The last days of OJ. 

1 Timothy 2:3, 4 – “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

It is really hot on our last day. I look at my phone. The temperature is 110 degrees. My feet are hurting and my knees are tired. We have to climb hills today. We visit a small village outside of a town. The village is remote. We might have taken the scenic route to arrive on the long dirt and grass road. There are no people outside. The heat is too intense. Unlike the days before, the humidity is smothering. Our team is quiet today. We are weary and more apprehensive about what we may encounter. Or who we may encounter. When we see the church in the middle of the village, our anxiety increases. We may encounter a priest here. 

Some local men are sitting outside a cafe. They are smoking and talking. We walk around the perimeter of the cafe, not entirely ready to make conversation with anyone, and they do not seem welcoming. Two of our team members walk close enough to speak. A greeting is exchanged. They see the Bible bags on their arms and inquire. They ask questions. “What do you have there?” “A gift for you, a New Testament.” “Yes the church is aware we are handing these out.”

“The church has approved this translation…see the letter from the church on the first page with the stamp of authenticity. No, the Bible is free. No we do not ask anything of you.” The men decline the Bible and voices start to rise. “You do not want to take it?” “No. Leave.” The two walk away from the men. They resume talking, mumbling and grumbling and some stare as they walk away. Another rejection. 

In another village, a team is going to take a break from the heat and they walk into a cafe to get a drink. On the walls of the cafe hang many idols and icons typical of the Greek Orthodox culture. The icons are a regular part of the faith and decorate the walls of businesses and restaurants throughout Greece.  An inscription is painted on a wall behind the counter. The translator for Operation Joshua notes the Ancient Greek text and recognizes the scripture. A conversation starts with the girl behind the counter who will prepare cold frappes for the team. 

Example Greek Orthodox Icon

“Do you know what the writing on the that wall says?” The translator asks the girl behind the counter. “No. I have never known. It is Ancient Greek text.” The translator replies and explains, “It is scripture from New Testament. See here? I have a New Testament I can show you.” She pulls out the OJ NT Bible. She opens the page to the text written in modern Greek language and she shows it to the girl behind the counter. “This is the text. See here?” The girl reads it. She is captivated and takes the Bible from the translator to look closer. She asks “Where did you get this? I have never seen it.” The OJ team members there explain the New Testament translation to the girl behind the counter. “We are giving them out. Every home in this village will get one. You can have this one.” “Does the church know?” The girl behind the counter asks. “Yes. The church has approved the translation – see here on the first page is the letter from the church.” The girl takes the copy behind the counter and looks through it further. She does not have any more questions but she is smiling as she looks at the text. 

The team moves on after their drinks and goes back out into the heat to resume the distribution. Later they walk back by the cafe towards the car parked out front. The girl has moved outside to a table full of men and is showing them the text, and she points to the painting inside the cafe with the Ancient Greek scripture. They are all looking at the book and talking excitedly. As the team approaches, the men stop the team. “We want this!” They all want a copy. The team gives each man a copy to keep and they eagerly take them. They immediately start to read the script. Chatting ensues among them. The team leaves them to it, with full hearts. 

                     Genesis 22:18 – “..and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

We are so hot today. We are walking up and down worn roads and I think of Paul in Ancient Greece. He walked many miles in similar conditions. On ancient streets of uneven stone. His love was great for the people of Greece to hear the Gospel. He endured far worse than we have endured. We are anxious that someone may speak harshly to us, or yell or spit at us. The police have brought many of the OJ teams in for questioning but thankfully no arrests. We are not breaking any laws. Paul was arrested many times. He was beaten and put into jail. I cannot imagine the breadth of fear he could have carried as he entered each new village or city. What would await him next? And yet, he continued to travel and teach, taking the good news to every place he could reach. 

Paul’s prison cell in Philippi

An OJ team visits a small town of about 10,000 people. This is larger than a village, but smaller than a city. They walk up to a small house and a young girl runs out to meet them at the gate, excited and talking so fast they cannot understand her. The translator with the team interprets. “She says they have been waiting for us!” They are invited into the house. An older man and woman run to the door to greet the team. “We have been waiting for you for so many years! We knew of Operation Joshua and we knew one day you would come to our town! Come in and visit!” The team is a bit confused but is eager to hear more. They go inside and the woman brings them cold water and ice cream. They start to talk. 

“We came to this village many years ago. We are believers too! We started a small church here years ago and now we have 20 people in this town who believe and know that Jesus is our Savior!” The team is overjoyed to hear the story. The man continues. “I am the pastor of the small church. The town has not accepted us. The Orthodox Church has opposed us from the beginning. When we first came, they took us to court. They said we were against the Orthodox Church and tried to have us shot down. They organized a mob against us and collected stones to throw at us and our home. We have been threatened many times but God is good and now we have 20 people attending our church and Bible studies!” 

20 people. Out of 10,000. Many years. This family is living in almost complete isolation in the remote countryside of Greece. Enduring persecution. For the love of the gospel. For Jesus. For God. 

                                             1 Kings 8:60 – “ that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.”

“We prayed for your team and now you are here! Maybe the people here will receive the New Testament and maybe they will now see what Jesus has for them!” 

They talk for an hour or more, encouraging this small family so desperate for the people of this town. God is good. God is amazing. 

5 days walking through villages, towns and cities in Greece. Over 35 miles I alone walked. 350 people came from all over the world. 

Over 50,000 kilometers covered by 350 people. Enough to walk around the planet once. Average temperature each day 100 degrees. No clouds in the bright sunny sky. 

Over 125,000 Bibles given away this week. In the ten years of Operation Joshua, over 1,045,000 Bibles given away. 

Over 1,045,000 people have been given the New Testament in a language they can read and understand for the first time in their lives. 

I was really hot. Our team was really tired. We grew weary and often felt defeated. We may never see the result of the efforts made this week. At least we may never see the results of what we did for Greece, but I see the result of what we did in me. My spirit is changed. I understand Paul’s walk in an entirely different way. I understand personally what God is doing in the world in the context of a country I had never known. The NATIONS need to know. We need to know of God’s movement. We cannot sit idly in our comfort of western culture and overlook what God is calling us to do. It burdens my heart with an indescribable heftiness. The scripture is enticing, brilliant, and written for me and for you and for everyone. The scripture is the word for you from God, and none are excluded from the Word of the Lord. None on the earth are excluded from God’s love. Not one. Not you, not me, and not the people of this country, or any nation. We are called. We can no longer say we did not know.

Psalm 96:3 – “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.”
Malachi 3:12 – “‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

Matthew 28:19 – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..”

Luke 3:6 – “And all mankind will see God’s salvation.”

Romans 16:26 – “..but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him– ..”

1 Timothy 2:3, 4 – “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

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