Did you know YWAM is on the “blacklist” of the Greek Orthodox Church?
Yes, we realised early on that Youth With A Mission has been on the list of organisations that are “incompatible with the orthodox faith” since 1993.
Someone would say that due to this, YWAM Thessaloniki’s dream to serve the Orthodox Church and help bridge the gap between them and other Christians, is doomed to fail.
However, we serve a God who not only isn’t bound by “blacklists”, status, and reputation, but loves to subvert these realities.
I grew up in the Orthodox Church. I have seen deep faith, reverence and devotion expressed towards God from people all around me. I have seen miracles and deliverance. I have seen selfless sacrifice and people serving with generosity and care. I have been given words of knowledge by nuns I’ve never met before. I have found encouragement, comfort and peace in the ordinary liturgies and sacred moments. I loved being a part of the Orthodox Church.
When I joined YWAM, I found that some others nurtured that same love and longing that I had to see the Church; Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, come together in ways that honour Christ and show His love to the world. Many would say that this is a particularly difficult endeavour, and at its best wishful thinking, but we serve a God who loves to use people of peace to bring much needed breakthrough and change in seemingly hopeless situations.
Change often starts locally and then has a ripple effect.
My husband and I really wanted to meet with the Orthodox priest of our neighbourhood. We live downtown Thessaloniki, so our neighbourhood church is the home of more than 1000 Orthodox believers. Through a series of fortunate incidents, we got connected to him and managed to arrange a meeting at his office.
We went without knowing what to expect. Everyone was praying for this meeting, and our team was so excited and hopeful that the meeting would bear fruit.
Despite our nerves and lack of expertise on matters of facilitating an ecumenical dialogue, the priest seemed so intrigued by the young couple in front of him. We talked about who we are, what YWAM’s vision is for Thessaloniki, and what we long to see in our neighbourhood, about the struggles of ministry and the effects of the pandemic. He started to open up to us and share more about the personal struggles of leading a big church with numerous ministries and projects in times of covid and transition. We listened.
We left that meeting having laid some foundations of understanding each other and we were really encouraged, as was he. The next step, based on the etiquette of Greek culture, was to invite him to our home for a meal. To our genuine surprise, he accepted our invitation.
Over a delicious greek dinner, we asked him his story and what his dreams are for the neighbourhood and the city. It was clear that this man had a strong calling in his life from a really young age, and that he is determined, devoted and passionate. We were so encouraged to hear about all the projects, current and future ones, that he has poured so much energy and resources into.
We continued to pray and see how we can continue this friendship that had started and whilst in preparation for the month of March, we felt led to invite him to teach at a seminar that we were going to host. We proposed the idea to him and he was really excited! We are also very excited for him to meet our team, and continue to strengthen this partnership that’s being formed.
The seminar is scheduled to take place at the end of March.
So, until then we continue to pray and seek God to guide us in His love and wisdom about how we as YWAM can serve the Orthodox Church without obstacles and hindrances. We want to see Jesus’ prayer in John 17 to continue to come to pass, and as we join Him in intercession, we ask that you join us in praying for the unity between
the Orthodox and the Protestants in Greece, despite the long history of persecution, hate and struggles.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
How is God calling you to bring reconciliation in your own city and neighbourhood? Who is the person of peace that God has appointed for you to find and connect with? What steps of obedience should you take today in becoming an ambassador of His message of reconciliation?