Summer 2017

August was Intense! to say the least.  Both my (Theo) parents passing away within a week of each other, which meant two trips to Australia for a few days each, then a collision at sea causing us to have to haul out and repair the boat and having to cancel one of our groups, which otherwise was a fully booked season.

sunrise over Loutraki

To start this update though let me go back to Spring.  The focus was preparations on our “treehouse” camping facility.  A fourth and last tree house was built, also a BBQ and picnic area just by an enclosed, – with netting, volley ball court was built.  Also our dinning area and kitchen was rebuilt, after having collapsed under the unprecedented heavy snow fall last winter.  Dimitry has worked hard and faithfully, many hours often alone, pouring out his creative ideas in the creation of the camping facility.  Dimitry’s wife Meta (a stay at home mom) is hardly at home.  Meta seizes every opportunity to get involved in the local community especially through school as she has 4 kids enrolled there.

volley ball court in the making

Come April, and our sailing season begins.  Tom & Ymea (from Germany) join us with a longer term commitment to crew the Encounter.  Tom has assumed responsibilities in all technical aspects of the ship and Ymea keeps things shipshape and helps with Sandra to prepare meals.  They both have a huge involvement with our students as they interact and serve their needs.  We are very blessed to have them aboard.

This summer our programs were particularly well booked, except for our Fall Impact training course with only up to 80% occupancy.  It looked like this would be one of our best seasons.  Moody Bible Institute booked in again for a 5 week “study abroad” program, followed by the Liebenzeller Mission which came again after many years absent.  Then our Irish friends “Capernwray Northern Ireland” came first week in August, followed with a mixed group lead by our chairman of the board

anchored at the port of Skiathos

Gerhard Groumer and just retired Torchbearers International Director Chris Thomas.  This group however did not sail anywhere as this was the time I (Theo – Skipper) was off to Australia for the funeral of my parents.  So instead Sandra assumed my skipper responsibilities and anchored the boat just outside Skiathos port under the shelter of some cliffs, from where those aboard continued with the program.

I returned from Australia just two days before the end of this group’s time aboard, then immediately after everyone left, sailed the boat to where the repair work was to happen, meanwhile cancelling the next group which was KISI Kids from upper Austria; – a ministry working with children that creates and performs christian musicals.

It’s now already Autumn.  We have aboard a group of 10 students, – all girls, and just one guy, keen to grow in their

Fall students

relationship with God.  If interested you can follow them on Facebook as each week they will upload pics and a short paragraph or so on their adventures.  See our page at “Kingfisher Project Greece” on Facebook.  I’ll post more here later.

 

Winter 2016/17

One of the wettest and coldest Winters, making it rather miserable to work outside, but work non-the-less continued, thanks to Dimity’s persistence.  Damages due to unprecedented snowfalls in January put us back a bit, with having to rebuild a couple of pergolas.

before

before

We’re moving steadily though toward a fully functional camping facility that should be ready by June for the first campers.  We’re upgrading the bathroom facilities and building a new kitchen and dinning area

after

after

We now have the assistance of Greater Europe Mission’s engineering division to help with all the building projects, that will help us move along at reduced costs and hopefully quicken the process.

In May and June this year we hope a team of volunteers will form to tackle some of this work.  If interested to join in, contact us.

 

Update Fall 2016

Have you ever seen a water spout forming in the clouds, then reach down like a finger to touch the sea, sucking up everything in it’s path?  It’s both extraordinarily exciting and frightening.  Heading south from Halkidiki and our visit to ancient Philippi we had such an encounter. With our Fall students aboard ready for the worst, lifejackets on and standing by to drop sails at a

water spout

twister coming our way

moments notice. We waited anxiously while we were driven south under powerful winds. We needed the speed, we had to get away, out of it’s path.  Should we be hit with all sails up there would be nothing left but shreds.  Nerves tense we watched the power of nature and prayed!  Gladly our paths did not cross.

This nervous tension has often been felt it seems these last months.  Much prayer, discussion and plans have been made as we’ve looked ahead at the developments of the Kingfisher Project.

Exciting possibilities of new longterm crew on the sailing ship Encounter.  ”Euro team” a division of “Greater Europe Mission” undertaking to help with the design and engineering side of the next phase of the property development which is for about 8 more apartments / cabins to be built as finances are made available as well as the finalisation of the camping facility by next

tree house accomodations

tree house accommodations in the making

summer. We’re excited as to how the Lord is providing, we’re excited as to the prospect of soon seeing this place as one that facilitates an Encounter with not only the awesomely beautiful surroundings in nature but also one with the Creator and lover of our souls.

This summer started out with a full compliment of Spring Impact students, who experienced together His love and life changing power in their lives.  July however was a slow month due to a cancellation and low participation in a substitute Sailaway program.  This gave us more opportunity to be involved with two groups of youth that came down from Thessaloniki for a week each, staying in our treehouse accommodations.  Then August and things got busy with an Irish group, a mixed international group and then KISI kids leadership team,- who perform Christian musicals, and then finally our 7 week Fall Impact Training course, for the first time not full but the presence of God was evident.  I’m always encouraged to see youth grow in their awareness of God and their need for Him, to see their perspective and attitudes align with the will of God and leave us with renewed motivation to follow in His steps.

Tom & Ymea

Tom & Ymea helping out with our olive harvest

The first week of November we securely moored the Encounter for the winter and began our olive harvest, gathering just over 600kg of olives which we pressed and got 100 litres of pure extra virgin “bio” olive oil.  Then had the pleasure of sharing some of it with our team at Tauernhof Austria where we came away for staff prayer day and then further rest for a couple of weeks.

Please pray for Tom and Ymea (Germany) who are considering a long term involvement as crew aboard the Encounter.

Pray also for Dimitry. His family need a better (bigger and warmer) apartment to rent.  Also a solution for their transport needs as their car just died.

Pray also for those helping with the design of our property and 2nd stage of developments, the retreat centre with 8 more cabins.

Pray for more partners to join us in this ministry and volunteers to join us in May / June 2017 for the final finish of our camping facilities.

 

Summer 2016

With a new bounce in their step having been impacted by the ministry of the Holy Spirit over the previous 6 weeks aboard the S/Y Encounter,  (see “visitors comments“), our students left us in June for further adventures in Europe.  Pray for them as they will face many challenges to remain true to the new course in life that many of them have taken.

On their way to new adventures

to new adventures

As I write, we are hosting the second group of youths from Thessaloniki so far this summer, taking advantage of our upgraded facilities; new summer kitchen / dinning area, decks up in the olive trees soon to turn into tree houses.

Today we’ll have the girls come sailing with us for the day and tomorrow the lads.  For most of these youths, these weeks is a dream come true.  Each morning after breakfast, the word or God is presented and ideas are discussed that have to do with living out ones Christian Faith in todays troubled world.  For some it is an introduction to Christ himself.  Our prayer is they will come to know Christ as their saviour.

cooling off over the side

Ymea and Thomas from Germany,  are to join our team as longterm crew on the Encounter.  We’re excited at the new possibilities this will provide.  Our biggest challenge now is to find a way to provide for them as regards their financial needs. Any help is welcome!  Our hope is in 2017 to phase out Sandra’s involvement on the ship, so as she can be shore based and help there with the cooking for groups that come camping.  I (Theo) will continue till the new crew or a new Skipper comes in to replace me on the ship.  It was too bad Joachim who joined us last year with this in mind did not work out and has now returned to his former employer.

With this new team Ymea & Thomas, Meta & Dimitry (& family) and Sandra and I our vision for the Kingfisher Project takes on a new dynamic!  It excites us, encourages us and empowers us to press on and see this dream become a reality.

As the camps this summer come to an end, Dimitry’s goal will be to turn his attention to the property as an olive orchard of about 120 mature olive trees and some 30 fruit trees, producing; figs, pears, apples, pomegranates, plums, peaches, cherries, almonds, mulberries, persimmons and a bunch of grape vines to name a few of what’s there now.  In the Fall we also intend to set up an Aquaponics system for vegetables with the goal of being able to provide our food needs, that I hope will in the future become a source of income as we take it to a commercial level.

our orchard in Spring

A soil tilling machine is next on our wish list.  After this Fall’s harvest of the olives we intend to till the whole property, rid it of the thistles, blackberry bushes and other thorny vegetation and then landscape the property to suit further developments as a retreat center.  This “tiller” will be an investment of approx. 1.500€.

volunteers at work

volunteers preparing the playing field

There’s much to do and much help needed.  May I suggest, one way to help is to set up a monthly automatic payment as a donation.  You can set this up with your bank or Paypal…

Also we can now host a couple of volunteers at a time, albeit rough camp like conditions, at least somewhere to sleep, a place to cook their meals and eat and of course lots of work!

We’d also appreciate your support in prayer for all that’s going on, especially for the team and all the challenges they face as they adjust to a new situation, fellow crew, and for the financial needs that they have.

I can be contacted by email at theo@torchbearers.gr for further information on how to partner with us.  I hope you’ll consider joining with us on this venture in some way.

Spring 2016

These past months, the main thrust of the work on our island property centred on developing the camping facility.  The old farm house by the gate that we hoped could be renovated was not approved and instead had to be demolished.  In it’s place we have setup a kitchen / dinning area under a structure called a pergola which does not need a building permit.  

We also graded an area for a playing field approx. 20m by 10m and dug out 3 cesspits and repaired much of the damage caused by last Fall’s freak storm that poured down a whole year’s worth of rain in a couple of hours.

Till this day the island is still being repaired from the damage caused especially to roads.  Some 80 cars where picked up by the flood water and dumped into the sea.

By the end of March the focus turned to preparations for the sailing ship Encounter.  This Spring we were due to be hauled out (done every two years) to paint anti-foul on the hull and tackle other maintenance work.  A small team of 4 volunteers joined us for a week at the shipyard. 

Then on the 20th April, our first students for 2016 came aboard, keen to learn, excited for this unique opportunity to explore Greece, see the places Paul visited and explore the word of God in a small community.  We are into week 2, with Mark Thomas (director of Capernwray Hall in the UK) teaching on the epistle to the Corinthians, as I write, and will at the end of this week travel out to see Ancient Corinth close up.

We started however at Volos, where we visit the local evangelical church there.  We’ve been able to share with them in a small way to help with the work they have been involved with at a small town called Karditsa among a Roma (Gypsie)  community.

Roma church project

This Winter church services there came to a halt as they had no sheltered area where they could meet.  So we helped with a simple building project where church services can now take place year round.

This people group (the Roma) are one of the least reached people, with the gospel of Christ.  In the last few years there have been some remarkable openings for the gospel among them.

Workers are needed to help! These people are hardly educated, never have gone to school.  Have many health issues, largely due to poor hygiene.  Have large families that usually beg on the streets and are known to steel and be involved with drug peddling among other illegal kinds of activities.  Please pray for workers that would involve themselves on a long term basis.

 

February 2016

A Winter on the go!  Having finished our 2015 season we soon headed off to Tauernhof Austria (our mother center).  It was a time to share the happenings of the season past, with fellow staff members and to introduce them to our new Greek staff (the Minas family) who travelled up by car with their four kids to be there just a few days.  Minas family

It’s always encouraging to sense that we are a part of a bigger “family”.  Further we met with the board and had the chance to share with them our vision for the future developments in Greece and particularly the island property.

Then for the month of January, Sandra and I (Theo), travelled to Australia visiting primarily our families and some friends.  It had been 15 years since we’d both visited our home country together.  It was nice to go down “memory lane” seeing some of our favourite places, particularly beaches, enjoy the foods, especially seafoods and to just simply spend time talking to my now elderly parents.

My sister with her family (3 kids) were also back from China, overlapping with us for a week, and so had the opportunity to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday, with all her kids and grandkids all at the same place and time, a very rare event!  Sandra too was able to catch up with 2 of her 3 sisters and also see her niece’s newborn. 

Now back on the island of Skopelos, work continues in preparation for the summer camps on shore and programs on the Encounter.  Our biggest project is setting up a camp facility for 40 youths with treehouse accommodations.  Bookings have already been made for the camp so the pressure is on, we must be finished in time!  I’ll send some pictures as things develop.

Another project we hope you may join us with is to partner with the local evangelical church at Volos on the mainland to help with a ministry among a Gypsy community in a nearby town.  This winter we helped with providing means for a church building to be erected as they were meeting through the summer in the open.  Our prayer is to see a couple committed to serve these people full time providing education particularly for the children and help to meet their medical needs as well as spiritually minister to them.  Funds are needed to support such a couple or even single person, as well as funds to help with some of their basic needs particularly in the area of medicines.  Please join us in this if you will.

Meanwhile keep praying for us all, for opportunities to share the Love of God, for safety in our work, and good work relationships within our team.  Also for everything needed to accomplish our goals.  Pray also for full bookings on the boat for both the Impact Training courses as well as the summer Sailaway programs.  Many thanks!  Theo.

November 2015

The skies are grey, it’s cold and wet as we sail to our home port of Skopelos island having left our students at Volos to go on to further adventures.  The sudden quiet is almost overwhelming, it’s just Sandra and I, accompanied by the gulls that swoop down for the left over crumbs we throw them.  We’re missing our students so much, yet excited for them as they venture out.

in the company of gulls

It was a great summer however, booked full, met so many wonderful people of all ages and nationalities. Our Impact Training students were extraordinarily keen, to grow in their Faith and make it theirs.  You could see them changing day by day as their desire for a deeper relationship motivated them to pursue God daily. It is a great blessing to play a part in this growing process.

Looking ahead now to the following months, we’re glad to have Dimitry and his family at our side as we work together in preparation for a new season of opportunity.  Around the end of November we’ll be meeting with the board in Austria with the goal to cast a vision for the Kingfisher Project.  Then on return we begin with our Winter projects, in brief, to set up a camping facility for youths in the lower half of our island property.  I’ll post next month details of what exactly we’ll undertake to do and how you could contribute if you were so inclined.

contentment

a dog's life

Our first concerns however on return to our home port will be to “winterise” the boat; service engines, repair and pack away sails, wash everything down and start up laundry services.  Of course before any of this first we have to secure the boat by laying out our winter mooring chains, anchors etc…  approx. 2 tons of material will be manhandled in the next days before we can go home and put our “feet up” so to speak, have a nice long hot shower, – the last was over 7 months ago, and just “veg out” in front of the fire in our living room.  We are very much looking forward to getting home!

We’ve just recently set up an “Instagram” account @kingfisherproject through which I hope to keep you posted of our activities so follow us there too if you like. Instagram

 

June 2015

An amazing Spring Impact Training course has just come to a close. After tearful goodbyes our students were off to new adventures, some travelling further in Europe whilst others returned home after a life changing gap year.

our students

So let the true you be seen!

The weather was particularly mild this Spring, not once did we need to do an all nighter on anchor watch, however we would have liked some more sailing.  The sea temperature though was cool so more time was spent above rather than in the sea.  This though did not stop anyone from jumping off 10 – 15 meter cliffs into the sea or snorkling through caves and underwater tunnels.

However hanging out with dolphins as we sailed south to Skopelos from Northern Greece in a balmy calm ocean was certainly a highlight.

I can almost touch them!

hanging out with dolphins

preparations are now under way for our next group from Moody Bible Institute who’ll be with us for a 5 week “Study Abroad” program.

Joachim, our new crewman (we call him Joe) is presently working on fixing cracks and leaks on the deck, whilst I (Theo) am about to head off to Bodenseehof (Germany) for our annual director / principles meeting for a week.  Looking forward to the break and company of fellow team mates in ministry.

On Sunday 14th June the Minas family arrive to take up residence on Skopelos and join our team.  Just a few more days to their arrival which we’re excited about!

Check out new pictures uploaded to our media page.  See also Visitors’ Comments made by our most recent students.

New Crew

Meet the Minas family!  Dimitry and Meta with their four children will be arriving to take up permanent residence on Skopelos island at the end of June.  Read below what they wrote;

The Minas family

My name is Dimitry Minas. I grew up in a small village just north of Athens to an Evangelical family who where among the first believers there. Due to religious prejudices I came to know what it was to be ostracised by the community for having faith in Christ who I came to believe in as a young boy of 10. As a result, I had no close friends from among my peers. I got involved however around the age of 14 with Evangelistic missions that promoted faith in Christ nationwide during which time a conviction grew in me to one day be involved more fully in serving the purposes of God.

I finished schooling as an electrician then did my required military service and in 2000, went to Athens to study at the Greek Bible College where I met Meta, with whom two years later I was married.

I’m Meta, – full name Metaxia Armeni. I grew up in the city of Athens. My childhood memories revolve around the people who my parents were helping through the organization they founded “Passage to Life”. They were people being helped by the grace of God to become free from addictions due to substance abuse.

In this environment we often experienced the hand of God freeing people from self destructive forces and also saw the provision of God daily in our lives as we trusted in Him as a family for our daily needs. Through all this there grew in me and my brother the growing belief as to the importance of being in the center of God’s will.

After high school I continued with studies at a vocational college and in classical music (voice), during which time I met Dimitry and two years later at 19 was married. As we began married life it was amazing to see how God worked in both our hearts to pursue a life in full time christian service. We took up many service opportunities in our church and other mission endeavours such as ministry to the poor, house group leaders, worship team (Meta), drama team leaders, drug rehab center -”Passage to life” and “Streetlights” using social media to reach youth.

In 2009 we pursued further ministry training in Germany with “Fusion” in the area of youth and community work. This lead to our involvement in founding a community center which runs to this day reaching youth with the gospel through the arts and in particular social media.

The last years however things have been changing as our family has grown to 4 children. Evangelos 9, Markos 7, Efi 5 and Marilia 18 months. My (Dimitry) long absences from home was taking its toll, as work required me to be away driving tourist buses for most days in the year. I’d got into the rut of work work work, which I enjoyed and the money was good but the cost to family was high and my desire to be doing something more in line with serving God’s purposes had virtually disappeared.

Through a church conference in the UK which we attended in 2011, God once again got my attention (thanks to my wife’s prayers) and it became obvious our work situation must change. Through the songs, and the speakers the challenge to serve in full time ministry once again came to the forefront of our minds and heart. God was preparing us for something new.

In the Spring of 2014 we learnt of the Torchbearer work on Skopelos island. In the following talks with Theo and Sandra, – the leadership there, it became clear that a new door was opening up for our family. We saw the opportunity by the grace of God to affect a local community as we interact with parents and children alike, being to them a channel of God’s grace. We pray for wisdom to share God’s word and His plan of salvation with respect to the local culture and customs of an island community.

The plan is to move to Skopelos in June 2015 after schools are out. Amazingly a house has already been found to rent. We are preparing now with various jobs to finance the move and our establishment on the island.

We pray the transition will be smooth for our family not only in respect to the physical and financial needs but also psychological and spiritual as we undergo this life changing move. We trust that in all this God will be glorified.

Dimitry and Meta.

New Crew

I’ve asked Joachim to introduce himself and so have pasted in the following which I received from him;

Joachim Stadlmeir

Joachim at the helm

As a child and teenager I attended for years in camps. The blessing of these retreats and encounters with God have left traces in my life. Later i worked myself in youth camps, cycling, hiking tours as a staff or leader.

My job was always something for me to do with vocation.

“Everything you do in word or deed do it in the name of the Lord.” (Col. 3:17) is my confirmation verse.

A big step in this direction was the civil service at “Word of Life” on Lake Starnberg, where I worked as construction assistant and lifeguard. The community and school life at WDL have encouraged me to stay tuned into faith. At the end of this period I worked less than six months in Mombasa in Kenya as a builder’s labourer. Here I was able to make my first experience abroad.

 

I want to make Jesus the center of my life however this has always been a struggle leading to many failures. At the vocational school as a technical teacher its all about technology and performance. On the Yacht Encounter however faith and God is more the focus. Our days are numbered so I want to do this, I have realised more and more that it is the most important thing in my life.  I also want others to know and have the opportunity to meet God and so I want to tell them about him. Experiencing God in nature and sharing the experience with others is always a blessing.

Mostly I will be responsible for the engineering on the ship and alongside Theo the skipper I will work as crew. I’m to learn the whole responsibility for the ship so as to take over when it is time to do so.

Joachim Stadlmeir