A Wardrobe in Greece and a Table Full of Food

Just before Easter I found myself in Athens with a team from California who came to teach English. The curriculum we were using was the Adventures in the Wardrobe curricula I have been co-writing for quite a while now. The curriculum is based on the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie and has been used in Germany before, but this was the first time in Greece. I wrote more about how the camp went on the eDOT site, head over there and find out what some of my student’s favorite colors were.

I was very happy with how the curriculum was received and as one of it’s designers it confirms that what we are doing is worth the time and effort. That alone would have made our time in Greece worthwhile, but what happened the day after the camp ended touched me deeper than just about anything ever has before.

The day after the camp we went to one of the refugee camps in the area to deliver diapers and wipes. 11 of the 50ish students we taught currently live in one of two nearby refugee camps. Most of them came from Afghanistan, but two of them were from Syria and it was these two boys and their mom who this story will center on.

Because of relationships that had been built between one of the leaders of the ministry we partnered with and the people in this camp the two boys were invited to a blatantly Christian camp. Even though they were not Christian, their mom said they could come because they have brains of their own and she wanted them to be able to learn English and have a good time.

My co-leader ended up teaching them during the camp and these boys ate up the lessons. They asked questions, were engaged in the lessons and loved speaking what English they could, whenever they could. They didn’t always understand what we were saying, but they tried as hard as they could to give the best answer they could. They certainly did not lack enthusiasm, that is for sure!

While at the camp we were given diapers and wipes to take to specific cabins. Immediately a young boy found my teammate and I and wanted to help. He grabbed my hand and, to no one’s surprise, started swinging from it. He lead us successfully to the first cabin and we delivered the diaper’s to an appreciative mother. After the success with my new friend we decided he could probably help us find the others we needed to find…yeah, that didn’t work out so well. He lead us, confidently, to many wrong places until eventually he scattered off to find other friends.

While struggling to find one of the cabins we ran into one of the Syrian boys from English camp and after helping us find the right place he dragged us, willingly, to his place to meet his mom. As we arrived we found my co-leader there already talking with his mom and with a plate of food in front of her. We had eaten lunch before we came to camp, but that didn’t seem to matter to his mom, who quickly stood up, shook our hands and then produced two more places of Tabouli and another dish of which I can’t remember the name.

In some cultures it is offensive to leave a plate with food on it and in others a clean plate means you want more. So, somehow we needed to tread this fine line of not offending our host, but also not getting even more food since we were already pretty full. My two teammates didn’t want to be rude, but realized they would not be able to finish eating their plates of food. When the mom ducked inside her place I became the recipient of their remains. Since it would be obvious that I had more food on my plate than before she went inside I had to eat their share quickly. My stomach was full…but I did what needed to be done, or at least, what I thought had to be done.

In the meantime more of our team came and joined us, eventually we had 5 teachers and 3 of the leaders from the camp at our table. At one point one of the leaders called the other in as “backup” because he knew how much food was about to be consumed.

When the mom came back out, I had successfully eaten the rest of the food on my plate (which was delicious by the way) and then my jaw about dropped to the floor with what she was carrying with her. Out on the table she placed a giant pan with saffron rice, potatoes, eggplant and chicken. We weren’t leaving anytime soon and my stomach was not going to be any less full.

IMG_2767.JPG
The reason for “backup.”

Again, we didn’t want to offend anyone, so I took one for the team and had a plate full of this dish. Unfortunately I made the mistake of allowing the mom to serve me. I’m not sure how she managed to get so much on one plate. I did what I could and in the end, I finished my plate. The smile on the boys’ mom’s face was enough to deal with the slight discomfort I was feeling.

Why do I tell you this? Well, it is not to tell you that refugees have it better than you thought, because they don’t. Or that they can make giant meals for anybody that comes to visit, because they can’t. The reason I tell you this is because it was the curriculum that allowed us to meet these wonderful people who opened up their limited resources to us to show their appreciation. There was no way we were going to disrespect this family by not eating what was served, because to them it was an honor to serve us. They loved that we would spend time with them, love them and care for them.

IMG_2771
A photo taken by one of the boys and this was only half of who all ended up at this table.

This is what our partner ministry does in Greece. This is what we do with our curriculum. It is through these relationships that we can share the Gospel and it will be heard because they know we love them and care for them. It is through these relationships that God will bring more into His kingdom and if I have to eat a ridiculous amount of food to help establish those relationships, then that is exactly what I will do!

A Church that Sends

This weekend was jammed packed with great things. As I mentioned in my last post, I was taken to an Ohio State football game as an early Christmas present from my brother and parents. Even though Ohio State didn’t play that well, it was a great day. It was nice to get away, spend some quality time with my brother and my cousin (who goes to school at OSU). The whole day was great and something I will remember fondly for a long time to come.

On Sunday I was a part of a missions event at the church I attended from a really young age and until I left for Maryland. The event had 18 different missionaries representing local and international organizations. Each missionary had a chance to talk about their ministry and a common, but not exclusive, connection was that the missionaries came from Church of the Cross. It was something that I knew, but often times I forget. Church of the Cross is a sending church and I don’t just mean they give money to a bunch of missionaries and “send” them that way, which they do, but they also have a lot of missionaries that come out of the church. There was a couple and single who weren’t at the event, but are supported by CotC. Had they been there, there would have been a total of 21 missionaries and over half of them could have said, “I grew up in this church,” or “I attended CotC for years before going on the mission’s field. Can most churches say that? Maybe they can, but regardless, it is impressive.

I am a part of those that grew up in Church of the Cross, and I am honored to stand side by side with that church and all of their missionaries.

 

I will be around Toledo until next Wednesday so if you would like to grab some coffee, lunch, dinner or just catch up one way or another, let me know, because I would love to catch up with as many people as possible.

A day of family

After a solid 8 hours of sleep, I woke up at 4:30…yeah, still too early, but I’m adjusting. The plan for the day was to go get some shopping done (I remembered all about tax this time) and then head back over to Jupmode to do some more work for them. Then I would return home to meet my niece, Sabrina, for the first time. I was a wee bit excited, to say the least.

When they arrived, Sabrina had the gall to be sleeping, so I had to wait patiently to hold her. In the mean time we exchanged some Christmas gifts since my brother and parent’s gift to me was a bit time sensitive. My brother had told me to keep Saturday the 29th open, but wouldn’t tell me why. I found out why, I was going to go to an Ohio State football game with my brother including going to a “Skull session” and having brunch with my cousin who attends OSU before hand. Again…I was stinking excited!

Holding Sabrina for the first time felt good, even though she was a wee bit fussy. I enjoyed every second of holding her and even got her to smile at me for a while. These are the things that can be tough when you live so far away. You miss a lot. Sabrina is 3 months old and it was the first time I got to hold her. You better believe I will be soaking up as much Sabrina time as possible whenever I can!

To end the night Ray, Ben and I all went to my cousin’s high school football game where I got to see my aunt, two cousins and my goddaughter. Family time is very important for me, so yesterday was a good day.

As you are reading this I am on my way to Columbus for the Buckeye game…O-H!

On Sunday I will be at Church if the Cross in Toledo for their Missions Sunday and I’d love to see some of you there! 

You will do better in Toledo

Waking up at 3:30 in the morning really allows you to get some stuff done before the rest of the world wakes up. . .but it also means you are up at 3:30 in the morning!

So the day didn’t start out the best, but the rest of the day ended up being pretty great until I crashed at the early hour of 8:30 PM. 

After the rest of the house woke up my mom and I went to the gym for a good workout. The rest of the morning was full of some errands including getting a Sim card for my phone and my jet-lagged brain had a hard time with paying. I totally forgot about tax so when I handed the cashier “enough” money to pay for the item, she looked at me and said, “The card cost that much, but either tax it’s. . .” Oh yeah, tax, I kind of forgot about that. 

In the afternoon I got to work for my friend who has his own screen-printing business. I asked him if he needed some extra help so I can earn some money in order to get back and he gladly accepted my help. I had a great time working for Jupmode and am very appreciative of the opportunity. 

After getting back to my mom’s house I had another good surprise in the form of another sizable donation from a friend and neighbor. Day one was a full day and another great one.

God has blessed this trip so far and i can’t wait to see what He has planned for the rest of my time here. 

4 Countries, 3 Airports, 2 States and 1 HMA begins

Yesterday morning I left Germany, via France and the Netherlands on my way to Perrysburg via Detroit. Traveling back to the US always results in a long day, especially when you start your day 6 hours ahead of the people with whom you end your day, but overall it was a pleasant trip. I even got an empty seat next to me, which is always a bonus! 

Walking out of the airport and seeing family is great. As I was approaching the van, my mom was headed into the airport and she didn’t see me. I know, it’s tough to imagine, but there was a giant SUV that was blocking her view of me, so it’s justified. I yelled for her, she turned and rushed I’ve to give me a hug, the kind that only moms know how to give. 

After an easy and uneventful drive we arrived at my mom and Ray’s place. It was dinner time, though my belly and brain didn’t quite comprehend that. It was 12 AM according to my body’s clock,  after all. 

After relaxing a bit and fighting sleep, my aunt came over and provided one of the first major praises for this trip. She told me they were going to make a sizable donation and also provide a rental car for me when I go to North Carolina and Maryland. I was flabbergasted (I love that word and wish people would use it more often). Both of those are huge answers to prayer and ended a pretty eventful first night back in the US. 

Prayer Runner part 6

3 things I prayed for on my run today:

1. For my little village of Riedlingen and specifically my landlord that they may see God’s glory and believe. 

2. For my Aunt’s visit with me (happening now) to be good for her and I. 

3. For the leadership training I’m going to in just over a week that it be productive and insightful.