Mustard Seeds and Ancient Ruins

June 25th, 2017

After the frustrations of last night, I was able to wake-up early enough to get in some time to both blog and do my daily Bible reading. I am now in Leviticus and reading through all of the various sacrifices is just a reminder that Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice and because of Him, I do not need to worry. It was also being up at the apartment before everyone else and just really taking the time to wake-up slowly.

At 9:30 AM everyone was awake and ready to go to the Church of Omonia for a day of church. When we arrived we were setting up chairs in circles to prepare for a Bible study. We were told to try to keep all of the Americans outside on the patio area in hopes of fostering more conversation amongst the Farsi-speaking people because Americans tend to dominate conversations. We read over the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Although it lasts only two verses, there is so much insight in the verses that can be applied to the situation we are currently in. Even the small and the insignificant can be used to do great things for the glory of God. As Christians, we are called to love all and provide a refuge for people, the same way the tree from the mustard seed provides refuge for the birds in the air.

“He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”      Matthew 13:31-32

After that ended we moved into the main area where we would have our larger service. We began with a worship time including songs in Greek, English, and Russian. All worshipping together in a building in the middle of a run down city were peoples from nations across the world- Iraq, Iran, United States, Mexico, Colombia, Syria, Korea, UK, China, Ukraine, Greece and many others that I am probably forgetting.

Following worship, Jim Holway came up to preach in Greece one last time. He talked about how God uses instruments even though He is all-knowing and all-powerful. God uses us as instruments and gives us blessings so that we can share them with others. For me, that is really what this trip is about, finding what blessings God has given me and then figuring out how I can use them to honor and glorify Him.

We ended the service by participating in the Lord’s Supper and praying in English, Russian, Farsi, Greek, and Spanish. Following the service, we used the time to continue fostering relationships with the other missionaries and refugees over lunch. I got the opportunity to interact with a group of missionaries here from Italy for two weeks. After lunch, we continued talking and cleaning up the chairs and tables.

During Jim’s sermon, he held up cards that gave details to refugees in both English and Greek on how to get help. Austin and I approached Alexander to get a handful of them, so if we ever see the Iranian guy from the night before or any other refugee begging for money, we can help them by telling them where to go.

Eventually, we were one of the last groups of people in the building and we were starting to feel useless. On the first day, Eleni said to us that if there was never anything to do, we should grab a couple other people and begin to pray, so I grabbed other BHC people and we just began to pray for the people here, the church, and our group. When we said “amen,” Rusty had our plans for the evening and we were ready to go.

We brought one of the students from ACU that were volunteering at the church back with us to the apartment and once we all got changed, we headed to the metro station. We got our metro cards for the week and then climbed on to go to the Acropolis. Once we arrived, we again spent about twenty minutes arguing over what we should do instead of just splitting up into groups. Finally, Devon, Austin, Ryan, and I just went off on our own.

To really get into the mindset of what everything looked like during the time period, we went to the museum and got to see pieces of all the different temples to the various Greek gods. It was crazy to think about how the people in ancient Greece created a world centered around fake gods and essentially had no basis for their beliefs. Every single thing they did revolves around a world that was make-believe and did not exist.

When we finished getting through the museum, I got an herbal iced tea and water from the café. One of the best parts of going to the museum was that it was air-conditioned and the temperatures today would be reaching into the mid-90s. 64931859-7CC3-43BB-8F18-EF4031330225After basking in the cool air for as long as possible, we walked over to the square that we had entered when going to the Acropolis the other day. We wanted to get more of those delicious crepes. As we approached the crepe shop, we saw the group from the UK, so we stopped to talk to Trevor for a while. My white chocolate, coconut, and banana crepe was just as delicious as it was the first time.

Once we finished inhaling our food, we began the trek up the top of the Acropolis to the Parthenon. As we were going towards the ticket booth, a woman from Chicago stopped me and asked if I had just climbed to the stop with my boot. I said, “No, but I’m about to!” We talked for a little bit longer about how it had happened and I used that as an opportunity to tell her about the missions work we were doing. Her and her husband we in Greece on vacation and for her nephew’s wedding. After saying goodbye, we went and purchased our tickets.The views from the top were amazing as well as the structures themselves. Being up there you could really put yourself back in history. We stayed up there and wandered around until the heat got to be too much and we decided to go and find some nice air conditioning back at the apartment.C24442D7-6509-4632-8038-CD63AFDE9945

The views from the top were amazing as well as the structures themselves. Being up there you could really put yourself back in history. We stayed up there and wandered around until the heat got to be too much and we decided to go and find some nice air conditioning back at the apartment.

On our way down, a Kenyan man stopped up, put bracelets around our wrist and then after encouraging us and being really friendly asked us for money. I knew the tourist trap and refused to give him money, but Ryan, Devon, and Austin gave in. I know that they are there because of all the tourists, but they still seemed genuinely happy and as though they did want to bring us joy and smiles, so I did not mind the encounter.

Back at the apartment, I got a nice, cold shower, and then we played Exploding Kittens until the rest of group got back. We went around the circle talking about how we experienced God in our day. I talked about how after feeling discouraged the night before with the Iranian guy, God gave us the resources to be prepared in the future with the refugee help cards.

Once we finished, Nicole and I quickly met to pray and then I fell asleep before 10:00, exhausted from the day’s events.

Boat Rides and Goodbyes​

June 24th, 2017

This morning I woke up and was absolutely exhausted. I wanted to wake-up early to really enjoy my last day in Corinth, but that wasn’t happening. I quickly got breakfast by myself, then just went back upstairs to blog and prepare to head back home to Athens. Right as breakfast was ending, Austin came outside to ask me if I was ready to go get food. I gave him the news that breakfast had already ended, so we walked towards the session for the day.

I really tried to fully embrace my last Trevor time, but I was still dozing off. I ended up not even taking any notes on it. We did get to sing some songs, which always made waking up slightly easier. Especially because we got to sing “The Summons” again. When we finished the devotion we had about a five to ten-minute break. Devon, Austin, and I opted to go and find iced coffee at the café down the road. We came back slightly late to Jim’s last time speaking, but we had coffee and cold water, so in my mind, it was worth it.

For our final session, Jim talked about how love was both radical and risky. He went over the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 and talked about how we tend to see ourselves as the lost son and others as the older son. To think about things differently would be radical. Then we went over Luke 10:25-28 and how through loving and serving others we risky and we could get hurt.

He left us with this illustration: There is a large table with lots of food, but everyone has very long spoons. In hell, everyone was starving because they couldn’t feed themselves, but in heaven the fed each other.

After we prayed, we brought our stuff down to the lobby area and then Austin and I went to go explore the beach to the right because we had not headed down that direction before. We found a couple sea urchins and then followed the trail around to another area that had a couple boats set up and a beach in the distance. IMG_6959.JPG.jpegIt was really beautiful and I’m really glad we decided to take the time to explore. Austin didn’t seem to realize that any place he climbed or jumped to, I would follow, broken foot or not.

As we rejoined the rest of the group, we waited to get onto the boat that was going to take us through the Corinth canal. It was a really cool experience. The bridge that we went past was actually one of three bridges in the world to drop when boats needed to pass instead of rising or splitting down the middle. We also saw people bungee jumping, and as much as it kind of terrified me in Costa Rica, I would do it again. Overall, the canal was beautiful and a great way to end our trip to Corinth.

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Back at the hotel, we played a couple of rounds of Phase 10 until lunch was ready. For lunch, Austin and I sat with Jim and Katherine again, but we finished eating relatively quickly. When we had both finished we wandered around for a while trying to figure out what to do until it was time to leave. We didn’t really figure anything out, so we just kind of wandered around aimlessly instead.

The ride back was pretty uneventful and when we finally got back to the hotel I was just kind of done with people and wanted to go to sleep. Instead, though, I taught our group how to play Exploding Kittens and we played a couple of rounds of that before going to dinner. We argued for about thirty minutes over where our six-person group could go for dinner until they finally realized we could just split into two separate groups. Devon, Austin, and I ended up a crepe/cafe type place. I had the bacon panini on pita that was absolutely delicious. While we were eating a man came up to us asking for money. He was from Iran and instead of giving him money I just invited him to come to the church of Omonia and they could help him there. I wish I had prayed for him before sending him away. After dinner as we were leaving, another woman came up to us asking for help. I gave her the remainder of my left-overs and then we headed back to the apartment.

At our nightly meeting, I talked about how I saw God giving me an opportunity to love those homeless people at dinner, and I probably could have done more. Now all I could do was pray for more opportunities. We ended the night by picking prayer partners to encourage and pray with for the rest of the trip. Nicole ended up being my prayer partner. We ended up talking for quite a while both before and after we prayed. It was a very good idea and a productive time.

When she left, I hung out with Austin for a little bit before deciding to go to bed, but when I went to my room, I began to stress out. There were a bunch of things that just didn’t seem to be going the way they should be and it was beginning to get to me. Finally, I just gave up and went to sleep, knowing that changes had to be made for the following day.

 

 

 

 

The Refugees Change People

June 23rd, 2017

This morning my alarm went off at 5:00, then again at 5:15, and then AGAIN at 5:20. The goal was to wake-up in order to see the sunrise. Not ONLY did we want to the sunrise though, but also we wanted to see it as we swam. I got up, threw my bathing suit on, and went outside to the balcony that overlooked the beach. The sky was already beautiful and there was still another twenty minutes or so until the sunrise. Once Austin, Devon, Jordan, and Bill were all ready, we headed downstairs to the pool.

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The sunrise was absolutely beautiful and surreal to watch. We swam in the pool for a bit until the sun actually got closer to popping over the buildings. When it did we all stood taking photos and also just taking in the breath-taking scenery. Sunrises are amazing and so personal because although you can take really good pictures, it’s never going to be the same as actually seeing God’s creation in person. When the sun was up, a couple from Miami (originally from Colombia and Mexico) invited us to come over and pray with them. Carlos said before he prayed, “Don’t worry about closing your eyes, feel free to just bask in God’s creation.”

After we finished praying, we waded into the ocean (well, I was carried in by Austin), and froze our butts off. It wasn’t cold at first, but within ten minutes we decided to go back into the pool and then back inside. The ocean was special because there were so many fish swimming around us since we were the only ones in the ocean. Luckily, fish don’t scare me as much as birds do.

Back upstairs, I blogged on the balcony until breakfast had a relaxed breakfast with other BHC people, and then went back to blogging. I was falling behind and beginning to stress out about it.

Soon enough, it was time to once again have morning devotions with Trevor. This morning we sang a song called “The Summons” and the lyrics really spoke to me. Below I wrote out the first verse and here you can find the full lyrics.

“Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?

Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?

Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,

will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?”

The devotional reading came from Romans 12:9-10 and Romans 13:8-10. Trevor had us then repeat the statement, “Your love must be REAL,” over and over again until it had been repeated in six different languages. Love can be powerful if you let it.

We had a quick refreshment break before heading back inside for Jim Holway’s next session. This morning he would be talking about if we knew how to love ourselves. He shared his testimony in front of all of us and it was incredibly powerful and definitely strongly impacted the room. Then he gave us two things to do to learn to love ourselves: (1) see God’s spirit in YOURSELF and (2) see God’s spirit in OTHERS. He left us by saying how God loves us and we are beautiful. It reminded me of a year a camp a while back when Freddie Coile spoke about how we were God’s perfect masterpieces, handcrafted for a specific purpose.

We then had the opportunity to take vans into ancient Corinth and walk around. We were incredibly smushed on the van ride there because we had to fit twelve people into a van fit for significantly less, it was worth it though. IMG_6861.JPGIt was so cool to once again be where Paul preached and taught- he was in Corinth longer than anywhere else during his time of ministry. He came to tell the people in Corinth about how to better love and serve you and now we were here doing the same thing!

Once we finished walking around the archaeological site, we headed out to where the shops and cafes were. We found a cute little pottery shop that Stephanie and I bought a couple of hand-painted, handcrafted container/pottery-type things. Then we headed to the café to get coffee and wait for Eleni to come with the van to take us back.

After getting back to the resort we were both sweaty and starving. Luckily, we had lunch and the ocean to cure both of those ailments. While in the ocean, we had a very large goal to try to accomplish- Antony, Austin, Nicole and I were going to swim all the way out to a large rock that we could just barely see in the distance. We made it there and it was really satisfying to get in a cardio workout that did not hurt my foot. When we arrived, however, we were met by two surprises. The first was that all of the beaches were covered with sea urchins, so we were not able to actually stand anywhere. The second was that we had come across a couple of nude beaches, a clear example of the Greek culture. After treading water for quite a while, we gave up and Austin and I swam back while Antony and Nicole just walked up the beach.

Following our massive swim, we went to the pool to relax until it was time to change for women’s group and our session. During women’s group, we all just talked more about our experiences, especially our experiences here in Corinth. Then we had got up and actually had to wait for the men to be finished.

John Morgan, another one of the men from the UK, tonight gave the session to us. The topic was warm and cold hearts. The example that instantly came to mind was when the Westboro Baptist Church was protesting and screaming at students on UD campus and then the following day Blue Hens for Christ responded by passing out roses. Everyone longs for four things: to be loved, to be valued, to have meaning, and to have purpose. It is our call as Christians to bring those things to them through the love of Christ.For dinner, Austin and I were determined to get the best table. We did pretty well as we got Eleni, Trevor and his wife, Alexander, and many others to come and sit with us. Our table was constantly having people go in and out with glorifying conversation occurring the entire time. I had a conversation with Eleni about possibly coming back and volunteering during the month of January since I do not have school. I wanted to see the church when it wasn’t over-crowded with upwards of thirty volunteers.

For dinner, Austin and I were determined to get the best table. We did pretty well as we got Eleni, Trevor and his wife, Alexander, and many others to come and sit with us. Our table was constantly having people go in and out with glorifying conversation occurring the entire time. I had a conversation with Eleni about possibly coming back and volunteering during the month of January since I do not have school. I wanted to see the church when it wasn’t over-crowded with upwards of thirty volunteers.

After dinner, Austin and I just hung out by the pool for a while talking until it was time for our farewell meeting. The UK group started everything off by singing a slew of songs with motions that brought me directly back to Son Country at Crossing. When they finished the children class and teen class shared a bit of what they had been learning. Then, Eleni opened up the microphone for anyone to talk and share their experiences. I went up and talked about the day that Eleni said the refugees would change us, and not in a negative way. I could now say with confidence that the people and my time in Corinth had changed my life.

When it was over, I relaxed upstairs on the balcony and then in Austin’s room talking with him and blogging until finally, I slugged into my own room and bed.

Baptisms and Beaches

June 22nd, 2017

This morning I woke up earlier than I needed to and had time to slowly wake up and read my Bible. I finally started Leviticus!! I am determined to eventually get through the entire Bible; even it takes me a long, long time.

When Jordan was heading down to breakfast, I decided to join her. The worst thing about the first couple days in Athens was not being able to have a big, consistent breakfast; however, the breakfast here in Corinth was massive. I sat with Jordan and a woman who speaks no English, only Greek, Maria. Maria was a member of the church in Omonia and although we could not speak the same language we were able to spread love to each other through smiles.

After breakfast, we headed down to the conference area where Trevor was waiting to lead us in our morning devotion. Trevor is an overweight man from the UK who was always laughing and singing. He led us in a couple of songs in an attempt to wake up those of us who were there on time. The devotion was centered on 1 John 4:7-12 and 19. He talked about how all Christians should be characterized by love, a love for one another and a love for Jesus Christ.

When he finished, we were running slightly behind schedule so we went basically directly into our second session of the retreat. This sermon was taught by Jim Holway, a minister from Sunset Church of Christ in Miami, Florida, and was entitled “Love you neighbor as yourself- is it really a commandment or suggestion?” When Jesus was first asked about what the most important commandment was, He responded with not one, but two. Love you neighbor as yourself was his second. Time and time again Paul talks about how all commandments can be summed up through loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. We cannot tell people how to love instead we must show them. If we follow Jesus’s example we will be able to show people love more effectively and essentially become more like Jesus.

“For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU MUST LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”    Galations 5:14

After we finished our session, it was swimming time. I decided that if I was careful, I did not need to let my broken foot stop me from enjoying the beautiful beach and the beautiful pool. The problem became that I did not have a bathing suit, or even running shorts in Corinth that I could use. Luckily, Nicole came in clutch and let me borrow a pair. Before we all got in the water, Jordan did and was baptized! It was a really powerful moment and afterward, there was an abundance of prayers, singing, hugging, and ultimately love. IMG_6792.JPG.jpeg

Then, I went to the pool and it was one of the most refreshing things ever. Then, we went to the beach. Getting out onto the beach was a little more difficult because instead of sand it was all stone and I couldn’t walk on stone. Luckily, I had Austin to carry me into the water far enough to where I could touch. Austin and I watched people play chicken for a while, but since I was frustrated that I couldn’t play and destroy everyone, we decided to go swim out into the water further instead. We hung out for a while and talked until the salt became too much and we desperately needed water. After a final quick splash in the pool, we went upstairs to get changed and ready for another massive lunch.

For lunch, Austin and I sat with the speaker from Florida, Jim Holway, and his wife, Katherine. They told us about all of the places they traveled and how they lived in Argentina for eight years. They had at first only planned to stay for two, but they were so changed by the experience that after only a year in the United States they went back. It was again so encouraging to my own journey into possibly pursuing long-term missions. The woman Maria also sat with us and we shared warm smiles to one another as we ate our food.

Next on the agenda was free time. There was volleyball net on the property, so we went to reception in hopes of finding a ball to use. Apparently, someone borrowed volleyball recently without returning it, but they did give us two tiny balls. Originally it was Bill, Rachel (a volunteer from one of the other groups serving at Omonia), Ryan (another volunteer), Michelle and Jordan; however, people kept joining until eventually we had a game going. The Afghan sisters came over to play with their daughters and they honestly kicked our butts. It was a game full of laughter and sweating. Eventually the heat began to overwhelm us, so we stopped.

Instead, Austin, Jordan, Bill, and I started a game of Phase 10 that lasted until dinnertime. It probably would have gone faster had I been playing with strategy instead of using every skip I received on Austin, but then again, everyone has his or her priorities.

Around 5:15 we headed down to where the meeting area was and outside to the left of the building we had a women’s group. It was really amazing because we spent the time going around in a circle, each introducing ourselves and saying as much or as little as we wanted to. The most impactful story to me came from one of the sisters from Afghanistan. She was a civil engineer and then because of everything going on in Afghanistan her and her sister had to leave with their children. Although her and her sister’s daughters had been here only a year and a half their English was amazing and the oldest girl could also speak Greek. It put into perspective how untrue the stereotypes about refugees are. Most of them come from stable homes with stable jobs and then are forced to leave in order to give their families better lives. When they arrive to Greece or another country, they are then put into a situation where they are mistreated and looked down upon; however, by the grace of God they will thrive wherever they are with Him.

Apparently we talked too long because soon Eleni’s husband Alexander was yelling across the circle in Greek at Eleni. We quickly finished up and then went back inside for the second session. This time our speaker was a man from the United States named Dan Bouchelle. His main topic was “how do we know that we are truly loving God?” The answer came down to that we couldn’t know until we examine how we love other people. We should be treating others the way that THEY want to be treated opposed to the way WE want to be treated because everyone responds differently. God sent Jesus down to love us the way that we needed to be loved, with Him being in human form. “Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.” Essentially, it’s not the thought that counts, but rather love is the actions that need to be felt. In order to do that more effectively we must ask others HOW we can love them they way THEY want to be loved.

It was crazy how although the meals were massive I was still starving by the time the next one rolled around. For dinner, I sat with Austin, Devon, Antony, a refugee named Alex, and another guy I never caught the name of. When we finished eating about four rounds of dinner and eight rounds of dessert (maybe a slight exaggeration), Antony, Devon, Austin, and I went for a walk on the beach. We talked about various theological topics and it was an interesting way to get to know them better and develop my own beliefs.

Afterward, we were supposed to have a “celestial experience” where we would look at the stars, but Austin, Devon, and I skipped it and hung out in their room instead. I felt kind of bad, but soon, the rest of the group joined us. We finished playing Phase 10, Bill won and I came in second, and Alex told us the big news—HER AND KYLE GOT ENGAGED! Although we all knew it was going to happen, it was still exciting to see her so giddy and look at her beautiful ring. After the game finished I sat outside for a bit and then went to sleep in the nice, freezing cold, air-conditioned room.

Learning to Love

June 21st, 2017

This morning I wanted to wake up early to get in some journaling, but I ended up waking up late, like really late, like late to morning devotions late. It all worked out, it was definitely just a slow start to the day. In our morning devotion, we read Romans 13:8-10, 14. It was the perfect passage to meditate on as we prepared to go to the retreat in Corinth because it was all about love. Christ is love as if we are striving to be like Him (as we should be), and then we must also be striving for love.

After we finished our devotion we headed to the Acropolis. It was a decently far walk away and I had not had time to eat breakfast, so by the time we arrived I was incredibly hungry. We went to look at some ruins and then asked one of the information booths about pricing. It would cost thirty euro (fifteen for students) to get a five-day pass to all the monuments in the area, or twenty (ten for students) to see just one. Clearly the first option was the best; however, we would be in Corinth at a retreat for the next three days and then we would be back in the church.

While everyone was arguing about what we should do next, I interrupted and asked if we could move this disagreement to a place with food. Devon quickly agreed with me and the group went off in search of a café. We ended up at this little place that had AMAZING crepes. I ordered a white chocolate, coconut, banana crepe and it was exactly what I needed. Well, until I spilled white chocolate on my one white shirt that I had plans to wear at least a couple more times. We decided to just walk up towards the Parthenon and see how far we could get until the tried to make us pay.

It was well worth it because we were able to find some other rocks to climb up on that were beautiful and had an amazing view. According to someone in our group, there was a sign saying that Apostle Paul actually taught from these mountains. It is so surreal to think about the apostles walking where we walked, sharing the love oIMG_6739.JPGf Christ, the same thing we had come to Corinth to do. We were able to all spread out on the hill and take some time to just meditate, take it all in, and thank God. Although there was so much spiritual, Christian history, there was also a history full of paganism. All of the beautiful monuments were erected for the pagan gods.

When we reconvened and started walking back I felt myself begin to hit a wall. It wasn’t anything big, but I was getting stressed, fast. It was a combination of my foot hurting and the stain on my shirt and just other little petty things. While the rest of the group went to lunch, I stayed back and packed for Corinth and tried to get the stain out of my shirt. Although I made it slightly better, there was still a large water stain.

The group came back and we grabbed our backpacks and got ready to leave. When we left we headed to the train station where we took one train to another train that took us to Corinth. On the second train, a man came up to me, put his hands on my shoulder and started talking to me in Greek. Luckily, a Greek woman across the aisle told him to go away. As we disembarked the train and exited the train station we found the van that would bring us to the retreat. They were short one seat, so I opted to just sit in between Nicole and Austin on Devon’s backpack.

Walking into the retreat I was both amazed and disappointed. The location was beautiful. It was a four-star resort that had a flat pool that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. However, we were on a mission’s trip to serve the less fortunate and we shouldn’t be relaxing. I wanted to do something to distract myself from my frustrations, but everyone else was going swimming and I had a broken foot and no bathing suit, so that was not an option for me. Instead, I holed up in my room and allowed my frustrations to spiral out of control until eventually I just gave up and went to sleep.

I woke up not feeling much better but knowing that unless I got up and went to my obligations, I would never get anything from these next three days. The next item on the agenda was our first lesson. Alexander from the Omonia Church of Christ was our first speaker and he talked about the general theme “Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself.” He emphasized that our sin nature makes us want to not talk about ourselves, but if we do not know ourselves we are not able to know our neighbors.

Furthermore, when we avoid reaching out to someone in love, it isn’t a brain or “hardware” problem, it is a heart problem. This statement really impacted me. I had been saying I wanted to do more to help the homeless in my area and yet I didn’t really take action. I am called to love. I am called to love the widows and the children and the poor and the disabled. When I get home, that is what I am going to do because that is what I am called to do as a child of God.

This message really impacted me and was what I needed to really refocus and re-energize myself for the rest of the day, the retreat, and the trip. The refugee families that we are serving need an escape to a four-star resort. They have mostly come from being extremely well off in their home countries, but then after being forced to leave, forced to conform to a situation where they are mistreated. One of the women in charge, and Alex’s husband, Eleni, said to us, “You have all heard rumors about how the refugees will change us, well they have, but not in a bad way, rather, in the most beautiful way possible.”

Through the transition periods, I was able to get to know some of the other missionaries that were volunteering at the retreat. I got to know two people that were coming from the UK, Trevor and a woman whose name I cannot remember for the life of me. They were older and they talked about how blessed they were to be able to use their retirement to serve Christ.

For dinner, we got to eat at an AMAZING buffet that had a copious amount of food. Rusty had challenged us to spread out and sit with different people. I ended up sitting with two women, Rachel and Michelle, who had been working at the church in Omonia for a while. Michelle and her husband Nathan were moving out to Greece after this summer to become full-time missionaries. IMG_6753.JPGShe shared part of their journey with me and it was very encouraging to my own journey to possibly pursue missions long-term. Stephanie, Alex’s younger sister, was sitting at my table as well and after we finished we walked around for a while talking to various people. We also tested out the chairs by the pool because they looked comfortable and were not typical looking.

About twenty minutes after we were supposed to (we were running on Greek time), we had a meeting that was supposed to inform our Delaware group what we would be doing here at the retreat. Although the intentions were good, it was not helpful whatsoever. Once they dismissed us from the meeting I went upstairs and blogged for a while, determined not to fall behind even without the Wi-Fi to post for a couple days. When I finished writing about yesterday, I showered and then went to sleep in our nice, air-conditioned room.

Taking Boardgames to New Heights

June 20th, 2017

This morning I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to start exploring Greece. I got up around 7:30 AM so I had time to finish typing up my blog posts for Mexico as well as my first day (two days???) in Greece. When I finished I grabbed my Bible and was finally able to finish reading Exodus. It had been way too long since I had had my Bible time and I did not realize how much I missed it and needed it until now.

Eventually, we all gathered for our morning group devotion time. We read the John 4:27-38, which focused on us reaping what God has sown and just attributing all things to him. It was a really good passage to begin the trip because anyone who becomes a believer through my conversations with them is just me telling them about a gift that GOD has given them.

Afterward, we prepared to go to the church that we would be working at for the week. It was about a fifteen-minute walk to reach the church, but I didn’t mind because it gave me an opportunity to look around. At the church, we met the woman in charge as well many of the other volunteers working there.

It was really cool meeting one girl who is volunteering there from Alabama because she was a Disability Studies major, which is my minor. She told me about this seven-week camp that she worked at every summer that is specifically for children and adults with disabilities. When I went to check it out I found out that they not only have counselor opportunities, but there were also Public Relations staff members that learned how to run all of the media over the course of the seven weeks.

There were people from all over the United States as well as people volunteering from other countries. The church had a center during the day for various refugees in Greece. They offered them English lessons, played with the children, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, fed the families. Around 12:30 we got to experience one of their devotional lessons. This guy who would be moving to Greece with his wife to be a full-time missionary talked about how light and dark are opposites, but in Christ and his light, we can have eternal hope and love. As he spoke there was another man translating everything into Arabic.

When he finished we all reached out to the people next to us to hold hands and pray. As I did, I grabbed hands with this young, refugee girl who had disabilities. She looked up towards me with the biggest, most beautiful smile. We then proceeded to pray over our lunch in English, Arabic, and Persian. The lunch was delicious although I am still not entirely sure what I was eating. We continued talking to various volunteers and refugees until about 2:30 PM when they closed up for the day.

Back at our apartment, we tried to figure out what to do with the rest of our day. We ended up going to Mt. Lycabettus and hiking up to the top. It was not a very strenuous hike, but I was definitely working up a sweat by the time I reached the top. The top was absolutely amazing as we had a view of basically everything in Greece, including the Acropolis (see the photo above!). The joke of the day was that everyone should keep pace with the person with the broken foot… then maybe we would actually get someplace quickly. Considering I had a fast walking pace BEFORE the broken foot, I was not slowed down that much. While up top we saw an area of green in the middle of the city, assuming it was a park we decided to go check it out.

On our way, we walked past a board game store that had basically every board game ever and then some. For our group, we bought Greek Catan, which was super awesome because the pieces were more in depth than typical wooden Catan pieces. IMG_1175I also decided to buy Ticket to Ride Europe because I thought it was fitting to get it in Europe. It was also slightly cheaper, especially considering we made friends with the students working there so they gave us a six percent discount.

Once we forced ourselves to leave, we went to the park to wander around. It was pretty cool to have this wooded area in the middle of the city. There were also lots of cats, which were both a good thing and a bad thing. It was great because cats are great, but I couldn’t touch any of them so it was a struggle.

Almost everything in the park, and in the city, in general, was covered with graffiti. A decent amount of my team complained about this, but I saw it differently. First off, graffiti can be beautiful in a different kind of way. It’s not the preserved ancient structures, but it still is a way of expressing oneself. Also, in regards to graffiti within the city itself, it’s not really appropriate to talk about how horrible it looks or how it is such a shame because this is someone’s home. One of the main things I learned to be more aware of in Mexico was that although we may not speak the same language, most people know some English and facial expressions are universal. It isn’t our place to go into someone else’s home and be like. “Wow… this must have been really nice… like thirty years ago.” It’s just frustrating and something I feel as though people need to be more aware of.

When we got back to the apartment I tried to write for a little while, but I think at some point I drifted to sleep because when I woke up it was time for our evening meeting. We talked about where we experienced God during our day. For me, I saw Him in the strength that He gave me to walk and hike on a broken foot. I am so blessed for this opportunity and the ability to do everything while injured.

After our meeting, we set up Catan. I did awful and felt as though I let down all my Catan playing friends, but it’s hard when there are six people playing and you get no wheat.

That being said, once the game finally ended I was exhausted and frustrated, so I decided to just throw in the metaphoric towel and call it a night.

 

A Blur of Travel

June 18th, 2017 and June 19th, 2017

Goals: get caught up with my journal for Mexico and spend time in God’s Word (finish Exodus!!!) while on the plane

Travel, travel, travel. The next forty-eight hours or so were going to be a blur of travel as I go from Washington DC to Amsterdam and then finally to my final destination of Athens.

I said good-bye to Peter and Uncle Steve around 12:30 today and then Aunt Nik and I headed to the airport. I was the first one from my group to arrive at the airport and since I enjoy traveling airports on my own, I took advantage of this and made my way through check-in and security. I got stopped at security because although I was told that my boot had no metal on it, I beeped when I went through the machine. They pat me down and then had me remove my boot so they could put it through the detector. Eventually, though, I made it through. I grabbed a couple of things I needed from one of the stores and got a sandwich for lunch and then went to the gate as the rest of the group trickled in.

I sat in about four different seats during the first five minutes of the flight as the flight attendants tried to find a seat for me that would maximize my leg room for my boot. Finally, I got a seat next to a mother and her two children. I watched the movie “Joy,” read a bit, blogged a bit (still trying to finish typing up Mexico!), and did basically everything one can do on a plane except sleep.

At midnight back in the United States, I wished myself a happy birthday by opening the card Mom and Dad had given me. It was definitely strange not being with friends and family for my birthday for the first time ever.

We eventually landed in Amsterdam and I guess it was technically tomorrow morning? I had lost about seven hours of my birthday in flight. Once we got off the plane we exchanged U.S. dollars to Euros and then waited in line for a passport check. Our next flight did not board until 11:47 AM, so we had time to kill.

Amsterdam- well, the airport- was interesting. The most I knew about Amsterdam was what I learned from the exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show this past year. Funny enough, there was a similar color scheme (orange and green) and there was even an area to charge your phone while on a stationary bike! There was also an outdoor park area with tables. I opted to first go to a little café and get a fruit cup and some water.

When I finished doing some work on the blog I went to the little outdoor area. I found a majority of my group there, but no one was really doing much except sleeping or staring at their devices. I decided to keep reading Reclaiming Conversation, ironic considering there wasn’t much of that going on.

After getting confused by time zones and freaking out my entire group, making them think we were about to board, I decided to wander around and maybe find something else to drink. I ended up settling on grapefruit juice and then finding a spot to sit downstairs and observe people. Although I can’t fully experience the culture from my couple hour layover, I can still get a feel by wandering around and interacting with the people.

I am excited to actually arrive in Athens and get started because right now it is hard to see why God called me here.

I was actually able to sleep on the second flight, so that was mostly what I ended up doing. About three-quarters into the flight my sleep was disrupted by two of the flight attendants who walked up to me and asked if it was my birthday. When I answered yes, they showed me a bag they had put together with a bunch of mini-cupcakes, two packs of almonds, and a mini bottle of wine. They also handed me a pair of mini, clog-shaped salt and pepper shakers so I would remember them.

When we arrived in Athens, we grabbed our bags and then went to buy a metro ticket (that they never actually collected!). We were on the metro for a while and then got lost trying to find our way to the apartment. When we FINALLY arrived, it was gorgeous. There were six bedrooms in the apartment and I instantly called the one that was painted the light blue color that everything else in my life is. We had a massive balcony that wrapped around the entirety of our space. As amazing as it was, I did pause to think, “why are we staying here when the people we are helping have absolutely nothing?”

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We ended up going out to dinner. My group of Devon, Kyle, Antony, and I wandered around for what seemed like forever before finally settling on a little local place that had amazing chicken gyros. Although it took a while for us to get there, it was most definitely worth it. After dinner, we grabbed ice cream and then headed back to the apartment. Rusty gathered everyone into the living room area and they sang happy birthday to me. The owner of the apartment, Dora, left a cake for us, so that was designated my birthday cake.

Afterward, I was exhausted so I unpacked a bit, talked to Peter (this was only time I was going to allow myself to call him), and then went to sleep shortly after eleven o’clock.

Word of the Day: Searching—right now I feel like I am really searching for my purpose here in Greece. We also searched for our apartment and then for food for a LONG time.