Every Adventure Has an End

Our last morning in the apartment was very bittersweet. I tried to start packing but did not have the motivation to get that much done because I did not want to face the reality. Instead, I just repeated my normal routine of eating breakfast and blogging.

At the church, I was just sitting around for a while waiting for someone to come in that I could teach English to, but this was to no avail for a while. Then, two women walked in with six children and Nada asked me if I was available to teach, and I jumped on the opportunity. The one woman was from Kuwait and had three girls, while the other woman was from Syria and had a twelve-year-old boy and a twin boy and girl who are eleven.

It was so encouraging teaching the women and nice because they did most of the work. I handed them each one of the booklets that had Arabic to English translations and they went for it. They would say a phrase and then have me repeat it to ensure that they were pronouncing it correctly. We worked on this for a couple hours with a couple breaks to just get to know each other. They spoke no English whatsoever, but their children did so occasionally they would come over and translate for us. We also had the benefit of using Google Translate when our gestures weren’t enough. All too soon, it was time for our devotion.

Jim Holway- not at the church yesterday because of a bad case of shingles- was back at the church to give another devotional. It was once again engaging and impactful and once he was finished we were ready for lunch! Our lunch today was cooked by the Italian team, so we got to delight in real Italian lasagna that lived up to the hype.

After we finished eating, I spent the rest of our time at the church interacting with the children, specifically two of the sons of the woman from Syria. The one boy had a cheap, knock-off fidget spinner that he could do all sorts of cool tricks with. He was showing me how he could balance it on his nose and the tip of his shoe. Whenever it fell on the ground though it broke into three pieces. I wanted to go out and buy him a new one, but we did not have enough time and it was our last day in the country.

Before we left, the two women wanted to take all kinds of pictures with me and with their children. It was so encouraging that even though I only spent the day with them, I was able to have such a large impact. This was just another reason that I needed to come back to Greece- to further grow these relationships I have started.

Ryan came back to the apartment with me so that we could finally finish our game of Catan. I don’t know if it was the lack of the sleep, the fact we were leaving, or just my competitiveness that made me incredibly frustrated with the game, but whatever it was, I was over it. As soon as the game was over I got up and left as everyone else continued to dispute the results.

I retreated into my room and once again tried to pack. Similarly to this morning, I did not get very far and instead took a nap. I was woken up right as we left to head out to our final dinner. Rusty was taking us out to a classic Greek restaurant near the Parthenon that Eleni had recommended. The food was delicious and they just kept on bringing out round after round of food. It was almost hard to really enjoy it though because I could not stop thinking about all the refugees, many of whom were going without a meal that night.

When we were finishing up, Nicole, Antony, Bill, Austin and I headed back to the apartment to pack and prepare to leave for the airport. Our flight was not until the following morning around 6:00 AM, but the metro stopped running at 11:00 PM and Rusty did not allow us to just get a taxi to the airport in the morning. When we arrived at the Athens airport and got our boarding passes, Austin and I went upstairs and found a slightly darker area where we decided to camp out.

We finally started drifting to sleep when we were woken up by a woman yelling at us, saying we could not sleep there. Frustrated, we decided to go to McDonald’s and get Oreo McFlurries instead. When we got to the counter they informed us that they did not have any McFlurries at 2:30 AM (totally ridiculous)! We instead got breakfast food and then hung out in the McDonald’s until it was time to go check our luggage.

On the first flight, I sat next to Austin and kind of drifting in and out of sleep as my neck cramped up more and more. When we arrived in Paris, I found out that our layover was actually going to be five hours. After we found our gate, Devon, Austin, and I went to go get Starbucks as I very much needed an iced coffee.

After I got my coffee, Austin and I hung out on one of the couches in the main area and I blogged. After I finished a decent amount of blogging I asked Austin if he wanted to play a dice game that I had called Qwixx. When I pulled out the game, Austin looked at me incredulously, like “this looks like a children’s game, why would I want to play this?” After playing one time, he was hooked. We played another three times until he finally won a game and said we could stop.

The Paris airport also had a mini-Pacman machine, so that took up quite a bit of time. When we headed to the gate, we had about ten minutes until boarding started and were then informed there would be an hour delay. That was frustrating, but FINALLY, we got onto the plane.

On the second flight, I got the opportunity to sit on the top floor of the plane in an economy plus seat, which was very much needed after being uncomfortable and cramped for so long. I rested my eyes for a little while, watched Manchester by the Sea, and read a bit. Seven hours later we were back in Washington D.C.

Customs was a breeze as the guy barely even glanced at my passport. My bag took quite a while to come out, but by that point, I didn’t even care because I was getting closer and closer to being home. Aunt Nik picked up Austin, Devon, Bill, and I and drove the guys home to Delaware. From there my mom brought me the rest of the way home. After forty-eight hours of essentially no sleep I was home and another adventure serving my Lord and Savior was completed.

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Stuck in Bed

June 28th, 2017

I continued my typical routine of waking up early, then going outside to blog, eat breakfast, and do my Bible study. I was completely caught up on blogging, so now it was just about getting the pictures from my phone to my computer and into the posts, but with spotty wi-fi that is more difficult than you may think.

I had to speed things along this morning because I was leaving twenty minutes early with Austin, Nicole, and Ashley to go to Omonia and help sweep and mop the floors. When we arrived, we walked in and one of the other groups was having quiet Bible Study time, so we had to be quieter than expected. It did not take very long to clean around them. When we finished, I found a quiet corner and also read some more of Leviticus. Eleni never showed up, so we delegated tasks amongst ourselves and then got to work.

After such a fulfilling time with the children the day before, I decided to specifically work with kids today. They had some string to make bracelets out, so I channeled my inner fourth-grade self and got to work. The second I started making them though, a horde of kids came around me telling me colors they wanted for theirs. Although I remembered how to make the bracelets, I did not remember how to make them quickly. In the end, I think I made four or five bracelets. Maybe I’m just weak, but I swear my arms were sore after tieing so many knots.

It was really fulfilling to work with the children because I know that that is something I am good at and I also really enjoy it. The first two days in the church I really wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone and try teaching English, but it was nice to really fall back into my niche today. For some reason, we cleaned up the kid toys really early and just headed back inside to wait for everyone else to be finished. As we waited, I got really exhausted and a headache began to develop. I talked to Rusty and we were able to find two other people- Emily and Austin- to head back to the apartment with me. When we got back I laid down in my bed and was out cold within seconds.

I woke up a little after 6:00 PM to an entirely empty apartment. I texted Austin to find out where everyone went and apparently they had just left to go to one of the squat camps to interact with the refugees there. I was very upset that no one had woken me up to check and see if I was feeling better or if I wanted to go. I definitely would have gone considering it was such a unique opportunity and our last full day here in Greece.

I was disappointed but tried not to let it get to me too much. I took advantage of the downtime by calling my mom and Peter. It was nice being able to talk to them without worrying that I was missing out on interacting with the rest of the group.

When everyone finally returned I questioned why everyone had left without checking on me and no one really gave me a straight answer. The lack of communication on this trip was beginning to drive me insane, but I just tried to rely on God and stay relatively calm. Austin, Devon, Emily, Nicole, Ashley, and I ended up going out to dinner because the rest of the group stayed behind at the place to have dinner there. We went to this place right down the street where we got some sort of chicken pita things. It basically reminded me of a Greek panini if you can imagine that.

After getting back to the apartment Austin and I hung out for a bit. And by that I mean I was trying to blog and he came into my room and started jumping up and down on my bed. In hopes of getting him to stop, I more or less kicked him in the face. He then ended up rolling under Jordan’s bed and stayed there for a good ten to fifteen minutes. When he finally came out, he went to go plop onto my couch and there was a loud crashing noises. One of the bars that held up the underside of the couch had fallen off. He claimed he fixed it, but after that, I decided to just kick him out.

Everyone else arrived back from their dinner after 10:00 PM and apparently they did not even get to stay for the whole meal or the beginning of the wedding. I was still kind of annoyed about the whole situation and still exhausted so I just went to sleep.

Around 1:45 AM, however, I woke up absolutely drenched in sweat. I fumbled my way into the kitchen, found and chugged some of Austin’s water, and then headed into the living room where the air conditioning was better and passed out for the night there.

 

Alphabet Days: Q, R, S, T, U

June 27th, 2017

This morning I woke up early again and almost finished getting caught up with my blogging! It has definitely been something that has been hard to stay on top of, but also completely worth it. I know it will be great to be able to reflect on all of my experiences here in Greece. When I finished writing, I took some time to read my Bible. I was still going through all of the sacrifices the Israelites had to make in Leviticus and was continuously reminded of how Jesus is our perfect sacrifice.

We headed to the church around 10:00 AM with the intentions of arriving at 10:30 AM. When we arrived, we had a meeting with Eleni about what we should each be doing for the day, although it was pretty much similar to yesterday. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the busy days for the church of Omonia because they serve lunch on those days.

For the beginning part of the day, I wandered around doing pretty much nothing, which was kind of frustrating considering I had such a fulfilling teaching day the day before when I was working with Laila. It was also hard because there were more people today so I felt especially useless that I was not doing anything.

Finally, a man and his wife came up to me and asked me for help with their English. I primarily was teaching the man while his wife just watched and occasionally commented or repeated something I said. It was a very different experience than the day before because this man knew very little English and also wanted to mainly focus on writing. The day before, he and another girl here named Sommer started working on the alphabet, they had gotten up to P.

The most challenging part about teaching English was that the man needed to learn very simple words to write, but I did not want to insult him by picking words that were too basic. Starting on Q was also challenging because there are only so many simple Q words. It got easier once we got to S and T because he would say words that he wanted to learn how to spell. We finally stopped a little before lunch time. As we were finishing up, he taught me how to say hello and thank you in Arabic and told me he would test me tomorrow.

Austin and I found a seat for the devotion and were joined by a young girl from Iran named Amena. I probably should have been focusing on the devotion itself, but I was distracted by Amena braiding my hair and interacting with me. Sitting in front of us was one of the missionary’s two kids, Psye and Tessa. Austin had spent the morning working with the children, so I think that made them feel more comfortable around me. Amena ended up giving me one of her string bracelets and promising to make me one the following day. Although I was not focused, it was a really enjoyable devotion time.

For lunch, we had sweet rice, potatoes and chicken, and pita bread. Austin and I sat outside with a table of Arabic speakers that only talked to each other. Although it was frustrating not being able to really engage with them, it was cool that we were still welcome to sit with them. Relationships can still be formed, even if talking is not involved. God’s love goes beyond language barriers.

As we were cleaning up, Eleni stopped us and told us to all go into the main area and sit because there was going to be a baptism. As everyone gathered together, Trevor took us through his collection of songs in hopes of getting the children to calm down. Once everyone was more or less together and sitting, the baptism itself began. The man was a friend of someone who came to the church and just through different conversations he had during the day, he found his way to Christ.

After the baptism was finished, we had the opportunity to go up to him and hug him. He seemed different. When he came into the church that morning he seemed reserved and closed-off and now he was hugging us with a huge smile on his face, calling us his sisters and brothers. Before he left he said, “Today I came to get help. Tomorrow, I come back to help others.”

As we were leaving, I hung out with Psye some more hitting a balloon back and forth and then he wanted to play some hand game. He was about ready to teach me when Rusty grabbed me and told me it was time to go. I left, promising Psye that I would hang out with him tomorrow.

The original intention was to go to the beach today, but because of the baptism, we were at the church for a lot longer than expected and, had we gone to the beach, we would only be there for about forty-five minutes before needing to head back home. Instead, Austin, Devon, Jordan, Ryan, Emily, and I played Catan. I was winning when we finally stopped for dinner because I had a monopoly over all the clay. However, I was also the largest target, so I didn’t have much I could do when the robber was constantly getting placed on my resources.

For dinner, we went to a burger place that was trying very hard to look like the United States in everything from the decor to the music. Once we finished eating, we continued our American food binge and headed to Dominos to pick up a Nutella pizza. Then, on the way back, we got a pre-dessert of gelato. Ultimately, I think I rolled home more than I walked.

We were slightly late to get back (not that anyone really paid much attention to time here!), so we went directly into our daily reflection time. Today, I saw God through the children. It had been really hard to not work with the children when I knew that that was something I was good at and had a passion for, so when the opportunity arose to interact with them, I definitely saw that as something given to me from God.

Before going to bed Austin and I hung out outside and talked for a while. It was nice to have someone to just kind of debrief with after a long, exhausting day. After saying goodnight, I crawled into bed and was out cold.

Spreading Love on the Streets

June 26th, 2017

After such a good night’s sleep, I was able to wake up around 7:30 AM and have about two and a half hours before we needed to leave the apartment. I finished up some more days for the blog (finally starting to catch up) and read a decent amount of Leviticus. I also had an apple and a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Overall it was a really convicting and productive morning.

Around 10:00 AM we left to head to the church of Omonia. We decided to take the metro there, which my foot and I much appreciated. When we arrived Eleni gathered us into the main room to talk to us about our assignments for the day. A couple people would be working with the children, one person would be helping out in the kitchen, and the rest of us would be doing conversational English. I was excited to help teach the people who came, but also nervous because I did not have much experience with that kind of thing.

No one showed up for a while, so I spent some time praying to God about the frustrations I had experienced so far on the trip and praying that He would use me and bring someone to me that I could help. When I finished praying I began studying some of 1 John until Nada (a volunteer from Hungary) brought a woman named Laila over for me to work with.

Laila was from Morocco and already had pretty advanced English. She pulled out her “Let’s Start Talking” book for us to continue going through. The way the resource worked was there would be easy to read passages from the Bible, followed by context questions, then a short grammar lesson, and then finally a question that helps get a conversation about God started.

We went through three or four lessons and took the time to get to know each other in between. Laila was from Casablanca, which was about one hour from where my childhood best friend lived. She had no family here with her, but she did have a nephew back in Morocco who may be trying to come to the States.

The conversations we had about Christ were very uplifting. It was hard for people to really open up to our group since we were only working in the church itself for less than a week, but through the “Let’s Start Talking” questions, we were still able to have some deeper conversations. Laila definitely knew the importance of baptism and seemed to understand the Trinity. I hope to get to know her more in the upcoming days.

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“Jenna” written in Arabic

When another man came up to our table and started talking to her, she introduced me as “her new teacher, Jenna.” It made me really understand why I was here and I knew I was gaining tools that I could then take home to Delaware to use in the American Host Program at UD.

 

 

Around 2:00 PM we began preparing to leave. On our way home, we made two detours. The first one was to get frappes. They were pretty good, but honestly, I just wanted a hazelnut iced coffee with cream and no sugar. Our second detour was at a little fruit stand where I was able to buy some fresh bananas. It was nice being able to have my own fresh fruit and it was pretty inexpensive.

At the apartment, we had about two hours to do whatever we wanted. I decided to FaceTime Dear. We ended up talking about the trip and just catching up for almost an hour which was really nice, considering I was used to talking to her every day. Also, she missed me so much she barely nagged me about anything! When I hung up I went and watched everyone play Exploding Kittens for a little bit and then Austin and I hung out in my room while I blogged and he did stuff on his iPad.

 Our evening activity was to go to Omonia Square and pass out cards talking about the resources at the church to the refugees in the area. We divided into groups of three or four so I headed out with Austin and Devon. At first, it was kind of hard to figure out whom we should be approaching, but then we realized it doesn’t matter who is a refugee and who isn’t because we are called to share the gospel with all people and love everyone. To make the whole process feel more natural we bought bottles of water to hand out to the people. We also had directions to the church pulled up on Google Maps as well as pictures of the church and a nearby mural.

The first man we talked to was a Romanian man named Yaan. We probably passed by him four or five times total and each time he just looked so happy. He allowed us to pray for him, which is ultimately all we can be doing, and even then, it’s not us, it’s God. The next woman was sitting across the street and in addition to us reaching out to her, one of the other groups actually invited her out to dinner. Apparently, she was also from Romania but knew a bit of Spanish. She is also the daughter of Yaan supposedly. I really just ask for prayers for God to be moving in their lives. The woman actually prayed for US when we asked if we could pray with her.

The next man we met was also named Yaan, but he was from Greece. He kept on asking for us to look for him when he came to the church tomorrow. It was so encouraging to see people so open to coming to a church, even if the was free food and English lessons involved.

After we moved away from Yaan, we did not see anyone else to approach for a couple blocks and I began to get slightly discouraged, so I prayed. As I finished praying to God to put someone else in our path, we walked around a corner and saw a man sitting on the ground. We talked to him, directed him towards the church, and were going to ask to pray with him, but a security guard was standing next to him and looked as though he was about to tell the guy he needed to move. Since we couldn’t pray with him, we went across the street and prayed for him there.

After we talked to him, we met up with the rest of the group so that Rusty could give us our dinner money. Emily, Jordan, and Bill joined us to go to a local Chinese place that Nathan had recommended. On our way there we met a man with one leg from Romania and another woman sitting outside of a grocery store. We prayed with the woman and as we stood up some guy walking down the other side of the street started yelling very choice words at us telling us we shouldn’t be doing that kind of thing in public, but save it for behind closed doors. We should have just walked away, but Devon and Austin began to engage with the man. We got away safely, but it was still kind of scary. We are called to be different. We should be known by our love, people should know that we are Christians based on our actions, and that man definitely knew. There really is no persecution of Christians in the United States, so it was definitely an unexpected encounter, but made it even more how much we needed to spread the love of Christ in this city.

The Chinese place was a little shop that only did take-out and after eating it I could confidently say it was delicious, we’ll see how I feel in the morning though. When we got back we waited for the other group and then had our devotional time. It was just really encouraging to see how God was using us as instruments to spread the love of His kingdom. This time allowed us to encourage one another with our own stories of how the Lord was working.

Afterward, I spent some time to myself, just reflecting on the day and writing down my experiences, as they were still fresh. This was an amazing day and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for tomorrow.