In November of 1997, God opened the eyes of an American woman working in Athens to the presence of women in prostitution, noticing one particular woman not once but four times in one week. That fact alone became the catalyst for prayer for a group that would eventually start Nea Zoi. Not long after they began praying, one of the members was given the opportunity to stop and have a chat with this woman. The team started praying, and God used those prayers to create unity, strengthen the desire and vision to support the burden they felt for these people, and speak to them through circumstances and prophetic words.
And the ministry was birthed. From its inception, the ministry has been characterised by a powerful sense of God's participation and presence, both in work and in worship. Initially, the weekly outreach was known as Lost Coin, after Jesus' parable in Luke 15:8-10
"Or what woman," Jesus asks, "If she has ten drachmas (silver coins) and loses one, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!' In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner who repents."
These women are precious to God! The coin is silver – that is, it has intrinsic value. It's worth something, and even MORE so, the effort it takes to recover it. Like the coin, these women bear the image of the One who made them. It takes a lot of work, mess, and upheaval to turn the house upside down, looking for that one coin. But by the end of it, it is so worth it!
Under the covering of Helping Hands, Lost Coin and a small group of committed local church volunteers developed a consistent weekly outreach to women working the streets and bars of central Athens. The outreach team went to bars, hotels, and streets where these women work, offering tea, coffee, care, and hope. As relationships were developed, it soon became evident that these individuals' challenges required a more significant investment of effort and resources.
In 2002, a new team was formed with the exclusive focus of reaching out to individuals in prostitution. A new name, Nea Zoi (which means New Life in English) was chosen, and the office and drop-in center were established in central Athens.
In 2012, Nea Zoi started offering sewing classes to its contacts. In 2013, a non-profit organisation called Threads of Hope Hellas was launched. Now a thriving not-for-profit business, Threads of Hope offers employment to ladies exiting or avoiding prostitution and exploitation and assists them in getting legal documents and working permits.
Following the successful footsteps of Threads of Hope, in 2020, Bejewelled, a non-profit business, was created in partnership with Nea Zoi. Bejewelled seeks women and invites them to join a training program. During this time, they learn how to make the jewellery and offered emotional and practical support.
Our outreach teams visit four neighborhoods regularly and have contact with between 100-150 individuals each week. There are no other Christian outreaches in this arena in Athens, and only a few secular organisations lend aid and support to this population.
Central to our ministry is outreach, also known as street work. Following the example of the Son of Man, who came to seek and save the lost, we leave our comfortable environment to enter dark places with light in hopes of finding even one soul.
We desire to honour the local church by being dependent upon and submitted to this local expression of God’s heart. Our foundations are prayer and worship, as we recognize that the strength needed to minister the love and care the women and men need is only found through a relationship with God.
We are committed to these relationships, knowing that in the context of our relationships with them, the women and men can see God’s care and then trust and hope for change. We value personal purity and integrity, recognizing that we must continually be journeying towards health and wholeness along with our friends.
We acknowledge that salvation and restoration take time. We value each step in the process, from hostility to neutrality, from indifference to interest, and from curiosity to seeking truth.
We are committed to a ministry of incarnational presence, seeking the welfare of the neighbourhoods in which we work.
Nea Zoi consists of a team of staff members and volunteers from different parts of the world, whose love for supporting and restoring individuals brought them all to Athens. In cooperation with the Board and the Director, they support daily programs in all aspects of care.
At the moment, Nea Zoi is administered by:
• A Board of directors that oversees the ministry and is elected every two years.
• A Greek General Director.
• A General Assembly comprises all the registered members, which takes place every year.
• A two-member audit committee that is elected by the General Assembly every two years.
The current Board of Directors, who has been elected on December 2021 consists of:
President: Myrto Theocharous
Secretary: Giorgos Archontis
Treasurer: Andrew Larson
Substitutes: Eva-Lena Hellmark and Billy Hellmark
General Director: Diana Spathi
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