Here are the thoughts and prayer requests of four Christian leaders in Greece.
Cases: 2,937. Deaths: 179. Population: 10.72 million.
Greece took swift action, proceeding to lockdown quicker than most European countries. As a result, the coronavirus has had minimal impact. All through May the lockdown was gradually lifted, and borders will re-open on June 15. As tourism is a significant part of the Greek economy (about 25% of its GDP), the evolution of the summer tourist season will be extremely critical for the national economy. Greece has barely recovered from a decade of financial crisis.
The law for the temporary closing of the churches was issued in mid-March; nevertheless many Evangelical churches had voluntarily closed earlier than that, showing an understanding of the public concern for the impact of church gatherings on the spread of the virus. As a result, they received significant praise by their local communities and a good testimony in the media. For the same reason, when the government allowed for the opening of all churches in mid-May, most Evangelical churches decided to postpone their opening to early June.
The period of the lockdown was an opportunity for deeper cooperation between churches. On March 18 the Evangelical Church of Greece organized a nationwide online prayer video call involving about 300 devices (i.e. about 500-600 people). Evangelicals are less than 0.5% of the population, so this was probably the largest prayer meeting in the 160 years of Greek Evangelical history. Despite the small size of the evangelical community, many evangelical churches and ministries have continued to be very active in serving refugees, even in the midst of the pandemic.
The lockdown period provided the huge opportunities that technology offers to the Church – from the nationwide prayer call to sharing the gospel more intensively on the Internet. In an era of social distancing, the world of social media will be the major area of communication of ideas and public opinion formation for the next years.
PRAISE GOD FOR…
- The wise and early lockdown the Greek government implemented, protecting the country from many challenges.
- Possible preservation of the country’s tourism – this is so essential as the country was just beginning to turn around after years of financial crisis.
- The preservation of many lives (especially in the crowded Roma gypsy and refugee camps! That alone is a miracle!)
- Good partnership between government and medical specialists. This helped repair trust in the state, after many years of distrust, and has also led to an appreciation of teamwork – not a high value in Greek society! (Greeks have a love-hate relationship with authority due to many years of foreign occupations, and a history of corruption in government.)
- Families who began spending time with each other again! The financial crisis had battered families as parents have to work long hours with low salaries to barely make ends meet. This has taken away from the quality time that families would naturally have, since ours is a culture that values both family and relaxed socializing.
- The alignment of our lockdown with the Greek Orthodox Easter. Most Greeks are nominal Orthodox Christians and consider this a part of their national identity. Easter is by far the most celebrated event in the Greek calendar, that combines religion, family and food – 3 big things in Greek culture. For the first time in years, we were challenged as to what it means to celebrate Easter, or even be a Christian, since traditions of many years could not take place.
- All the online opportunities provided by the technology for our evangelical community. (Some people have come to know the Lord during the corona crisis!)
- People who received New Testaments into their homes thanks to a mission agency, now reading those Scriptures.
- Pastors across Greece who have begun praying together on a weekly basis via the internet!
- The Greek Evangelical Alliance, which organized nationwide prayer and fasting efforts giving the lead to 3 different denominations! (This is a sign of the Holy Spirit increasing unity in the body of Christ. Over the course of the past 20 years this had been changing gradually, but the lockdown has speeded up the process!)
- Public recognition of those working hard in related fields during the pandemic. (Although Greeks are not an ungrateful people, we struggle to express thanks verbally, so publicly recognizing others is a sign of growth in this area.)
PLEASE PRAY …
- For God’s protection and grace upon his people. We need to continue praying and obeying the rules.
- For God’s wisdom for the government and church leaders.
- For God’s provision for the recovery of the Greek economy – particularly the summer tourist season in Greece which is so vital for the economic survival of the country.
- For God’s empowerment for healthcare workers and those researching treatment of the virus.
- For healing for those 179 families grieving the loss of their loved ones.
- For families which have not improved relationally but declined due to lockdown.
- For the financial recovery of local churches – some are struggling to recover.
- For the safety and sustained health of the refugee camps, and the ministry of local Christian organizations and churches serving thousands of them all over Greece.
- That many of the refugees would experience God in their lives.
- That people would respond to the gospel as we minister to them through TV evangelistic programmes. While churches were closed, many people watched these programmes instead.
- For Greek churches as they try to return to normal church meetings following all the protocols of safety.
- For Special ministry programmes like summer childrens’ camps, which we do not yet know how to operate.
- That churches would find creative ideas to share the hope of the Gospel with the people around them amid this global uncertainty.
- For the re-opening of churches and the freedom to gather for worship without health threats.
- For the planting of many new churches.
- For revival in the land of Greece – where the gospel was originally brought by the apostle Paul.
- About one of the greatest concerns for the near future: relations with neighbouring Turkey, as the Turkish military regularly creates tensions at the borders. Significant army forces from both sides were gathered at the Greek-Turkic borders in mid-March. The outbreak of the pandemic paradoxically helped towards de-escalation, but the Turkish government keeps making public claims for parts of Greece as areas belonging to Turkey. Many fear the possibility of a military escalation over the following months. Pray for God’s peace in the Greek-Turkic relations and in the broader Balkan peninsula.