Having spent the previous evening at the Naomi project (a drop in centre for refugees), the next morning I visited Christian Steki (a meeting place / drop-in centre), run by the Greek Evangelical Church of Thessaloniki.
We were met with a queue of Greek people who had been patiently waiting for a loaf of bread from the centre. This was yet another stark reminder of the economic problems facing the Greek population. But here at Christian Steki, they were not only reaching out to their own people, but in a spirit of generosity and Christian service they were also reaching out to refugees.
The ministry director for the project, Antonis Sakellariou outlined that they wished to minister to the needs of the refugees to cultivate a ‘cultural osmosis’ and to help them adapt and integrate into the Greek and European culture as well as presenting the Gospel message.
A pool of forty or so volunteers regularly helped at the centre, not only distributing bread but also providing clothing. They sought to assist the refugee population in Thessaloniki with legal issues and language lessons. They were also able to offer baths and showers.
The volunteers were drawn from a number of different traditions (including the Greek Evangelical Church, Salvation Army and Pentecostal Church) and worked together in partnership to provide the very best service that they could to the people who knocked at their door for help. They also organized a weekly communal meal and offered the opportunity to study the Word of God.
Their compact premises was no more than 50 square metres in total and the project hoped to rent a larger premises nearby to expand and develop their work providing a resting place along with facilities for internet access, childcare, counselling and laundry facilities. They recognised that they were unable to do this themselves and were seeking to realise their vision in partnership with other local churches.
It was evident that they were making a real difference in their community and were inspired to do so in the name of Christ. The Christian Steki prayer guide for May specifically asked for prayers and donations for:
- a place to rent as well as the funds, equipment and furniture to create ‘Christian Steki 2’;
- more volunteers;
- Arabic interpreters;
- a refrigerated van for the safe transportation of foods;
- a new washing machine and dryer for the increased number of clothes needing to be washed;
- that Christian Steki would become a shelter offering peace and rest for the refugees.
I’m sure that we would wish to join with Antonis and his fellow volunteers in prayer for a new centre.
Their prayers for June include:
- Christian Steki as it redefine its role and its place in the changing situation in and around Thessaloniki and for volunteers to help respond to these new challenges;
- for spiritual and material needs in Greece with VAT rising to 24%, tax increases on consumer goods, and unemployment is rising at an alarming rate;
- that the Greek Evangelical Church of Thessaloniki and the Christian Steiki (drop-in centre) may prove a witness of love and mercy in their neighbourhood and city;
- for for new spaces – main and subsidiary – to cover the needs of the Steki and be able to offer a better service to our fellow citizens as well as the refugees who need help.
Rev Judith Morris the General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Wales and was part of the twelve women who visited refugees and refugee projects in Greece in a delegation organised by CTBI.
Photos: Anne Browse