A $338 million bailout loan payment was due to the International Monetary Fund last Friday. Tasos Ioannidis with AMG International explains what happened instead. “They had three payments scheduled to the IMF this month, and they said they were going to make all of their payments at the end of the month, which technically they can do; but that has introduced a lot of uncertainty in the markets.”
They bought themselves time to try to figure a way out of the mess they’re in, says Ioannidis. “The choices for Greece, right now: one is bad, and one is catastrophic. The bad choice is to agree to the new requirements of the creditors–that means additional taxes. The catastrophic is basically for Greece to officially go bankrupt.”
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras campaigned on an “anti-austerity” platform in the recent election. However, Greece’s bailout expires at the end of June. If no cash-for-reforms deal is done by then, default is right around the corner. The new deal offered by creditors includes more tax hikes, privatizations, and pension reform. A default means Greece could exit the Eurozone, which would set off inflationary shockwaves through the global economy.
Ioannidis is monitoring the situation closely because of the direct impact on St. Luke’s Hospital in Thessalonica. It’s a 270-bed medical facility whose staff of 500 normally serves more than 2,000 patients each month. Most healthcare in Greece is heavily subsidized. With the free fall of the economy, he says they’re seeing the overflow from other medical facilities that no longer have the reserves to operate. That’s also proven to be its own challenge, he admits. “The government has not made any payments to any of its providers for the last five months. Financially, we are dealing with increased demand for our services and reduced cash flow because the government is not meeting its obligations.”
The hospital’s reputation provides credibility for the evangelical community and missionaries in Greece. It is the recommended service provider by foreign government and other public agencies with staff in Greece and Eastern Europe. Ioannidis says, “We are faced with the challenge of seeing a very real need and a wonderful opportunity to share the love of Christ and to share the good news; and yet, we have to deal with the financial challenge. So with God’s provision, so far we’ve been able to survive.”
When Greece was an affluent nation, people didn’t think they needed a personal relationship with Christ. Now, the economy has shrunk 25%, unemployment is at nearly 26% and the homeless population has doubled since 2009. “Because of the crisis, a significant portion of the population has been devastated. They have been a lot more open to the message of the Gospel. They are looking for something that will give them hope for the future.”
Many people who might not otherwise hear the Gospel come to St. Luke’s Hospital and hear it for the first–and perhaps only–time in their lives. More people hear the Gospel there in a year than are visitors to all evangelical churches in Greece combined, according to AMG’s website.
AMG’s other partnering ministries in Greece are stepping in to help where they can. Please pray for the team as this is a very difficult time and so many people are hurting. Please pray that God will continue to provide for the financial needs and that many more will come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior in the middle of this crisis.