“The one about actually getting to Greece”
Since April of this year we knew that God wanted us to go to Greece and so we began to work on our Greek street dramas. There was absolutely no money to fund this trip but we were once again challenged to step out in faith and speak as if we were definitely going to Greece beyond a shadow of a doubt. And surprise, surprise (well, it really shouldn’t surprise us, should it?) – God provided exactly what we needed for the trip including some pocket money! The money came from a variety of unexpected places and people. We hope this encourages you that God IS in control and that what God orders, He pays for!
“The one about the American, the Thief and the Trainee Priest”
We were preparing to board our train to the harbour town of Piraeus when the wallet and cell phone of one of our American team members was stolen. Chaos ensued but the thief was nowhere to be found. Fortunately he didn’t get her passport but all of her cash, traveller’s cheques & cards were gone. Naturally she and the rest of the team were in shock. There is a considerable drug problem in Athens, particularly in the suburb of Omonia where we caught the train and theft is a common occurrence. We boarded our first Ferry bound for the island of Kos. It would take us 16 hours to reach our destination. During this time our American was trying to sort out card cancellations etc. She “happened” to land up in the ferry’s gift shop and met a nice young Greek man who was running the shop. He graciously offered her his phone to get matters sorted out. This nice young Greek man had plans to become a Greek Orthodox Priest and he read his Bible when no one was around. Some of our team began to talk to him and share with him the Good News of Jesus Christ. He said he’d think about what all of this meant and that he’d consider praying the sinner’s prayer. He later went off duty but the next morning we discovered that he had indeed prayed the sinner’s prayer! Here was a young man who had been searching for God and what the devil had intended for evil with the robbery, God used for good. Isn’t that encouraging! And…in the interim, someone found the stolen wallet with all the cards, driver’s card and personal items and posted it back to America. Isn’t God amazing!
“The one about this not being a holiday”
So how was our 3 week Greek mission? It was great. It was difficult…but it was great. “If you thought we lay on the beaches and tanned… think again!” We have no tans (except maybe for Eugéne but he was made that way!) This was no holiday in fact at times it was exhausting, stressful and challenging!
We flew Egypt Air which was an experience in itself and that took us 24 hours of commuting, waiting, airport lounges and flights and eventually we arrived in Athens which was pretty hazy from all the fires that were raging. It was also a blistering 40 degrees (quite a shock after we left a cold and very rainy Cape Town). We were extremely tired from all the travelling, it was of course also budget travel, we stayed at a refugee centre, a youth hostel, people’s houses, we slept on floors, shared 2 bathrooms between 17 people – mostly women, had ever changing programmes & demands, high temperatures, no air-conditioning, hard physical work, no electricity or hot water at times, very late night performances, public transport, a sickly team, more travelling, draining performances and yet through it all we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had called us to Greece and so we went and we did what He called us to do and had amazing, challenging adventures!
“The one about health and healing”
Ruth had been diagnosed with Bronchitis 5 days before we left for Greece. We asked all our faithful prayer warriors to pray and she embarked on a 5 day course of antibiotics. Apparently if she had a particular strain of Bronchitis the antibiotics wouldn’t help and she would simply have to live with it until it was out of her system. Praise God that she didn’t have this strain – her lungs began to clear up as we reached Athens!
Some of you may recall what happened to Eugéne during Act Won’s first missionary journey, where something nasty attached itself to his biological system, causing a violent allergic reaction. His entire face contorted into a swollen mass of itchy puffy gloop, (which would be very useful if one ever needed to scare away an entire village), giving him the dubious honour of being called, “Manamal”, (man-animal), the close brother of the Elephant Man. Well, Eugéne decided to, yet again, take one for the team. There was an active wasp nest at our lodgings in Georgioupolis, Crete. It was during one of the teams’ daily group devotion times when we had split into smaller groups to pray. Mere seconds after he was heard saying, “don’t worry, they wont do anything…”, an obviously insulted wasp must have taken offence to said statement and decided to set matters straight. The accuracy of this particular beastie was amazing as she stung him in the general vicinity of his carotid artery. (That’s the one in the neck that transports the oxygenated blood to the brain. Quite an important highway.) It was generally expected that Manamal’s evil twin would make an appearance. This however did not happen. Neither Manamal, nor his evil twin showed up. It definitely had something to do with God working through the prayer of the righteous. The strong meds did however make him a tad loopy…
A number of the team we were with experienced a variety of illnesses but apart from a small cold that didn’t last very long, the Act Won team was extremely healthy – which was a good thing as we had to be fit and healthy not just for the travels but especially for the performances.
“The one about the Kos Cops and the rather angry Greek man”
Our verse for that day was ROMANS 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Little did we know how appropriate it would be. That evening we had just finished performing one of our sketches in a street square in Kos. We had drawn a large crowd who seemed to be enjoying the drama. Suddenly an angry Greek man arrived on the scene followed by 3 policemen. The man began to gesture wildly at us and speak loudly and angrily in Greek. We couldn’t understand a word! The man had called the police as he was unhappy (an understatement) with what was happening in the square. One of the people in our team could speak Greek and thus ensued a fairly long and heated debate between them. It was all Greek to us! (corny statement but true!) This drew in curious bystanders and a larger crowd formed around us. More people to evangelise! The man said we couldn’t be Christians – look at how we were dressed! The police wanted to see what we were giving out and so they were given 3 packs of bibles, tracts and dvds to examine. It is illegal to proselytize and hand out literature to children and so the police reminded us of this fact. In the end the police asked the man to leave as we were doing nothing illegal and then the police left with the 3 bible packs and smiles on their faces! We trust and pray that they are reading them as we speak! So that was exciting. A few years earlier and we could have landed up in a Greek prison…just like Paul.
“The one about distributing literature in the midday sun”
We stayed with British missionaries, Alec and Glyn Molton, who have established a small church in Kos aimed predominantly at British tourists. We also met Olga Tzinavos, a South African Greek, who works alongside them. They hosted us, cooked amazing Greek meals for us and oversaw this part of our mission. One of the days, armed with a number of Christian Greek newspapers we were instructed to give out all of the newspapers in a little Greek Village called Pyli. We were told not to walk together so we wouldn’t attract attention or be mistaken for Jehovah’s Witnesses who are active in the area. The challenge of this particular exercise was that it took place at the hottest time of day (with temperatures around 40 degrees) Then there was the small challenge of the village being built on a hill. We started at the bottom of said hill and walked up and up and up!! There was also no shelter or shade. Fortunately we did have water in the support car but it was very hot, tiring and draining (the water was hot as well). We put newspapers on people’s cars, left them on their front doors (no one has postboxes) and handed it to people. Some people refused the offer of the free newspaper. However the people who did accept the newspapers were most times grateful to receive them and could be seen reading the newspapers as we walked off. We pray that these seeds of truth will bear fruit.
“The one about the Team and the evangelical wigs”
We travelled with a team of 11 African and American volunteers who were assembled by Hellenic Ministry South Africa headed up by Nico and Bea Bougas. Act Won’s role was to perform on the streets and attract a crowd so that the rest of the team could hand out bibles and tracts in a variety of languages and start conversations with individuals. We wore outfits designed to stop traffic (and they did!) along with our evangelical wigs! Even when we were walking through the streets, people stopped to find out what we were doing and we were able to tell them about Jesus and give them gospel literature.
“The one about whether the street theatre would Really work”
We had never done Street Theatre before but we prayed about it and then scripted and rehearsed (with the help of our actor friend, Jason Potgieter) and performed 4 street sketches locally. Some people really enjoyed them while others said that the dramas would never work. A few people also felt they were far too long. But we had to trust that God was in control and that he was leading us. Guess what…the dramas worked extremely well!! Even to the point where people would wait around after we’d performed 1 drama, in order to see the next one. It also attracted all ages and nationalities – not only Greeks, but tourists and refugees from neighbouring countries. Isn’t God awesome – when He calls you to do something for Him, He will also equip you with what you need for the specific task at hand. You simply have to trust him!
“The one about the stray dogs, nightclubs and dodging cars”
Due to the incredible heat (it reached 40 degrees while we were there), siesta time is from 2-5pm. Businesses then re-open after 5 until around 9 when everyone comes out and stays out till late. We’d then arrive and set about finding the best location to perform…location is key for street theatre! It’s crucial to try find a place with adequate lighting and plenty of people but far enough away from the noise of the bars and nightclubs. You also have to ensure that you do not block any restaurants or stalls. This can prevent trade and get in the way of customers and upset the locals. At least we’re used to community theatre and also not having a real stage! We performed on street corners, beside mosques, in market places and even once in a roadway where we had to dodge cars (real Street theatre)! We’ve had stray dogs on our “stage” (there are many stray dogs and cats in Greece), people who wanted to dance with us and even an over-enthusiastic budding wannabe-actor who came up and joined in with the acting while his wife videoed the action!?!
“The one about staying at the Rhodes youth hostel”
The people we were supposed to meet in Rhodes were away but we had already booked our ferry tickets to Rhodes and so we went to Rhodes! We stayed at a youth hostel for 2 nights. Now one can wonder why we had to go to Rhodes and why things had changed but we needed to trust that God was still in control. Youth hostels are good places to meet interesting people. We met a young Jewish American man who was travelling the world. We spent quite a bit of time with him and he even landed up defending us when some cynical British girls wanted to shred Christians & Christianity. We performed in the courtyard of the youth hostel under some grapevines. Our audience comprised of a number of young tourists from a variety of countries as well as the Greek Orthodox family who owned the hostel. Time was also spent in conversation with this family especially the mother who was often seen reading her bible! We trust that many seeds were sown here and that the stopover in Rhodes had been on God’s itinerary for us right from the start.
“The one about the sheep and the Greek Orthodox couple”
We know that God used many different opportunities and ways to sow the seed of His truth and touch people’s lives. Many of which we’ll probably only find out in heaven. One small story…we had finished performing and the team was chatting to people in the crowd. Suzie drew a picture of a sheep with John 10 written below it. An orthodox Greek couple came up to us and wanted to know what it meant. Seeing as we couldn’t speak Greek and they couldn’t speak much English we called over George Niavradakis, a local evangelist, who proceeded to tell them about Jesus the Good Shepherd. He explained that Jesus protects his sheep and so there is no need for the all-seeing eye to ward off evil. The couple listened attentively, asked searching questions and George said he had goose-bumps as God gave him the words to speak.
“The one about the Zimbabwean and the Moroccans.”
While we were looking for a good location to set-up for our street theatre, an enthusiastic young Moroccan man started following Eugéne, offering to help him carry the equipment. Earlier in the evening this young man had been part of a group of Muslim men who had appeared uninterested in speaking and interacting with our team. Eugéne was therefore a bit suspicious of this character who continued to walk with and talk to him. After our first performance of the evening, one of our team members, a Zimbabwean missionary Gordon Chinamasa (currently studying at Cape Town Baptist College), was explaining the Gospel to this Moroccan man who wasn’t a Christian yet. The Moroccan then in turn started translating the Gospel message for his Moslem friends. You must understand that this happened on the eve of Ramadan! Isn’t that an exciting translation!!
“The one about the guys with tattoos”
At one of our performances at the harbour in Chania two of our audience members were tough looking guys with tattoos. Hardly the type of guys you would think would stop and watch the performance. And yet they were standing watching transfixed by the action that taking place. They even videoed us with their cell phone (we’re going to be in a lot of people’s Greek holiday photos and videos!). These 2 guys stayed around for the short wrap-up preach by Colin Johnson and then they even waited for the next drama! After the performances and conversations were finished they left with a whole lot of gospel literature as well as a balloon cross we’d made for them!
“The one about ouzo in the town square”
Our last evening performance did not seem to go that well. Everyone was tired and we were not able to find a good location to set-up. The only people around us were a group of Russian sounding people and an enthusiastic, well-marinated Greek man. There was much slurring in his speech as he continually offered to buy Ouzo for some of the ladies in the group to enjoy. We soldiered on through our performance. Even though some of the team spoke to the Greek man who gladly accepted a drawing of ours as well as a Greek bible and literature, we left the town square feeling quite tired and disappointed. This was our final evening performance in Greece after all. A few days later however one of us was in the same area and was once again met by the Greek man, fully sober this time, and had a lovely conversation with him. He passionately explained that he had returned to the square time and again to hear from us but we had not returned. It would appear that he had indeed taken in much of what was said and was eager to hear more. We hope and pray that God is growing the seeds that were planted in his heart.
“The one about the Desperate Housewives and the Crete church”
In Crete we spent time with the local believers. Part of our mission was to encourage the local evangelical church. We performed at the International Church in Chania for 2 Sundays running. To date we have had one play translated into Portuguese (on our last overseas mission) and now into German at the International Church! They definitely want us to return again! We also performed for the local home church run by the Niavradakis family (many of whom are ex-patriots). On special request we got together our Desperate Housewives from the Bible monologues. This took a lot out of us as we hadn’t planned on performing this in Greece and therefore didn’t have scripts, props or costumes. Fortunately our monologue lines were still in our brains. After much rehearsal, hunting around for props and borrowing clothes from various team members we performed for the home fellowship. This performance took place after a marathon night and day of travelling. We had done a street performance on Rhodes Isle 9pm. We then tried to sleep for a few hours, got up at 3am and left Rhodes Isle on the Ferry at 4am. We arrived in Crete 5pm that day, lugged our luggage up a rather steep hill, caught 1 bus, and then another bus and arrived at our destination in Crete at 10pm. Needless to say that was a very, very long day! Then the very next day we spent rehearsing and prepping our Desperate Housewives in order to perform that evening. Eugéne facilitated the discussions on the monologues. The evening ended at around 11.30pm. Needless to say we were exhausted but God gave us everything we needed for the performances and the fellowship were really blessed and challenged.
“The one about what Helen said about Act Won”
“The Lord truly used them to bless us all, and especially in the wonderful street ministry that they did. People spoke to us after the meetings and told us this was something new to them but something that had meaning and substance and also something they really enjoyed. Because of them we were able to get into conversations with Greek and Moslem people and explain the Gospel to them. I believe we will see fruit of all this in the future.” – Helen Niavradakis