Some information regarding the story of the beginning of the ministry, as it is narrated by Nikos Stefanidis, the director of the ministry of Helping Hands https://helpinghands.gr/en. Some of this info was provided by Scott McCracken. (from Helping Hands as well).
“It all started through Jennifer Roemhildt Tunnehag. Jennifer was a member of the Helping Hands team (a ministry to refugees in Athens). As she was making her way to the Refugee Center in Athens, to work with the refugees there, she was walking by some of the women in prostitution – on a daily basis.
One day, she started a conversation with one of them, in order to hear her story and have a better understanding of what they go through. One conversation led to another and before she knew it, Jennifer would spend a lot of her time in the day, talking to the women.
As she heard more and more on the difficulties in their lives, she felt a special burden for a separate ministry to start and in that way a vision for a ministry that would help women in prostitution in Athens, was born.
We encouraged Jennifer to go ahead with specific practical steps as to how she could approach these women and the “Lost Coin” came to life. (“Lost Coin” was what “Nea Zoi” was first named). Scot McCracken and Nikos Stefanidis were part of one of the teams that went out and covered with prayer Jennifer and her team, one day per week.
After 2 or 3 years, “Lost Coin” grew a lo, so did the need for people who would volunteer with the “Lost Coin”. The vision of the “Lost Coin” was totally different from the vision of Helping Hands; which is to reach out to refugees.
And since there was a problem when presenting to churches, both ministries, for the reason of a confusion being created to the brothers and sisters of the churches as to who to support, we encouraged Jennifer to start a separate ministry, officially, under International Teams.
Thus, the ministry of “Lost Coin” was found and it grew strong roots very quickly. Sometime later, there was a person who had a conversation with Jennifer and because of that she re-thought the name. The reason was that the name “Lost Coin” was not appropriate for a ministry who serves people who sell sex for money. Therefore that was the reason that the name was changed to “Nea Zoi” (New Life)!
a testimony by the founder of the ministry Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag:
It was late when I left that night. Our refugee feeding program had run long, and I was anxious to get home—partly because of the hour, and partly because of the neighborhood. The area around Omonoia in Athens, Greece, is a nightmare of human misery. Drug addicts purchase and consume their dose; homeless refugees spill over the sidewalks to fill the streets. Women stand on corners and in shadowy doorways offering their bodies to anyone who can pay.
It’s not the kind of place where you want to loiter. But as I walked toward my trolley that night, a woman caught my attention. She was standing in front of a run-down hotel, soliciting customers. Certainly not the first woman I had seen in prostitution in our area, and surely not the only woman working that night.
But as I saw her, something happened. I think it might be a bit like Christ felt when it is recorded in scripture that he saw the crowds, and was moved with compassion to do something for them. I felt like seeing this woman was an invitation. But I wasn’t sure to what.
Over several weeks, I asked God to open the door. Even though I was already a missionary, I had no idea how to approach a woman in prostitution! “Give me a way to speak to her, Lord,” I prayed. God was not slow in answering.
Another late night, and another brisk walk through the neighborhood. This time, there were several people outside the hotel: a few women, and one very big man. In a red skirt. I’m sure he would have been tall even without the heels…but he was wearing high heels, and a long blonde wig. As I approached the group, he stepped out into my path. “You got the time?” he asked. “I hope he means my watch,” I thought.
I held out my arm as I walked past. I hadn’t gone more than a few steps when God moved again. “This is a very sad man,” he seemed to be saying, and I immediately began to pray as I pushed through the streets toward my home. I don’t think that’s at all unusual for us as Christians. God puts a burden on our hearts, and in response we lift it to him. What was strange was that I couldn’t stop praying! Prayer was pouring out of me over this man and his life. I felt as if the Spirit of God had been waiting for someone to intercede for him. “I have to go back,” came the urgent impression.
Just as quickly came another thought. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! It’s eleven o’clock at night in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city. What do you even think is going to happen?”
I paced the sidewalk and argued with God. “If you want me to go back, at least tell me what you want me to do!”
“Ask them their names,” he said.