Mass Scripture Distribution In Greece
From Free Christian Press:
SPARTA, GREECE (ANS) — The name conjures up visions of fearless soldiers charging into battle without thought of life or limb. The bravery and courage of ancient Spartans is legendary. The word spartan has even crept into the English language to describe the conditions that are at the opposite extreme from comfortable and luxurious.
For the past week Sparta has been the epicenter of a missionary outreach that has reached and touched thousands of homes as a team of 180 from countries as diverse as Canada, Romania, Italy, South Africa, Germany, Holland, the USA and Albania. In all 60,000 households received a copy of the New Testament in contemporary Greek as part of a project called Operation Joshua. One participant described it as a “Tsunami of blessing” as energetic teams using some 50 cars, criss-crossing the sparse and mountainous region. They have gone to over 800 villages in some of the remotest areas of Greece bringing the message of life.
How does this project compare with other evangelistic efforts? In a word, “historic”. In a country where there are less than 20,000 people are recognized as evangelical believers this was truly a significant event. This is a country that has never had a reformation or a revival. It has never held any mass evangelistic campaigns. So in the context of Greece’s history, to spread 60,000 copies of God’s Word in one week can only be described as momentous and even seismic. We can imagine contemporary Spartans echoing the words of their Grecian predecessors, “These that have turned the world upside down have come here also.” (Acts 17.6)
Despite the fact that the New Testament was originally written in Greek very few modern day Greeks can understand the 2,000 year old version. Very few Greeks actually own a Bible because there is no point having a book they can’t understand. If they do own one it is regarded as an ornament or a good luck charm.
Heeding the words of Psalm 119.130, “The entrance of your word brings light, it brings understanding to the simple” Johnathan Macris, the President of Hellenic Ministries launched an ambitious project to distribute one million copies of the New Testament throughout Greece over the next few years. Hellenic Ministries is “a mission to Greece and the nations”, established by Johnathan’s parents, Kostas and Alky Macris in 1980. They were previously missionaries to Iryan Jaya for 16 years. Kostas then contracted a series of tropical diseases which the doctors regarded as terminal and he was sent home to die. But God spared him for another 25 years during which time he started what was then known as the Hellenic Missionary Union. As Greece does not acknowledge the need for any missionaries the name was subsequently changed to Hellenic Ministries.
The mission gained wide publicity when Kostas, along with two YWAM missionaries, Don Stephens and Alan Williams were arrested for proselytizing. The incident occurred when a 16 year old boy visited the YWAM ship, Anastasis, together with his father and was given a New Testament in Greek. His estranged mother, a well-known vocal atheist, immediately protested and took the trio to court. Under Greek law it was illegal to pass out any religious literature to any young person under the age of 18 and the three men were each sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment.
There was a worldwide outcry, thousands of people were praying, and protests poured into the Greek government. Greece was in the process of entering the European Common Market so such religious intolerance did not sit well with the authorities. Subsequently the sentences were overthrown. But Greece became the focus of worldwide attention from the Christian community and Hellenic Ministries was well and truly on the map.
25 years later Hellenic Ministries is at the forefront of evangelistic efforts to reach the population of Greece. Whilst 95% of the population profess to believe in God and 97% are members of the state church. It is estimated that less than 0.2% of the population would lay any claim to being born-again evangelicals. The challenge is immense but the visionary President of Hellenic Ministries is confident that the tide is turning, “God’s time for Greece is here. We are planning on significant growth and the planting of churches all over Greece. More than that as revival comes to Greece we believe it will overflow to the surrounding Muslim lands bringing life and hope to millions who have never heard of Jesus.”