In 2015, Greece faced one of the great humanitarian crises of modern history when millions of people crossed its borders to seek asylum from persecution in the Middle East. Mihalis Litsikakis, a church planter with no previous experience among refugees, saw an opportunity to reach those who’d never heard the gospel. He and some friends opened Home Spot, a facility that provides assimilation services and much needed hospitality. With the flow of migrants still strong, we caught up with Litsikakis to ask how things are going.
What new developments are there at your center for refugees, Home Spot?
Litsikakis: Home Spot continues to be what our motto says, “Home is where love is found.” It is the home for all these families, a place where the community meets together but also a place where people can find true relationships. (So) if I could change our motto now, it would be, “We don’t give food to refugees, we eat with them.”
Home Spot has English lessons, programs for youth, but also a place for Bible studies. When we first started, we only had one Bible study for Arabs. But several others have been added with different people groups. And this is the part I love the most, because Home Spot is not just a blessing for the refugees, but for the locals also. Many doors have opened. We provide lunches for the elementary school. We have concerts and dramas to encourage the students.
What are some of the more recent testimonies that stick out to you?
Litsikakis: The way we work, we don’t rush people. We let them see our lives first and then build a relationship. That leads to conversations and sharing the gospel.
We have a family with a lot of kids who come to Home Spot. They’ve been here three years. One day the mother came and said, “I want to learn about Jesus.” She had never before expressed interest in God. So we asked, “Why now?” And her reply was, “For the past three years I have been observing you. All those years I thought, ‘My people back in Syria, they respect God.’ But looking at you, I can see that your faith is real. It affects the way you live and treat the people around you. So this is a faith I want to know about.” What brings people to faith is not just convincing words. It’s not an emotional state; it’s the love that they see through Christians.
What is the overall refugee situation in Greece as of today?
Litsikakis: The situation on the Greek islands is pretty dramatic right now. In one case there are 14,000 refugees staying in a place only made to hold 3,000. The islands are crowded and the government is trying to make more space for refugees on the mainland. So in our neighborhood, most of the families we have been serving for the past two years now have to move out of the camps and find apartments of their own. The government will sponsor them for six months, but after that they are on their own. That means they have to find jobs, and almost none of them know the language. So we will have another crisis on top of this one—homeless refugees.
How has the In Touch Messenger continued to help your ministry?
Litsikakis: One Sunday, a few Farsi-speaking families came for the first time and they were very interested. They wanted to hear the gospel in their own language. I said, “Next time I see you at Home Spot, please come to me and I will give you a Messenger.” So I didn’t see them for another two weeks. Then the lady comes to me with a look like she’s waiting for something. So I gave her a Messenger, and she had this surprised look on her face. Later she and her son started coming to church, and I realized I was confused and gave it to the wrong person. But now they are curious about Jesus! It gave me an opportunity to share with another family without knowing.
What developments give you hope for the future?
Litsikakis: Our first convert from Syria, he moved to start a church in Athens. It grew so quickly that now he leads a new refugee center that we opened a year ago. It’s three times larger than the original Home Spot. Where we serve about 100 people a day in Lavrio, they have up to 400. And they have an international church on Sundays, where people from many nations join together with local Greeks as well. God is doing something totally new with the flame that started from our ministry, and it’s now out of our control.
Photography by Gary S. Chapman