As we prepare to move to Greece this summer to serve with Albanian immigrants through PORTA, Michelle and I have been keeping a close eye on the economic news in Europe. There are several Greek newspapers and sites that we follow each day to give us insight and we are learning much. Frequently, those whom we meet as we speak in churches and friends and family ask how the economic situation in Greece will affect us. It is hard to answer that question. According to the Greek newspapers, crime has risen 125% over the past year, homelessness is becoming a critical problem, unemployment is over 20% with many more people receiving pay cuts by 40% or more. All the while inflation rises, taxes increase, and there is still a chance that Greece will default and leave the EU and the euro currency. Things will be interesting.
Of course, all these things mentioned above are true and they will affect us and the ministry that we will be joining, however I think that the reason that Michelle and I have such trouble responding to this question is that we are not, nor were we ever moving to Greece because it has a stable economy, or because it is a nice place to visit. Assurance and security really have nothing to do with our decision. Our decision is born from more than a year of prayer and discernment and a sense of calling rooted in hope. This is not a hope in the economy of Greece or any country. Yes, it is a hope that sometimes passes understanding, even to Michelle and me.
What is this hope of which I write? A favorite theologian writer from South Africa, David Bosch, captures it best.
“When we say, ‘Well, we just hope for the best,’ we are actually saying that evidence is to the contrary. Hope in this sense is in fact a statement of despair. Christian hope does not spring from despair about the present time, however; it is based on that which is already a reality. It is both possession and yearning, response and activity, arrival and journey. Hope is the connecting line between the already and the not yet, between the penultimate and the ultimate. We dream about the future by working to make it come true. As Paul says in Philippians 3:12, ‘I have not yet reached perfection, but I press on, hoping to take hold of that for which Christ once took hold of me’. Authentic Christian hope is hope-in-the-process-of-fulfillment” (Bosch 1979: 86-87).
As we journey to Greece to live, we are living “hope-in-the-process-of-fulfillment”. We seek to live our lives with people and in so doing invite them to live out “hope-in-the-process-of-fulfillment”. The economy is not the focus. Relationship is the focus. Yes, relationships are messy and affected by the economy and many other things but such is life in any community and, after all, being in relationship is the core of ministry. “We learn to dwell with God by learning the practices of hospitality, listening, forgiveness, and reconciliation—the daily tasks of life with other people” (Wilson-Hartgrove 2010). As we struggle to answer how the economic crisis in Greece will affect the ministry of PORTA and us, we welcome the relationships that we will develop over time and life lived together as “hope-in-the-process-of-fulfillment”.