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.
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.