"The Bible is not the basis of missions; missions is the basis of the Bible." - Ralph Winter
Athens, Greece is a "gateway city" into Europe which sees a constant flow of refugees from Muslim backgrounds: Afghan, Iranian, Syrian, Pakistani, Iraqi, and Sudanese, to name a few. Most of these refugees have fled their war-torn homelands, running for their lives and arrive in Athens, only to find closed doors, oppression and more threats of violence. We believe the Lord uses these circumstances for the purpose of exposing them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time; most have never had opportunity to hear of the saving love of Jesus because it is illegal and even punishable by death to do so in their countries.
More than 80% of all refugees fleeing war and oppression in the Middle East and North Africa come through Greece. Athens is a gateway city and is the epicenter of what is known as the refugee highway.
In Athens, we have encountered refugees from more than twenty Muslim countries; we are literally knocking on Islam's front door.
Fact: People don't choose to be refugees.
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are currently more than 16.7 million war and conflict driven refugees worldwide. As many as 55% of these refugees come from only five countries: Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Iraq. Half the world's refugees are children, many travelling alone or in groups in a desperate quest for sanctuary, and often fall into the hands of human traffickers.
Fact: Desperate people do some very desperate things.
Due to the geography of Greece, over 90% of the thousands of refugees who will make it to Athens, arrive by water in overloaded rafts.
Smugglers will often take the refugee's life savings in exchange for passage and then abandon the craft, setting them adrift in expectation that they will be rescued by the Greek Coast Guard.
In 2018 alone, almost 4000 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean seas off the coast of Greece making this area currently one of the deadliest places on earth.
"The Mission is to reach the previously unreachable... now displaced by war and oppression. As the LORD calls them out, we are simply looking for those who are looking for Jesus."
As these refugees risk everything in leaving their homelands hoping to find new life and freedom in Europe, their arrival in Greece is often met with the stark reality that there is little, if any opportunity to realize their dream. To the contrary, they often find harsh, unwelcoming and even brutal treatment. Many arrive penniless and with only the clothes on their backs. Upon arrival in Greece, they turn themselves in to the authorities and request asylum.
Official information can be found at the UNHCR website, www.unhcr.org.
On The Streets of Athens
With no real opportunities for life and freedom in Athens and difficulty in obtaining assistance from government sources, many refugees simply give up and attempt to leave, moving forward into other European countries. Greek authorities prevent the illegal attempts of the refugees to leave for surrounding countries such as Bulgaria, Albania and Italy. Of course, the border patrols of those countries also prevent illegal entry.
"It is within these circumstances, the love and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being held out"
There are three primary refugee outreach organizations currently operating in Athens. These "helps" ministries seek to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ through the meeting of basic human needs for these refugees such as providing showers, laundry services, clothing, meals, general healthcare services and biblical teaching presenting the Gospel of Christ both in word and in deed. The AcroCenter (Athens Christian Refugee Organization Center) is an evangelistic and teaching component which works in cooperation with and serves as an extension of these three major refugee outreach organizations.
"These vast evangelistic efforts have borne great fruit with many coming to Christ"
However, the constant flow of new refugees coming into Athens and the tireless programing needed to meet their basic, yet overwhelming needs, leaves little time, energy and resource to focus on deeper biblical training and intentional discipleship with these new "Christian Refugees".
"That's where the AcroCenter finds it's place within what the Lord is doing in Athens."
The Athens Christian Refugee Organization (ACRO) Center was established in an effort to fill the need for a dedicated, in-depth bible training program and to serve as a resource to the new Christian refugee believers in Athens. Find out more about The AcroCenter below.
2019 Athens Christian Refugee Organization / AcroCenter.org