These past two days have again been filled with ministry, educational tourism, and moving around Athens (by bus, subway, and mostly by walking – a lot).
Yesterday was “Tea Day” at the Refugee Center. I personally spoke with refugees from Albania, Bulgaria, Afghanistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Greece, and Ukraine (the last couple fleeing the area of violence in that country that ended up being largely responsible for our team being in Greece, too). We were there basically all day. The main purpose is relational evangelism and providing a safe place for people to sit, play a game (usually chess or backgammon), watch a Bible movie (like the Passion of the Christ, the Jesus film, or another one like that), and drink tea. The volunteers and staff mingle with them, play games, talk with them (many speak at least broken English) – and look for opportunities to share about Jesus with them. Even when we can’t communicate, we were encouraged to pray and continue to demonstrate the love of Christ to them. Tyler, Abbey and Sam also were asked to sing a couple of songs – and the girls helped to lead the children’s program. After that experience, we were invited to have dinner at the home of one of the full-time staff people – BBQ’d pork chops never tasted so good!
These experiences of serving are honestly quite draining – not just the cleaning bathrooms or working in the kitchen – but in some ways the listening takes extra effort and concentration (to really try to understand what people are trying to say). In addition, it’s just tiring getting from one place to another. Endurance is something you can pray for as we are now into our third week here in this country with what promises to be more “tiring” days ahead.
It seems fitting that (among other things) we were able to visit the site today of the ancient Olympic Stadium. It was rebuilt in marble (from wood) in 329 BC – with a seating capacity of 50,000 by 140 AD. It was rebuilt using some of the original materials in 1895 for what became the modern Olympic Games. It purports to be the largest stadium constructed of marble in the world. I have no doubt. It is massive with the characteristic long straightaways and tight U-turn curves at the ends.
When the Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 9, he knew about this stadium and may have been there. The Isthmian Games (closer to Corinth) were also well-known.
Paul wrote: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last: but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
Thank you for praying for us that The Lord will help us to accomplish all that He intends during our final 10 days or so, and that we will finish our “race” here in Athens, well – for His glory and the good of others!