My grandparents, Costas and Olga Athans, emigrated from Greece to San Francisco in the early 1900s, refugees fleeing social and political unrest. Olga had read the Bible in Greece but was scolded by her Orthodox priest every time she asked him what a passage meant. At first, Costas wanted to move his family to Russia, but friends convinced him the U.S. was a better choice.
Costas and Olga gave their lives to Jesus Christ during a rally near San Francisco where Aimee Semple McPherson preached. Olga believed she had finally found someone who would tell her the truth about God and the Bible. Sister McPherson became a spiritual mentor for my grandparents, and they moved to Los Angeles to be trained by her for ministry. Later, Sister ordained Costas, and the couple answered God’s call to return to Greece as the first Foursquare missionaries in Europe.
I have been told that more than 1 million of the 6 million residents of Greece in the 1920s and 1930s heard the gospel because of the ministry of Costas. We even have a photo of him preaching to a group of Greek Orthodox priests in Athens. The church they planted still exists today, in part because of my extended family who helped lead the congregation when Costas and Olga became too old to oversee the ministry. My Aunt Mary and Uncle Theo Davis assumed the ministry in Greece, with Mary doing most of the preaching when ill-health slowed Uncle Theo down.
Some old-timers might remember that my Aunt Mary sang a duet with Sister McPherson during Sister’s final meetings in Oakland, Calif., the week Sister died. Sister and Aunt Mary were both powerful ministers of the gospel, and Mary carried much of the ministry in Greece for many years.
The church Costas and Olga planted in Greece still exists 90 years later, part of a growing national and regional Foursquare work in Europe that spans 30 nations with 180 congregations.
The church in Greece was healthy; however, Mary and Theo struggled personally and seldom had enough food to eat. Mary was adamant that any money given to the church should not be used for their personal needs. Supporters in the States had donated $2,000 and asked her why they had so little food. She responded that the gift was made to the ministry and not to them personally.
A lack of food became a matter of prayer for Mary. She sought the Lord for an egg, just one egg that she could eat. She reported to family and friends how delighted she was when a chicken roosted on their second-floor windowsill and laid an egg. Mary prayed for an egg, and God gave her a chicken! This kind of miracle story happened frequently during the ministry of our family in Greece.
Another of my uncles, Leo Athans, remained in the States and became one of Sister’s trusted advisors for the ministry at Angelus Temple during the 1930s. When Sister traveled to Greece to preach, Leo accompanied her and served as her translator.
The church Costas and Olga planted in Greece still exists 90 years later, part of a growing national and regional Foursquare work in Europe that spans 30 nations with 180 congregations. I love the stories I grew up hearing about my grandparents. I am blessed that they influenced generations of others, extending to my children and grandchildren today, who still serve the Lord through Foursquare ministry.