Tag Archives: Greece

Castles Made of…Pebbles

After somewhere around 11 hours of actual flight time, 10 hours of sitting in airports (or being transported via shuttle from one to another), 3 countries, and 2 customs lines, our group of 19 (6 students plus 1 professor from Gordon College and 11 students plus 1 professor from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) arrived in Thessaloniki on Saturday where we met up with David and Elizabeth, our tour leaders, and Theodore, our bus driver for the next two and half weeks.

While riding through Thessaloniki from the airport to the hotel, although feeling tired and overwhelmed, observing the contrast of the land before me – the arid land on one side with blue water on the other, the old architecture with the modern multi-story complexes, the expanse of the hills with the density of the city buildings – was awesome and foretelling of what lay ahead.

Sunday morning came early as we left the hotel after breakfast for a session of formal introductions and basic trip orientation outside of the Church of Saint Demetrius, a Greek Orthodox Church in Thessaloniki.

After sharing some of our expectations for the coming days, we entered the church to observe the priest’s blessing at the end of the service, walked outside to engage in a brief discussion on and explanation of Greek Orthodoxy, and then re-entered the church to tour the facilities a bit more extensively.

From the church, we walked past the ancient Agora (from the Roman period if memory serves correctly) and on to the Rotunda and Arch of Galerius.

We then got on the bus and headed toward the sea where we ate lunch in a restaurant overlooking the water along with four pastors from the Greek Evangelical Church.  After lunch, we listened as the pastors (who had come to the States to study theology and then returned to their people who they so desperately felt called to serve) described the difference between Greek Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism and shared their heart for their fellow countrymen.  The primary concern of each of these pastors was/is to see the people of Greece embrace faith through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ rather than relying on the Orthodox Church – where they find their entire identity, both culturally and spiritually – to be their salvation.

Before returning to the hotel for the night, we headed to the beach where we swam (or in my case, waded) in the Aegean Sea and observed castles on the beach made of pebbles instead of sand.

On Monday, we started off at the probable site of Lydia’s house just outside of Philippi where her Baptistry is now located.

And it was in the river flowing beside Lydia’s Baptistry that several from our group renewed their baptismal vows…

It was a powerful time of reflection and celebration as I couldn’t help but hear these words to the song “The River” by Brian Doerksen as I watched the baptisms take place:

“To the river I am going bringing sins I cannot bear.

Come and cleanse me, come forgive me. Lord, I need to meet you there.

In these waters, healing mercy flows with freedom from despair.

I am going to that river. Lord, I need to meet you there.

Precious Jesus, I am ready to surrender every care.

Take my hand now, lead me closer. Lord, I need to meet you there.”

After lunch, we headed to the ancient ruins of Philippi (the details of which I will save for another post) and then to Neapolis (Kavala) to see a beautiful mosaic illustrating Paul’s vision and arrival at this port city before we returned to Thessaloniki for one more night.

Before leaving the northern part of Greece to begin our journey south towards Athens, we stopped by the market in Thessaloniki on Tuesday morning, where I had fun experimenting with “street photography”.

Mostly of produce…

olives…

and friendly shop-owners…

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Jet Lagged and Processing…

My body may still be slightly fatigued from jet lag and my mind may still be processing the experiences of the past few weeks…but today…I am grateful.

Grateful for the opportunity to walk in Paul’s footsteps throughout Greece (and Ephesus), grateful for the prayers that surrounded the trip, grateful for the courage to take a risk, grateful for the perseverance to see it through, grateful for the renewed longing and love for Scripture, grateful for the conviction to more passionately pursue and imitate Christ, and grateful for a wonderful couple who, through their faithfulness to God’s calling in the founding of Footstep Ministries, made this experience possible.

As I continue to edit my photos and read through my written thoughts concerning my experiences in Greece while studying Paul’s New Testament Letters, I find my words to be empty…lacking…inadequate.

Yet in some seemingly futile attempt to transition slowly back to routine, to consider the richness of my experiences, to acknowledge the growth and change from all that I saw and heard in such a short time, I am reminded of the question I found myself pondering as we hiked down from John’s grotto on the Island of Patmos.

After walking through (and singing in) the cave where Orthodox tradition indicates John received his vision, then sitting in a nearby amphitheater overlooking the harbor area as our professor outlined the powerful details and themes of the book of Revelation where that vision is recorded, on the way back to the tender boats that would take us back to the cruise ship, my question was this:

How do I come back from that place of reflection and make sense of the routine?

And although the routine no longer involves deciding which buffet to try for dinner, in essence, in this moment the question remains the same.

In some ways, I already know that the visits to Biblical and historical sites were humbling and inspiring, that I will never read certain passages of Scripture the same again, and that I am forever changed. Still in other ways, it seems that recognizing and processing the true impact of these experiences has only just begun. . .

Checking In From Greece

 

I haven’t had much internet access, and I haven’t had much downtime, but I wanted to take this opportunity to say a quick hello from Athens

In one week, we’ve already been to Thessaloniki, Philippi, Berea, Meteora, and Delphi (among others…), and we arrived here in Athens on Thursday evening where we will be staying until Monday morning when we leave for a 4 day cruise to see several of the Greek Islands as well as Ephesus.

As a class, we have studied some in Philippians and are currently exegetically working our way through 1 Corinthians in preparation of our visit to Corinth next week as well.

Needless to say, I will have plenty of stories and photos to share upon my return home!

Until then, in the words of Paul:

 

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”

Bon Voyage!

As I mentioned here earlier this week, and alluded to here while at the beach, I have a BIG announcement today.

 

 

Tomorrow morning, I will be catching a plane to Boston where I will meet up with 9 other seminary students and a professor and then travel to Greece for a 2.5 week class studying Paul’s New Testament Letters on location!

 

I am excited, yes, but I am also nervous.

 

It seems that travel (or at least the preparation to travel) brings out the worst in me.  This is clearly evident through the flesh-spirit struggle that seems to be working on overdrive within me on an almost hourly basis.

 

In moments when my flesh takes over, my nerves get the best of me, I get caught up in the insignificant details of international travel (from how to deal with a food allergy to how to best pack my electronics), and I put up a front of determination to be completely self-sufficient and prepare for all possible contingencies.

 

But in the moments when I willfully submit my spirit to the Lord, which has been best achieved during my times of reading Paul’s Letters over the past few days (I only have 1 & 2 Corinthians left!), I can’t help but know a great peace surrounding this trip to Greece and know that, just as Paul writes to the various churches and individuals, for the next couple of weeks I am called to be in community with 10 fellow believers (albeit strangers) . . . to love, to serve, to pray . . . more and more . . . and I better live in a manner worthy of this calling.

 

The circumstances surrounding this trip are far different than I had anticipated.  I have lost all sense of security and feel as though I am walking into the complete unknown. . .but maybe that was God’s plan all along.

 

Although I am uncertain of internet accessibility during most of the trip, there will be several posts in my absence (including some guest posts from some pretty amazing people!) and I hope to be able to check in a couple of times as well. 

 

You didn’t think I’d actually leave you with nothing for two whole weeks, did you?

 

I would greatly appreciate your prayers while I am in Greece.  Sure, I have some anxiety regarding the travel details, but I know that those will ultimately work out.  Mostly, I ask that you pray that I would appreciate each moment, that I would live according to the Spirit, that I would invest myself fully, that I would study and learn productively, that God’s Word would come alive in a real and fresh way, and that I would be available to be used.

 

Just a few short hours away from departure, in some ways I feel completely unprepared and in other ways I feel completely equipped.

 

But in all ways, I am expectantly praying that this trip is life-changing, God-honoring, and eye-opening: to His word, to His calling, to His purpose, to His people.