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“What Are Your Goals?”

A Letter from Nadia Ayoub, serving in Greece

March 2020

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“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Dear Friends and Families,

I greet you all in the name of God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. And I pray you have a New Year filled with God’s blessings.

I thank the Lord, for he is the author and perfecter of our faith. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus who is the goal of our faith and who for the joy of redeeming us endured the suffering of the cross and death, and was then resurrected and glorified at the right hand of the Father. And indeed, I thank each one of you for your support. With your prayers, encouragement, and financial gifts, you are partnering with the Lord to accomplish his goal of reaching a very needy group of people: the refugees, forced immigrants, and displaced people of Greece. When I saw my end-of-year Donors Report, I was humbled; it filled me with joy to see the names of the many faithful individual friends and churches who fix their eyes on Christ to help people who are hungry, thirsty, oppressed, afraid, and strangers, as in Matthew 25.

You, as members of the PC(USA), I, as your co-worker and our global partner, the Greek Evangelical Church in Katerini, are together helping refugees reach their own goals. Recently the discussion in a meeting with the women in the Peace Pastry Program was about goals. The mothers said their goal was to move to another country like Germany, Belgium, Holland, or Denmark, settle down there and see their children married. But the teenage girls said that they would like to finish their education and take up a profession. Lilia would like to become a nurse, and Fedan a news reporter. Others agreed that they wanted to work and be independent. These are their goals because they now live in a place where women have opportunities. Back in Iraq or Syria doing anything beyond getting married and staying home to take care of families would have been impossible.

I meet every Thursday with the ladies of the Peace Pastry Project, which includes Greek and refugee women. A Greek woman will cook one week, a refugee woman the next. The women look forward to these Thursday meetings to be together, cook, laugh, share stories and ask questions. One time we invited the owner of a big Katerini restaurant, who shared the story that she had been a refugee all her life—because she was born in Italy, immigrated to Switzerland, and then married a Greek husband. She advised the refugee women always to have hope, to make Greek friends, and to learn the language and customs of Greece.

You might remember my writing of the many refugees who arrived here in 2015-2016 who were told that their current housing program would end. This news caused panic among the refugees who had relied on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) housing program, and who then raced to ready their travel documents by any means and at any cost. Some were tricked into purchasing fake documents and lost a great deal of money. One of the many necessary travel documents is a document affirming parents’ custody over their children. Many single parents, women especially, left their countries with their children not only to escape warfare, but also to break from abusive spouses. Granted immediate asylum at the Greek border, they are now stuck here in Greece because they don’t have a document proving that they have legal custody of their own children.

Thank God that a new law is supported by the UNHCR that makes it easy to apply for such a document. I joyfully accompany these mothers to the notary office as translator to apply for the document. The asylum office promises that they will process the application within 25 days. I pray that this is true. It will mean one less worry for these oppressed people who want to move forward without obstacles to achieve their goals.

It has now been a year since I started the process of obtaining a religious temporary residence visa in Greece. I completed all required paperwork last August, and was told to expect two months of investigation before receiving the residence card, but I haven’t gotten it yet—just a receipt saying that I’ve completed the application. That receipt grants me a year to stay and wait for the card, but also means I can’t leave Greece in the meantime and can’t do other things either—things like getting internet service in my apartment or buying a car. I’d heard stories about how slowly the system works in Greece, and now can add my own experience. Also, for a long while I was having health problems and wanted to go back to the States to have them dealt with, but couldn’t leave Greece. Thank God I was healed by his healing touch this January and I am no longer in pain.

Things are hard, but we know that we are not alone—God is with us, according to his many promises. Your prayers and encouragement help me to believe and to endure, like the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians (3:14), to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” I invite all of you to hear God’s call and follow him, helping all who need help, that they might come to the saving knowledge of God’s love and accept and acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord over all.

Serving Christ with you,

Nadia Ayoub

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