Although the doors don’t open to the refugees until 11:00am, an average day at the Tea House had the team showing up around 9:30 in the morning. The primary pre-opening responsibility was to prepare the food. Paul, a teammate from N. Ireland, is in charge of the kitchen and organized an assembly line type system for packing the food. We prepared plastic grocery bags that included the following: 3 pepperoncini peppers, 5 green olives, 1 large piece of flat bread, 1 tomato, and either 1 large chunk of feta cheese or 2-3 boiled eggs. Some of the food was donated, but most of it was bought at a local market – but at a reduced price.
We would pack up about 500 of these bags at every tea house. At 11:00am the doors would open and the refugees would enter, show paperwork (either from their country of origin or issued by the Greek government), and get a food ticket. Although this sounds quite simple, it is often very entertaining to watch the staff try to interact with guests who speak one of a dozen languages: Dari, Pashtoon, Farsi, Somalian, Albanian, Russian, Kurdish, Arabic (which has a dozen quite dissimilar dialects), and a number of other languages. While many refugees know a bit of either English or Greek and a few team members speak Arabic and Farsi, communication is often very creative. After getting a bag of food, the refugees were welcome to leave, but many stayed for the tea and socializing. The Tea House presented an amazing opportunity to meet and hear the stories of so many people from different backgrounds. Also, while the guests sipped tea, the team played a gospel video (whether the Jesus Film, the Gospel of John or Matthew, or something else). This became a natural conversation point – many refugees asked about the meaning of the video – and earned the Tea House the nickname of the “Jesus restaurant.” God has used this simple ministry in amazing and encouraging ways. We will post some of those stories throughout the next few weeks. Also, Kristin plans to write tomorrow about what we did with some of our time off (island excursions and archeological activities). Do stay tuned! Peace & Grace – Brett

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