While attending a small Greek Evangelical Church camp at age 14, Greek national Costas Macris received Christ as his personal Savior. At that time, God planted a seed in his heart for a missionary career. Though it would be many years before this dream would be realized, he never wavered from this leading of the Lord.
After his high school education in Greece, Costas went to Millar College of the Bible in Saskatchewan, Canada where he received his Bible education. Upon returning to Greece, he fulfilled his obligation to the Greek army and then married his childhood sweetheart, Alky Haritonidou.
In 1962, Costas and Alky became the first Greek couple to become foreign missionaries, serving under the auspices of Regions Beyond Missionary Union (RBMU). Their assignment: Irian Jaya-a lush tropical wilderness with dangerous, craggy mountains, cannibalistic Stone Age tribes and a breeding ground for tropical diseases.
Despite these hardships, their years in Irian Jaya were fruitful for the Lord. Overcoming the dangers, God allowed them to see spiritual breakthroughs and the church was planted in 12 different tribal groups. Their accomplishments also include the establishment of 22 nationally staffed settlements with homes, airstrips, clinics, schools and other facilities.
After 16 years of ministry in the primitive culture and wild surroundings of Irian Jaya, disaster struck! Costas contracted a deadly form of hepatitis, complicated by the tropical diseases of amoebic dysentery, malaria, and filariasis. He was rushed to a St. Louis, Missouri hospital where the doctors found extensive liver damage. The prognosis was imminent death. God, however, had other plans. Through the prayers of concerned friends, God healed him of every trace of all four diseases and he experienced a complete recovery, to the glory of God.
At this time Costas began seeking God earnestly for new direction, as the doctors had forbidden him to return to Irian Jaya. Throughout this year of intensive prayer, God reminded him of the spiritual needs of his own country-Greece. Costas understood then that he must return to his own people to rekindle the light of Christ’s saving gospel. Why? In this ancient land of proud heritage, hardened hearts and superstition, Greek Orthodoxy had all but lost the true message of the Gospel. In obedience to God’s challenge, Costas and Alky returned to their homeland. In 1980, the first national Greek evangelistic and missionary organization, the Hellenic Missionary Union (HMU-now HM) was born under Costas’ able leadership.
The work grew quickly during the first five years. Costas immediately began doing large open-air evangelism programs, something that had never been done in modern Greece. Many in the tiny and marginalized evangelical community assumed he would be locked up for trying, as the Greek Orthodox Church exerted seemingly monolithic control over society, and the State of Greece has restrictive laws against proselytism. Against all expectations, the Summer Campaigns were not stopped-in fact, their blend of loud contemporary Christian music, street theatre and passionate preaching drew huge crowds and proved to be an effective means of communicating the gospel to masses of people.
Initially relying on large numbers of short-term foreign volunteers, Greek evangelical youth soon came forward to join Campaigns. Since the objective was not just evangelism but to change the course of a nation, this opened the second phase of HM’s ongoing work-discipleship and training.
However, as the fledgling mission saw some fruit being born, ‘disaster’ struck again. While doing an open-air program with YWAM in 1984, Costas handed a 14-year old boy a New Testament. His mother, a fanatical atheist, used the anti-proselytism laws to press charges and Costas, along with two YWAM directors, were sentenced to three and a half years in prison!
What Satan intended for harm, God used for good. Freed for a year pending his appeal, Costas used the time to travel the world to let people abroad know of the spiritual conditions in Greece. By the time the appeal came to court, international media attention was focused on the trial, and the sentences were overturned. In addition, Costas had also been given a 17 meter (55 ft) steel-hulled sailboat to use in ministry to the islands, new workers had been recruited, and God’s people on several continents were praying.
Following the appeal and his release from all charges, God led Costas to establish a North American board for HM and it became an international organization. HM was incorporated in Missouri in 1986 and subsequently moved to Wheaton, IL in 1993. An Australian office quickly followed the establishment of HM USA, as did working relationships with RBMU International (now World Team) and the German mission organization, DMG. A Canadian office was added in 1996 and a South African office in 2005.