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In the Shelter of the Most High

A Letter from Nadia Ayoub, serving in Greece

April 2020

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“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Dear Friends and family,

Peace and grace to you all. I thank God because he is faithful and able to shelter and protect us in this difficult time. Thank you so much for your prayers and encouraging messages and generous support. I pray the Lord has kept you all safe and healthy during this time of testing.

When I was asked to return to the U.S., I prayed to God to make the right choice. After prayer and talking with the global partner, the Greek Evangelical Church of Katerini, I chose to shelter in place in Katerini, Greece.

I chose to shelter in place because the trip back to the U.S. is so long, and the borders of Greece were closed. But the real reason I wanted to stay was so that I could help the refugees. I wanted to follow the PC(USA)’s motif from Matthew 25, and be present in Greece where I can help the needy, the poor, and strangers as well as pray for all the people. I thank God, for he hears our prayers to spare the city from the pandemic.

In early March, the Evangelical Church in Athens received a message about a Syrian refugee woman with two children. She was depressed and needed help, but spoke only Arabic. The church sent her information to me and I got in touch with her. I started talking with her and comforting her. Every day I sent her a message and asked about her and her children. The messages included some Bible verses and Christian songs. Sometimes she replied and sent me a voice message to fret about her situation. I thank God that he encouraged me to keep talking with her, and little by little she started to be comforted. One day, she sent me a joyful message to thank me for writing to her every day and caring for her and her children, even though I could not see them. Early one morning she sent me a Bible message for the first time. I trust the Lord is helping her and she is on her way to complete healing.

The refugees have lost many job opportunities during this agricultural season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many families are in need of food. The Greek government promised to give a grant to the people, but refugees and some Greeks are not eligible. Church food banks try to distribute some necessary items. The Karypidis family, a Greek family that I sometimes help with translation, was disappointed because they could not invite refugee families over for an Easter celebration because of COVID 19. Instead, they distributed food to the 20 families under their care. The grandfather of the family wrote small messages in Greek that I translated into Arabic and included with the food packages.

In the second week of April, the housing project supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) informed about 40 families that they would have to move out by the end of May. These families have their residency cards, but they are waiting for their travel documents. By the end of May, the refugees must lease a new apartment. They must also join a new organization by the name of Helios, which is a new integration program for refugees. Helios is a six-to-twelve-month program that will help them integrate into Greek society. It will give the refugees housing assistance to help them with the rent and other small expenses. It offers Greek language classes to help them improve their Greek language skills in hopes of finding better job opportunities, and eventually becoming independent. The Karypidis family tries to help the many refugees who come asking for help. Mr. Karypidis has tried to find housing for the refugees, but Greek owners in Katerini do not want to rent directly to refugees, and have not heard of the new organization, Helios. Many of these families will have to move out of the city, and many of them are concerned about living in a new place.

Staying at home all the time with preschool and elementary school-aged children is very challenging for the families and the children. Families are organizing many new activities and games for children. The ladies are trying out new recipes for baking and cooking. Perichoresis has organized projects for sewing masks, which can be completed at home. This provides jobs for some of the refugees.

I thank God for providing for me. I live in the center of Katerini, a five minutes’ walk to everything I need—the supermarket, pharmacy, and bank. I even went to the open market twice. We can go out if we ask permission from the city police. I have a young neighbor who calls me often when she is going to the market, and asks me what I need. Other friends and colleagues from the partner church call me too. I work from home and do not go to the hospital or visit families. I can manage most of my work over the phone.

Christ is risen! He is the resurrection and the life and is our comfort and hope, even with all the disturbing news. As we face the reality of death, Jesus comes with the affirmation of life if we believe in him.

Christ is risen, he indeed is risen, Hallelujah, Amen.

Thank you so much for your faithfulness, prayers, encouragement and support. I pray God will fill our hearts with the joy of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Let us be assured by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ,

Nadia


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