In response to the crushing economic crisis in Greece, I have been working to improve my greatly underutilized capacity to empathize with my Greek and Albanian friends.
As I have turned up the volume on my faulty hearing and labored to hone my otherwise distracted powers of observation, I have gained a fresh appreciation for the challenges of this difficult time.

Check out the interactions below in the when/then process, and you will discover some of the everyday realities of life in this region of the world:

When my 11-year-old Albanian friend proudly told me that he was now studying English, I said, “So, now, you speak Albanian, Greek and English!” Then he rolled his eyes and, with obvious confidence, replied “and French and German!”

When I asked an Albanian mother of three, “How is your work?” then she replied, “Oh, I have no work!” And then I wondered, “How does she get by?”

When I told an Albanian man that we had no room for him in the English classes at PORTA – the Albania House in Athens – then he replied, “That is the same thing you said to me last year! But, just like last year, I had to work on the night of registration!”

When I told a Greek friend that the visa request for our long-hoped-for PORTA colleagues had been refused for no apparent legal reason, then he said, “Our government doesn’t want to do anything that will help immigrants because they do not want them to stay here!”

When I invited an Albanian without a vehicle to come to a program at PORTA, then he said, “I cannot afford to buy a Metro ticket!”

When I tried to call an Albanian believer to ask him to help with an upcoming worship service, then I received a message from the service provider, telling me that his account was closed.

When I showed up at our church’s hunger and homeless feeding program, then I noticed that more Greeks, as well as immigrants, are waiting in line for plates of food.

When I explained to an Albanian about PORTA’s new Pep program to provide after-school enhancement for kids, then he said, “I want my child to have the opportunity that I have not had!”

When I realized that ministry to Albanian immigrants in Athens has become much more difficult due to the economic crisis, then I thanked God that nine years ago we were sent to be the presence of Christ in Athens, to help as Jesus would.

When we witness growing pessimism and despair among both Greeks and Albanians in Athens, then we thank God that, in his providence, we are here and that many around the world follow this ministry with prayers and financial support.

When/then indeed.

Because you pray and give, we can minister in the name of Christ in Athens at this critical time. Thank you.

Bob Newell is ministry coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Athens, Greece. He blogs at ItsGreek2U. This article is taken from one that first appeared in the September 2012 edition of The Newell Post, Bob and Janice Newell’s monthly electronic newsletter.

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