Theo & Sandra Goutzios came to Greece in 1996 as field representatives of Torchbearers Austria – Tauernhof, to establish a work through which young people could be encouraged to grow in Faith and to be a practical expression of God’s love.
The first steps were to use a seaside camp facility at the foot of Mt Olympus in northern Greece. There we offered mountaineering programs for youth groups during the summer, retreats/holiday camps for international groups in the Spring & Autumn and then short term bible courses during the Winter.
Three years later, Gary Spicer (pastor and chairman of Release Foundation) with whom we’d worked on aid and evangelistic projects in Albania,- immediately after Albania’s boarders opened to outsiders, asked us if we’d consider managing on their behalf the S/Y “Encounter” then known as the “Genevieve”.
The sailing ship “Genevieve” was purpose built by Tony Turner who had the vision to build a sailing ship to take the gospel to the Islands, whilst sail training and discipling young people along the way.
Tony, the owner of a boat building company based in Harare Zimbabwe writes,
… “When we began construction on her, we hardly had enough money to keep paying our labour, let alone for materials, but God was faithful, and work came in so that we could complete the task. It took five years to finish her. We were helped greatly by many friends from our farm church, and every Saturday they would come to the work shop and sandpaper, nail, drill, glue, paint and have a wonderful time. She was in fact a family project with many miracles along the way.”
She was launched in Beira on the 24th June 1998, having been trucked across the African continent on rough potholed roads barely getting under some bridges by inches, then sailed up to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
It was shortly after this says Tony when Patricia Edmiston, – founder of “Release Foundation,” entered the scene with God’s perfect timing. “Genevieve” original name of the ship, – named after Tony’s eldest daughter was then sailed up to Greece with a crew of 6 which included Tony’s youngest daughter, to carry on with her work.
… “During her construction, her move, and her various transfers, the people involved were always touched, always wonderful and always went the extra mile to see her on her way to do the job intended for her. She became part of Zimbabwe’s family, and we even now have many enquiries after her on a regular basis. She truly was a God-send, and she will always hold a very special place in the hearts of all of these people, but most of all in the hearts of my family.
We pray that her work will continue in prosperity, changing the lives of many.”
It was one year after her launching that Tony Turner handed the baton to Release Foundation by donating the ship so that it may sail on into her destiny fulfilling the purposes for which God intended.
In the summer of 1999 Theo Goutzios field representative in Greece for Torchbearers Austria (Tauernhof), was asked by Release Foundation to come on board as project manager / skipper fulfilling the general vision to preach the gospel, sail training and discipling young people along the way. Theo accepted and a crew was recruited with Mark Jasper as skipper to sail her up to Greece.
A window of opportunity weather wise to sail her up the Red Sea notorious for strong northerly winds and currents was open to us that September. After a moving service on the deck of the “Genevieve” whilst afloat in Dar es Salaam, where Tony Turner handed the boat over to the crew, she set sail for what turned out to be a long six week voyage enduring all sorts of hardship with heavy seas, just narrowly escaping pirates that only the day before plundered another yacht and murdered a crewman, lost a lifeboat and damaging the bowsprit causing rigging to come adrift making it no longer possible to sail, she pushed on under motor through the Suez canal and into the Mediterranean to finally arrive at the end of October 1999 in Volos harbour Greece.
We’re ever so grateful to Tony, his family and friends that gave themselves so willingly and generously to build this boat and to Patricia Edmiston and Release Foundation that made it possible to import her into Greece to make it possible to run the programs we offer giving many the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and be transformed by the message of hope that He gives. Also grateful to the skippers; Cameron Springthorpe (Scotland), Chris Wren (England), Michael Kottsieper (Germany) and the many crew that have over the last years given voluntary service to make it possible to continue in the service of God and the building of His Kingdom.
In March 2010 Release Foundation donated the “Genevieve” now named the “Encounter” to Torchbearers Austria – Tauernhof.
And so the story continues…. We look ahead with anticipation at what God will do!