“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”” Revelation 7:9-10 ESV
Last night we checked in to start Operation Joshua, or “OJ” if you want to know the local lingo….which is the whole purpose of our trip. We drove a couple of hours to get to our hotel, quickly dropped off our bags, then headed over to registration where we would also check in, get our information and schedules and join around 350 of our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world for dinner. I literally had no idea this gathering would be so complex, so well constructed and so planned to every last detail. Upon our approach to the entrance, there was a welcome tent, directing the volunteers to their designated parking spot, next to their designated palate of boxed up Bibles. We piled out of the car and walked up to the registration tent which just happens to overlook the Mediterranean. Not a bad set up at all! 😳🌍😍
After registration and dinner, we relocated to the outdoor theater for a welcome message and music. The joy around us was palpable. We learned quickly that being from the USA put us very much in the minority category. I will try to remember all the countries represented: Albania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Australia, South Africa, Afghanistan, Iran, Romania, Croatia, Switzerland, France, Italy, Turkey, Georgia, Egypt, Sudan, Great Britain, Cyprus, Greece, Germany to name a few….I was overwhelmed. Then the music started.
All I can use to describe the scene is the scripture from Revelation 7:9-10 above. All around my ears was the sound of every nation and language singing praise to God with joy in their hearts and in their expressions. To hear the cacophony of so many languages in perfect harmony singing praise and worship was like I had never known. I was moved to tears and I was not the only one. To think that this project started out with one family having it put on their heart to get a Bible to every village in Greece and now to know that this year the one millionth Bible will be given. Words are just not enough to capture the magnitude of this.
Let me pause here to provide a little more background and history for those of you that may not know about Greece as an Unreached region:
Fifty different people groups live in Greece and of those less than 0.5% are evangelical Christians. And what is an Evangelical anyway? The term “evangelical” is derived from the Greek word euangelion which means the “good news” or “the gospel.” Evangelical Christians emphasize their faith in the Gospel of salvation brought to us by the Son of God Jesus Christ, who came and died for all of us that we may have eternal life – with Him! – in heaven for always! Many churches associate with the Christian faith but may not necessarily emphasize the Gospel of salvation through the death of Jesus Christ and may instead uphold more stringent works that are required in order to gain salvation. I am not qualified to write on this here, nor is my intent to tear down one tenant and uphold another. But I do have a personal relationship with Christ and it was through my own reading of the Bible that I have come to know Christ in this way. I know what Christ taught because I have a Bible that I have read and understand, written in my own language. My church has encouraged me to read the scripture myself and allow the Holy Spirit to turn my heart. I am not dependent on what a more educated person tells me and thus would expect me to believe, accept and not question. In fact, my faith has grown because of the questions I ask and read in scripture for myself. And so, I try my best to share that hunger for scripture with others because I know how it has changed my life and drawn me closer to God, through His son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.
God gave scripture for all of us, not just the church leaders….. Not just the people who went to seminary or who became priests or who were named as saints. God wants us to all have the salvation that comes through knowing and believing that Jesus Christ was His son, the Messiah promised to us from the beginning. This is why I came here to Greece! I believe this is one way that I can share this love for scripture and thus my love for Jesus by literally giving the scripture to the people here who have never had it!
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
So back to our orientation and preparation time. After registration and rest last night, we returned to the OJ camp for breakfast this morning. We attended an information session, preparing us for what we may encounter and to say the least, I am on pins and needles to see what will happen when we go to these villages. Although we are completely following laws of the state, and Greece enjoys freedoms of speech and religion, there are some areas where the local priests are not so welcoming, and there are multiple times in the past Operation Joshua weeks where volunteers have been picked up and taken by police for questioning. Of course there have been no prior arrests, but if I am picked up, you can be sure I will be a bit on edge about that! 😳 Other stories include those in which people were spit on, yelled at, followed….one priest even grabbed one of the bags from a volunteer and tried to strike him with it!
But for every scary story, there are ten great ones. People overwhelmingly have been positive and happy to accept the gifts of the Bibles. Many times after the Operation Joshua week is over, the ministry has received calls asking for more Bibles. One women shared that her husband had passed away 4 days prior to Operation Joshua and she had been seeking God…. But when she picked up the Bible she had from her Orthodox Church, she could not understand the Ancient Greek text and so she prayed for God to come to her. Four days later, the team from OJ knocked at her door and handed her the scripture in a language she could read and understand. She wept. She came to truly know the good news of the Gospel that day. The stories go on and on.
I can’t wait to share with you what we encounter, and how we see God work. The scope of this project is vast, but this week alone over 150,000 households will receive a Bible to own and to understand. Please pray for this effort. The world is changing because of it. And that is a very very very good thing.