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Keep Running

A letter from Nadia Ayoub, serving in Greece

July 2019

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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let’s run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

Dear friends and families,

I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank God for all of you and testify that it is because of you that I am able to keep running this race. I have not been running alone, for you run with me — encouraging, praying and financially supporting me. I wish to thank active longtime contributors for supporting God’s mission in the world and here in Greece and invite others to come along and join the race.

I also give thanks to God because on June 16, my oldest brother in Egypt, Nader, went to be with the Lord. Thank you so much for your prayers, and the messages and sympathy cards that you sent to me. I am grateful also to the Perichoresis staff and the local church and friends who called and visited me. I felt your support and comfort and was not alone in my grief.

On July 7, Greece held an early election that went very peacefully. The result was as many had expected, and a new prime minister from the democratic party was sworn in. The Greek people pray that he will help to restore the country.

In my last newsletter, I wrote of refugees who were under compulsion to evacuate their homes by July 2019, despite having been more than two years under the protection of a U.N. housing program. Thanks be to God, the program has now extended their stay for another 3-6 months. Let us pray that the new government will find better ways to deal with the refugee situation.

I am thankful that God is giving me many opportunities to build relationships with my refugee brothers and sisters. Perichoresis received a grant to start a program called “Peace Pastry.” Every Thursday, women gather in the kitchen of the church’s school building to bake sweets. Afterwards, we sit and eat and fellowship together. I watch these women come and bake and enjoy themselves. We pray that they will begin to feel free to talk openly about their hopes and dreams for their new lives.

I recently befriended a Greek family that works among refugees. They asked me if I would help them run a one-week Vacation Bible School this summer for both refugee parents and children. This family enlisted some of their friends to care for the children, and I offered to translate. I visited with the adults, the women especially. During this time, I heard many stories, like that of Samia (not her real name) who helped a Syrian woman during her labor and delivery but was hurt when the woman neither thanked her nor showed interest in being friends. Samia needs friends, having none in Greece and feeling rather isolated at home all day with her five children. She was very happy to attend the VBS gatherings every evening with her kids.

The other night, the father of the Greek family asked me to relate the story of the prodigal son. One of the refugees attending asked, “Does this mean that we should go back to our fathers?”

The host replied, “The father in the story is God, and God waits for each of us to come to him, especially in those times when we do not know what to do. God wants us to come and ask his help.” When we had finished, the lady of the house told me that some of the women had been in tears during story time. No professions of faith were heard, but we (the Greek family and I) pray and trust that the Lord is working and drawing some of these people to himself. This Greek family invites two or three refugee families each week to fellowship with them. In turn, the refugees ask the Greek family to their homes. Sometimes I come too, and once a month we hold a regular gathering for all of the families.

Another opportunity for refugee children to learn about God is Christian Summer Camp, which is inviting refugee children to take part at a reduced price. Please pray with me that they will come to know the love of God.

Our Greek language lessons have been completed. The students were happy to receive certificates attesting to their many hours of Greek language study. In the coming weeks, I hope to be able to meet further with the students to continue our conversations in the Greek language, and also to offer some of these students Arabic lessons. Many of them did not receive schooling in wartime and can no longer read or write Arabic.

My last prayer request is about my temporary residency card in Greece. The Interior Ministry officials in Katerini asked that I show a document with my mother’s name on it, but when I offered my birth certificate (in Arabic, with English translation), they didn’t like it. I was told to get a new birth certificate from the Egyptian Embassy in Athens, have it translated into Greek and stamped by the Foreign Affairs office. A friend who came with me to translate was dismayed at the red tape that accompanies these tasks and feared that I would have to go to a costly private agency in order to get my papers. He searched the internet for the required documents, and birth certificates aren’t even listed. Please pray with me that God will show me how handle these matters. I have managed to get residency cards in the past in three other countries — Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine — and the Lord has always been a very present help. I trust God is with me and will continue to hear our prayers on this situation, and that soon you and I will rejoice because his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And together we keep running the race that he has marked out for us.

Thank you very much for all your prayers and support. The Lord be with you and bless you all.

Yours in Christ,

Nadia Ayoub

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