministries, K Theofilaktidis; Women's Ministries & Public Affairs, Despoina Avakian; Personal Ministries, Adriano Fernandez; Youth Ministries, Ziad Ahmed; Health Ministries, Giouli Foteinou; Bible Studies & Correspondence School, Nikolaos Foteinos; and Pathfinders, Edward Rifareal.

Other sponsors, including Children's Ministries and Sabbath School will be appointed by the Executive Committee who, along with the President and Treasurer, include Konstantinos Petsinis, Despoina Avakian, Nikolaos Foteinos and Edward Rifareal.

Gulyas commented that "the Session was marked by new fresh air as young people were elected for different positions." This pleased him, and he noted that despite the challenges the country and the Church is facing, "we look to the future with hope and confidence, relying on God's guidance and empowerment to fulfill our mission. [tedNEWS]

Find out more about the Greek Mission by reading their report book.


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, director; Esti Pujic, editor

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