May 28, 2010

We ate some delicious food in Greece:
Treats from the bakery

Fresh fruit from the market

An Iranian meal

Greek Salad

Cheesy Pasta


Greek chicken casserole

Baba Ganoush, cherries, and Greek dip

Chocolate filled pretzels

...More fruit from the stand

We had a variety of meals. We ate dinners at the full-time team members houses. We went out to Greek restaurants. We ordered pizza, grabbed gyros for a quick bite, and we even did some of our own cooking. I enjoyed trying all the new things.

I do have to say that I am thankful for our coffee in America. Every time I tried to order a latte, it never turned out right. It's also impossible to get peanut butter in Greece, and they don't use ice in beverages. That was very hard to get used to. One of the first things I had when I came home was Dr. Pepper with ice, and toast with peanut butter!
I discovered some interesting things in Greece.
We had a lot of free time outside of our ministry, and we took advantage of it. Since the ARC was only open on the weekdays from 11:00-4:30, we had all of our evenings and weekends open to sight see, eat out, and spend time with the full-time Helping Hands team.

A little girl playing her music on our way to the Acropolis

This turtle was taking a stroll around the Roman Agora

Greeks use sidewalks for parking, not for walking

birds giving their love to the man and his grandson

people practicing their religion

The Olympic Stadium

The magnificent view of our neighborhood

May 27, 2010

My time in Greece has ended. The trip was the best experience of my life, and I already miss everything about it.

After serving the refugees and meeting some amazing people, I realized how big God was and how powerful His love is. All of us talked about how much God changed our hearts and made us realize that our plans for the trip were shut down because God had something else in mind. I learned to trust Him and to see beauty where I never thought it could be.

We were learning everything about the culture of people from Afghanistan and Iran. We got to see who these people were through this ministry. Putting faces to our information made it completely eye opening. I can say that I have such a new respect and appreciation for Afghan women after working at the ARC.

I made a strong bond with an Afghan girl named Tahereh. Her story of how she came from Afghanistan to Iran and then to Greece taught me so much about the life of a refugee, and how much they go through just to have freedom. They fight everyday for their life. They aren't treated like humans by the world, and they can feel like they don't have an identity. I was able to give Tahereh love and show her that she was a beautiful person who deserved so much more than she had been given.

I also spent a lot of time with a little girl named Nikita. She is adorable, and I loved being able to see her interact with everyone. Her Mother is a perfect example of how much God can transform a life. She was an Afghan woman who was fully covered all the time. She was shy and quiet. She never smiled, and she lived in fear. Then she met Jesus, and she turned into a new woman. Now she is lively, happy, and glowing. I never have seen her without a smile. Her hair is cut, and she never wears a head scarf. She lives a life for Christ and she is not afraid of who she is. She is finally free.

May 13, 2010

After many long hours in the Boston and Paris airport, we have finally arrived to our final destination. We have been here two full days and it has been amazing all the way. The full time team here has been helping us and showing us what we will be doing for the next few weeks. Their ministry is called Helping Hands, and it is all about working with refugees who are in transition in Greece. Helping Hands is located in downtown Athens in a building called the ARC. They use one floor of the building for the ministry, which has a large open room, a kitchen, baby room, children room, clothes room, showers, and eating area. The refugees are mainly Arabic and Farsi speaking people who have been rejected by society. They are searching for acceptance and a place where they can live and be free. They come to Helping Hands for the fellowship, community, and love. They are offered food, clothes, showers, tea, English classes, children's ministry, and programs and services about Christ.

We have been working with the full time team here in Athens, and we are so thankful to be here and be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves. So far we have met some wonderful people. We can see how God is using this ministry to bring these refugees to Him. We have even learned some Farsi already!

Our beautiful team

Some of the ladies

A street in Athens

A few youngsters we met while doing the kids carnival at the ARC.

May 9, 2010

This weekend I have been sick with a fever and cold. Of course this happened three days before I leave on my mission trip to Greece. Praise God that I am now back to my normal healthy self other than a minor sore throat.

Since I was parked on the couch and in bed all weekend, I was unable to be productive and do the things I wanted to do before I leave. But I did get to spend some time at home and away from my typical fast paced life.

I do have to say that my wonderful boyfriend drove from Marion to Battle Creek yesterday just to take care of me while I was sick. He did this even though we were all going back to Marion today.

Now I am all packed and ready to leave at 5:00am tomorrow. With a twelve hour flight I will have plenty of time to rest. I am also very thrilled that we will have a layover in Paris! It will only be a few hours, but I am hoping I can catch a glimpse of the city.

I wish I knew what to expect in Greece. I know the basics of our mission, but really I have no idea what our schedule will be like. I don't know what we will be doing from day to day, and the uncertainty is going to be such a good lesson for me. I need to learn how not to plan. I need to be content with following someone and letting things happen. I know it will be dangerous and foreign, but I also know that we will be protected. Our purpose is God's purpose, so why should we be afraid? There isn't a worry in my mind, and there shouldn't be.

This trip is going to change my life. I will return with new and opened eyes.

Our team is going to have some internet access, and I am told we will be able to update our team blog:

We will be working with a missions organization, International Teams, and these are some websites that give information about what we will be doing in Athens:

Each year, an estimated 600,000
to 800,000 people are trafficked
across international borders (some
international organizations place
the number far higher), and the
trade is growing.

Of the people trafficked across
international borders, 70% are
female and 50% are children.
The majority of these victims are
forced into the commercial sex

May 4, 2010

Today was the familiar road trip from Marion to Battle Creek. Jordan was behind the wheel, and Michael Pattengale joined us on our adventure.

We spent two hours listening to music and enjoying the beautiful weather. It really was a perfect day for a drive.

I have done this trip so many times now, and it is so comforting to watch the scenery change. Starting out with cornfields and farms in Indiana and ending up with never ending green trees in Michigan. Every landmark is familiar. We pass the same places, each one bringing back memories from the past year.

The Dowell family living room is the place for endless conversation. It is hard to get away from that couch sometimes. We can sit in there for hours talking and drinking several pots of coffee.

Tonight was the standard update about jobs, school, and summer plans.
My Dad is always asking detailed questions. They are the type of questions no one would ever think to ask.

I will be home until Sunday, and then I will be on the road back to Marion again.
From there I will leave for Greece Monday morning!!

I am used to coming home and going back to work at Applebees. I honestly don't know what life is like without that place. I have worked there since I was sixteen. I have made some true friends and met some amazing people. I learned so much from working there, and I can see how much I have changed and grown since I was hired as a High School teenager. It's funny to think about all the employees that have come and gone. I remember each year and how different the environment was depending on the staff. Things were always changing. And now I will never be a part of it. But I am happy to say that as great as it was, I am moving on. This summer will be a start of something new and exciting.

This week I am dedicated to relaxation. I can catch up on sleep, research Greece and spend time with friends and family.
Little white Molly girl was up to her usual self. She just brightens my day when she gets in her modeling moods.

This kitty tends to sprawl out on the couch and carpet. She loves the camera and attention.

I think I want to buy this print. The artist, Nina Moscrip, lives in Hampshire, England. Her delicate design is exactly what I want in my living room.

I love searching in the Etsy shop. They have the most unique artists who sell anything from jewelry and clothing to glassware and journals. I am always inspired when I visit the site. It makes me want to create something.

May 3, 2010

This weekend was spent celebrating. I went with the entire Shepherd family to see Jordan's brother Mark graduate. The whole family was in town and we spent the afternoon at the Shepherd house eating and playing backyard golf.

The rule is, everyone has to wear a hat while playing graduation golf

We had an accidental matching outfit....

Watching Mark open his gifts

Eating Italian beef, pasta salad, fruit salad, and homemade chip dip

Rhubarb pie, puppy chow, and mocha cheesecake bars. Delicious.

the brothers and the ladies

the lovely Jathniel