Hello from the Gulleys! We terribly miss our family and friends who are so far away from us and we pray that you are doing well and trying to stay cool in this hot summer heat! Please know that we think of you often as we continue our ministry here.
This is our second summer to be in Greece and it was yet another event filled summer! One of our greatest highlights this summer was that Matt's brother, Tanner 16, came to Greece to visit us and work alongside Matt with the refugees. It was so awesome to watch him interact with people from various nationalities, breaking through the language barrier by playing chess, using hand motions and even just a smile! From the time Tanner got off the plane he was running full force with Matt starting off the summer schedule.
The first camp on the calendar was the Refugee Men's Camp beginning the first week of June and lasting one week. Matt helped organize and plan the camp and I stayed in Athens with Ashtyn. Approximately 26 men participated in this camp and the guys had a relaxing time swimming, canoeing, playing ping pong, volleyball, archery, and rock climbing. Tanner had the opportunity to use his rock climbing knowledge and skills and he was in charge of setting up and teaching the guys how to use the rock climbing wall. This was a great way for him to connect with the guys. Every day there was a teaching and spiritual discussion time for the men to be a part of during camp. The guys watched The Jesus Film and then broke out in their small groups. Matt's group was from Iran and Afghanistan.
Here are some pictures from the Refugee Men's Camp:
Riding the intertube
Hanging on the zip line
Tanner manning the rock climbing wall
Matt having discussions with the men.
One week after Men's Camp was over we headed off for Family Refugee Camp. This included men, women and children from Afghanistan. There were a total of 88 refugees, 40 of them being children. This was a much different camp than the Men's Camp. Whenever you have refugee women and children it adds a whole other element. The families had so much fun and enjoyed some rest and relaxation time. The children were involved with crafts every day and a VBS time in the evening, while the parents broke out in their small group discussions after a message. The discussions ended at around 10 pm every night and we were up at 7 am in the morning. Everyone had swim time every day with men and women being separated. It's always interesting watching the women swim fully covered, even with their head coverings. They had the best time and some of our staff taught the women how to swim. From this camp, the women have asked to continue meeting on a weekly basis to study the Bible and the teenage boys (Matt's group) also asked to continue meeting once a week in Athens. Matt has met with the teenagers since and have begun to form a group. This camp was a big blessing to the families as well as to all of us involved in putting the camp together. We returned to Athens very blessed and very exhausted!! Thank you Muskogee Church for your generous contribution in making this camp possible!
Here are a few pictures from Refugee Family Camp - due to the political and legal situations of these families we are only allowed to publish pictures of the children:
Ages 3 and below playing while their parents are learning about the Bible
Beautiful face painting during craft time
Tanner and Ashtyn during a heat wave!
During VBS time
On July 20, we headed down to the Peloponnese to a town called Mystra which is near Sparti (or Sparta) for Operation Joshua 3. This is a major project where the goal is to take a modern Greek New Testament to every home in the area designated to cover. We gave out 60,000 bibles to 814 Greek villages. About 45 cars with groups of people drove out every morning and covered their designated villages for the day. They would return in the evening for dinner and worship time. Some amazing stories were shared every day about their experiences and interactions with the Greek villagers. Matt was one of the group leaders and I stayed at the campsite with Ashtyn during the day. It was hot, but quite cool in the evenings which was wonderful. Matt said that the people this year were much more receptive than last year and his group received several invitations for coffees and treats. They drove through some beautiful villages and ate some of the best salads and fruits! One night we were having worship in the big tent at the campsite and two ladies showed up, looked at Matt, and said, "Hi, you came to my home today!" They had received a Bible and then came to see where we were staying. We had a good conversation with them. This is one of many stories.
Here are some pictures from Operation Joshua 3:
Taking time out to see a castle in Sparta
We were pleasantly surprised to see my cousin, Michael, and his family from Canada come to help out with the distribution.
60,000 Bibles were prepared and packed to be distributed
Ashtyn, Caleb, and Rebecca kept each other company during this event
Packing bibles on a hot, summer day! :)
Villager reading the Bible Matt brought to him
This lady is holding a New Testament and then treated Matt and his group to juice, chocolates, and candy
Visiting with one of the villagers
I don't want to drag this post out anymore. So, just a quick family update: My pregnancy continues to go well. We are having a baby girl due October 17th. I like my doctor and he speaks English :) We are hoping everything goes smoothly and that the doctor and hospital respects our wishes for the care of the baby. C-sections are very common and sometimes routine here, and this is something I only want in case of complication. Please pray with us as we are in need of $2,600 to pay for the doctor and delivery (after insurance reimbursement). We believe that God is faithful and he will provide in ways we haven't thought possible. Ashtyn continues to grow and is becoming very independent. She wants to do EVERYTHING by herself. She loves to sing and everyone at camp heard her sing herself to sleep in our tent! She's pretty funny :) For more pictures of different events please visit my facebook page.
Lots of love to you all,
Matt, Nikki, Ashtyn & baby Eden