A great work in retirement
While serving Christ as missionaries with European Missionary Fellowship (EMF) in Turkey, in spring 1975, David and I were privileged to be the hosts to a retired Greek pastor from Piraeus, Athens.
Stavros Delianides had been invited to preach to the few remaining Greek Protestants in Istanbul over the Easter period. Seated around the kitchen table in our flat on the European side of the city, this dear gentleman, then in his mid-70s, told us his life story.
Stavros, ethnically Greek, had been born in Urdu on the Black Sea coast of Turkey, into a Greek Orthodox family. Following political unrest and persecution, many thousands of Greeks and Armenians fled the country.
In his late teens he was eventually obliged to flee for safety and travelled via Russia to the USA, where he settled in California. He had been a worldly man with little thought of God and all his energies had been concentrated on building up a business. Before long, he became prosperous.
One day he was invited to hear the evangelistic preaching of E. Joseph-Evans and was converted to Jesus Christ. It was then that he began to long for the salvation of Greek people and, after suitable preparation, left his prosperous business and moved to Piraeus, Athens. There he eventually became the pastor of a large church and ministered for 50 years.
At this point, Stavros began to weep, clearly expressing the sorrow he felt at having had to retire from labouring in the church that meant everything to him.
We gently reminded him of the story of Joseph and his temporary loss of everything, but how God had providentially permitted this in order that Joseph might ultimately fulfil an even greater work.
We then told him of the desperate shortage of Christian evangelists in Turkey and of the isolation and poverty of the few Turkish believers that there were. We took him to visit a few of these and he was astonished and delighted to meet Turkish Christians.
On his return to Greece, he began to raise up much prayer support in various churches for their believing Turkish brethren. The following year he returned with cases full of nearly new suits.
What a joy it was to accompany him in the distribution of these to poor Turkish believers and to hear him encourage them from the Word (he still remembered the Turkish he had learned as a child)!
He was a second father to these Turkish brethren and continued to visit Greek churches to encourage prayer, until his death in his 90s. What a wonderful way to spend retirement, in the service of the greatest of Masters!