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Starting Up In Thessaloniki!

As the Lord has been guiding our ministry, we at YWAM Refugee Circle felt lead to really press in and continue on in what He has called us to, love and respond to the Refugee Crisis.  

This looked like pioneering works in Thessaloniki, and creating an easily accessible platform for volunteers and teams from around the world to be able to get plugged into existing ministries caring for refugees, as well as create more space for new initiatives to be started.  Three months in, and it is clear to see God's hand in everything, from finding the perfect accommodations to be able to lodge 20 people, bringing incredible favour with the different churches and Non Government Organizations (NGOs), to each person we have been able to meet and share the life and hope of Jesus to.  
 
In the greater Thessaloniki area there are 21 camps, with more being made, hosting over 50 000 refugees.  We started out being able to serve in one, being able to distribute food and clothes, and more open doors came.  We are also helping serve in a warehouse, sorting countless donations that get sent in everyday and prepare them for distribution.  Now we are on the brink of being able to serve in two more refugee camps.  God is moving!  At church on Sunday we see more responding to the invitations to come, and get to share in this new life they have in Europe.

Here's a story from one of our coordinators shared from church.
"When I found her, I preferred not to leave. We lost our life in Syria, now we get to make a new one." Amjad and Maisa were married three weeks ago in a camp without a celebration. They came to church this morning and upon hearing that, we all came together to celebrate and share a meal. This is them cutting their cake! Their story is so hopeful. Maisa had gotten sick at the camp so Amjad came to translate between her and the doctors. She laughed so hard as she told me how they would exchange winks when no one was looking. Afterwards, they got each others whatsapp contact info and he soon asked her to marry him.  She told me she played coy and said, "No, let's just be friends." He agreed, but she said that she missed him so much that she would cry and ruin her mascara. That wasn't to be tolerated, she's quite fashionable. Her mom told her to stop all this and call him. She changed her mind without a doubt and they decided they would married after all. They're smitten, constantly teasing each other and their love is deep. She's 23 and he's 26. He studied English at university and she graduated with a history major. She's from Amman and he's from Damascus. It was so fun seeing the joy they had found in each other. We laughed all afternoon as we got to celebrate life with them and pray together. They said God brought them together. Among all of the tragedy, Beauty is in the making.'

We currently have a team of three from YWAM Nuremberg serving north of the city!
Teams of all sizes are slowly coming to serve in the Thessaloniki area! 
Thessaloniki, like each location, is very unique.  Once simply a stop on the way to places like Germany, or Sweden, it is now becoming more accepted that it will be their home for the next months.  This changes a lot of the environment, and the edge of unknown and fear is lessened.  And with the longer term camps, the room to come and really build relationships is so great.
After two weeks of being able to go in to the camp every day or every other day, seeing the same families, one of the ladies on a team that has come is certified English as a second language teacher and with that were able to invite specific ones who wanted to learn English to our accommodations and just had their first lesson last week!  It was an awesome time of sharing and teaching and learning, and they all want to come again to continue to learn.  
 
Since coming in June, we have seen three teams come and serve here and they have been incredible, but we need more.  With such a great refugee population and movement, there is still need, and incredible openness!  Please consider committing 3 weeks to coming and building on the work of others by serving where hands are getting few.  A reason why it has been quite peaceful in the camps we are in are because of committed volunteers, who make sure that they are faithful to their word and schedules they have laid out to maintain a sense of order amidst a crisis that has not slowed down or stopped.
Please continue to commit to prayer on August 20th as we unite together and hear God's heart for this crisis. Some prayer needs are:
1. More teams to Greece, France, and Sweden
2. Protection for volunteers
3. Favour with the officials in camps so we can provide better care for refugees
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