At the age of five, Johnathan was sent to the mission boarding school on the other side of the island. It was a painful experience for the young boy, and no doubt for his parents as well. “Being separated from my parents was the most emotionally painful experience of my life. It took me days and sometimes weeks to recover from homesickness”. Yet, Johnathan believes that this was God’s way of providing his formative education which, although painful, produced life skills and character.
Held back by fear
While jungle life seemed normal, living with fear and nightmares too became part of life. He remembers his paralysing fear of flying, as countless little missionary aircrafts disappeared into the ragged peaks and thick jungle. There was fear of being washed out to sea with very strong rip tides in the ocean. There were horrible earthquakes, floods, and thunderstorms. As Johnathan grew, his fears were perpetuated and affected his confidence at school and in sports.
The dorm parents were loving missionaries who were genuinely concerned for the spiritual wellbeing of the students, but they could never take the place of his loving Greek parents.
A bright spot and a dark cloud
By age eleven, Johnathan’s day brightened when a shy, thin, quiet girl joined the 6th grade class. “There were all of twelve kids in the class and Miriam was the fourth girl. If it wasn’t love at first sight, there was definitely a friendly attraction! I would say that the little Nebraska girl caused my very first heart throb”. Today, Miriam is his beloved wife, life companion and mother of their five children!
A telex arrived late one evening for Johnathan while he was attending a boarding school across the border in Papua New Guinea for his first year of high school. His father, Costas, had fallen seriously ill. He was dying. He was sent on a special medical evacuation flight to Australia and then the USA. Johnathan’s mother, Alky, and his five siblings would need his help. The telex read “Prepare to return home. Leaving at 7AM.”
Costas was placed in an isolation ward, feared to have unknown tropical diseases. While feebly wasting away, he was calculating the days left before meeting his Creator. “If anyone is sick among you”, the Apostle James writes, “call on the elders to pray...”, and that is exactly what Costas did. He was anointed with oil...and the rest is history...well...almost! God miraculously reversed the damaged condition of his liver.
By 1979, Costas, with his family, left St. Louis and returned to his beloved homeland of Greece. The task was immense. Costas was no stranger to pioneering. Costas and Alky had committed themselves to burying their bones in Irian Jaya. Now the Macris family were replanted in another jungle, the concrete jungle of Athens, Greece.
Called to the mission field
While Johnathan completed high school at an upscale International high school in an Athenian suburbia, Miriam Raney completed high school in the eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Guidance from God
Hardly had Johnathan graduated from Moody Bible Institute and taken up Business Administrational studies, when Costas called him and gave him staggering news, “Johnathan, the doctors have told me I may have a maximum of 3 months to live!” This time it wasn't strange difficult tropical diseases to diagnose, it was cancer of the lymphatic system.
Johnathan was crushed. He faced a dilemma; He chose to immediately return to Greece, suspending his business studies and terminating educational deferment from the Greek military. If he could finish his mandatory Greek military service, he thought, before his father’s death, he could be of help to his “would-be” widowed mother and the ministry.
I called her from a pay phone and asked her if she would take the path least travelled...if she would marry me! Weary of the dating game and the emotional trauma of possible rejection, I thought it would be best to play the “end game” and to play it quickly. It would either be a “yes” or a “no”.
A few days into service, he heard his name over the loud speakers. “Soldier Macris, Johnathan, report immediately to the command centre.” It had only been two or three days. What misdemeanour, he wondered, had he committed? How could he be in trouble already?
Time stood still for only a fraction of a moment as if nobody believed what they heard, and then the room erupted in uncontrollable laughter and jeering! “Are your hormones messed up?”, they ridiculed? Again, another wave of laughter followed. It was now his turn to talk! In place of fear and intimidation, a deep source of strength rose up, Johnathan proceeded to explain the nature of God’s love, His purpose for purity and blessing of the marriage bed. He was able to share the Gospel, and after asking if there was anything else to discuss, saluted and walked away.
A deep wave of gratitude flooded Johnathan’s heart. The Lord had entrusted him a unique opportunity to experience the Kingdom in his heart and to share boldly with his fellow Greek soldiers. His mission to the Greek nation had begun...and fear seemed to be buried in the past!
On the eve of Johnathan’s demobilisation, Greece announced a red alert and complete battle readiness against Turkish forces mobilised for battle. The end game here was indefinite. Johnathan kissed Miriam good-bye, uncertain if he would ever return. Fortunately, at the last minute, war was avoided and two weeks passed before the tensions de-escalated. When he was finally released, only ten days remained to prepare for the scheduled wedding ceremony.
It wasn’t long before Johnathan’s faith would be tested. His father had paid a high price for the “crime of proselytism”. He had given a single New Testament to a young 15 year old Greek boy who had visited the YWAM ship, ‘Anastasis’. The court prosecuted Costas and sentenced him to 3½ years in prison. Eventually, after 12 months when the case was under appeal, the sentence was overturned.
On one occasion, a mob riot was stirred up against their evangelistic team in the town of Oropos, 2½ hours north of Athens. They were given multiple death threats. After being beat, kicked, and spat on, their car was attacked, with an attempt to kick in the windshield, then to turn the car over, and finally stoned. As the spit ran off both sides of his cheeks, he wondered if he would lay down his life as a martyr here in Greece!
His shirt was ripped and the angered crowd closed in around him, he knew he could not survive the repeated beating and kicking...not to mention the asphyxiating clutches of multiple hands around his throat. Johnathan blacked out and everything became serenely quiet. Miraculously, he came to his senses standing many metres away from the crowd at the car door. He reflects, “Only an angelic presence could have carried me.”
A boldness to share the Gospel
On the eve of the Olympics in Athens, Johnathan launched an ambitious campaign to distribute the Bible in modern Greek to a million homes throughout Greece. They would start with the eighty inhabited scattered islands and then move to mainland Greece.
Making an impact for Christ
Hellenic Ministries, has provided for over one million refugees with food, clothing, and showers. They operate a centre for refugee women and children, provide medical assistance, operate camps, a maritime ministry to the Greek islands, and a Crisis Pregnancy Centre.
If God’s Word can change the narrative of centuries of spiritism, can it not more so bring hope to Greece and its economic woes? Johnathan envisions a land that will be a stepping stone for the Gospel into the world of Islam beyond the borders of Greece, even as the Apostle Paul came through Greece as he took the Gospel beyond Greece to the end of the then known world.
How you can get involved
For more info on Johnathan or the ministry, see www.hellenicministries.com