Ioannina can boast of its proximity to one of the ancient sites Paul visited – Nikopolis. Although geographically isolated from the rest of Greece and the rest of Europe due to the surrounding high mountains, with the result of it remaining a very traditional and conservative society (the lowest rate of divorce in Greece), it has experienced a gradual opening up with bad and good influences pouring in. Its isolation until now has meant religious fanaticism and tenacious adherence to the Greek Orthodox Church and a corresponding enmity and hardness to the gospel, a gospel which is thought to be a product of western culture and theology.
In recent years, the founding of a good university has made a difference to people’s outlook and has had some impact of diminishing people’s religious intolerance to other views, which can only be considered to be a good opening for the dissemination of the gospel in Ioannina and indeed the whole of western Greece. In addition to that the university community itself is a mission field which we have been trying to exploit. We are delighted with our university students who have thought of the idea of organising students’ gatherings in local cafeterias (popular places for young people to congregate) in order to share the gospel with their friends. They hire such a place for a specific evening, invite their friends, spend some time with singing Christian songs (with the accompaniment of piano, guitar and violin), give a message from the Scriptures, prayer and lots of fellowship and discussion. Non-Christian young people seem to appreciate that kind of activity and as a church we fully support that kind of outreach – a spiritual goldmine. We regard the continuation of our outreach among university students as very essential to the activity of the church.
There are believers in our church who display a keen desire for sharing the gospel with colleagues and people they come into contact with in every day life. One of the privileges we enjoy (and exploit) is freedom to carry out evangelism in the central area of the city and in parks. There is a park in the vicinity of our church which makes it easy to invite people to our meetings to hear the gospel.
In addition, there are a lot of refugees in this area and our approach to them forms a part of our missionary endeavour.