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Quickly coming to a close…

It has been a fulfilled past couple of days here in Greece! To catch you up from when Victorya posted on Friday, we went to watch the Star Wars movie Solo that evening, which we thoroughly enjoyed. (Movies are shown in English with Greek subtitles. Also, we actually only payed about $8.80 per ticket. Way cheaper than I thought it would be). On Saturday we decided to start our day off by sleeping in, and then headed off to the beach, where we enjoyed the cool (really cold) clear waters for a couple of sun-filled hours. While some of us were responsible and put on sunscreen, Noah got an epic swimsuit burn live on his leg (ask him about it sometime).

We came back and cleaned up, and then headed off to find the Hard Rock Cafe, a first for me, where we enjoyed huge, delicious burgers underneath the original artwork for one of Kansas’ album covers. (Kind of crazy to see that in Athens!). Today we attended the Greek Evangelical Church for the last time, which while I will be glad to once again be worshiping in my native tongue, it will be saddening to leave the unique experience of worship with believers in different tongues. We also attended the refugee church for Farsi speakers this evening, with everyone (except I) helped with the kids during the service. (I was going to tell them about the sermon. It was related to Pentecost. I was not able to catch everything due to the preacher not speaking into the microphone and by not hearing the end of his sentences due to the Farsi translator. Also, I spaced out a couple of times 🙃 #shouldhavetakenasundaynap)

But also in the last couple of days, I have come to this ppoint of mixed feelings: I am greatly anticipating returning home to Haviland, KS, taking comfort in the fact that I only have five more days until we head back. But I am also not ready to leave Greece, with me feeling that I have just began to adjust to living here. This has hit me in a couple of ways in the past few days.

One is this past Friday, when our group went to watch Solo (movies in Greece are shown in English with Greek subtitles). I enjoyed the movie, but upon coming out, I thought to myself “I could live here.” The other way is hard to pin point to a specific moment, but rather this realization that I have become comfortable with those around me speaking a different language than me. It did not faze me the way it was the first few days I was here.

This has led to a growing confidence, most recently manifested for myself in that I broke off from the group to go into a store I had not in before to purchase an ice cream cone (seriously, these things are amazing and addictive. They are called Rodeos, and I have spent more than I care to admit on them. Ask my fellow team mates). While this is a small action on my part, it is hard to see myself doing the same thing when I first arrived (or perhaps just courage born from a sweet tooth (: ).

So I hope to make the best of the few days we have left, with thoughts of hope not being too distracting. (nor thoughts of leaving the delicious ice cream. Like seriously, a pre-packedged ice cream cone should not taste this good)

 

Blessings,

Ethan

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I am doing better…

I can’t believe it has been a week since my last post. It feels like I am in some kind of twilight zone, with time seeming to have flown by, but also feeling like it is time to head back home. A week is up, and it is time to get back to “normal” things, or so I think. It is honestly a feeling that our group has been sharing throughout today.

But back to more interesting things. If you want to know what has been going on this week, I recommend that you read the past few blogs that my teammates. So I will be filling in on what we have done over the past couple of days

Yesterday (Saturday the 19th) our adventures began at about 4:15 AM local time (around 9:15 Eastern time in the United States) heading to Athens airport for a quick flight up to Thessaloniki, which should of had us there by 8:00. However, as life would have had it, our original plane had engine issues (or something like that), and we had to disembark for another plane (which though inconvenient, is much better than realizing issues in the air). However, we eventually overcame those difficulties, as well as other issues with our rental car, and headed out to first stop at Lydia’s Baptistry, the Lydia spoken of in Acts 16. While we cannot be sure, some scholars believe that the spot shown in the picture below marks where Paul and his companions met Lydia and other God Worshipers of Philippi and the surrounding areas. It was pretty surreal! Also, the water was delightfully frigid.  IMG_0069

After spending a few minutes there, all too short for what I would of liked, but pressed for time due to the delays from earlier, we moved on to the archeological site of Philippi. This was incredible. Our guide, Ken Dirrim, provided much historical background to the city. While I will not recall everything here for space (and for lack of writing it all down🙃), two things I would like to emphasize. One is the court (this has a much more proper name, one that I do not recall as of writing this) that is shown in the panorama below, where Paul was dragged before the magistrates after casting out the future-telling demon the servant girl was possessed by in Acts 16. It is always much easier to connect with the scriptures if one has a picture, let alone being able to walk where Paul was.

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The other picture is that of the Roman road Via Egnatia. This is the road that Paul would have walked on during his travels in the area. It was during this time that I realized I had fulfilled a life-long desire of mine: to visit biblical sights where heroes of the faith had walked themselves. And here I am fulfilling this dream at 21 years old, not decades down the road. It has me grateful to God for the opportunity.

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The last thing I want to talk about is the worship services we attended today, Sunday the 20th (really yesterday here in Greece, but we will pretend that I got to bed at a decent time). In the morning we attended the 2nd Greek Evangelical Church in Athens, which I am told was a church plant from Smyrna mentioned in Revelation. This was our second time attending it, and though the service is done in Greek, there is a translator for the small but consistent group of English speaking missionaries and that come through Greece. It is amazing to experience worship with those speaking a different language. It helps one realize that they apart of the Global church, and I am encourage to have a picture of believers from around the globe. It is definitely will be one of the highlights of my trip. We also attended a Persian church in the evening, which serves the Middle Eastern refugee community here. Again, hearing others praise God in a language different from your own is awe-inspring, and I recommend everyone to experience it at some point.

The hour has grown late, so I am not really sure how else to end this but to say that I am doing well, am feeling much more comfortable with the Greek culture, particularly of crossing the roads (ask my teammates about it!), and blessed by both what God has done in the past week and am looking forward to the week ahead!

Blessings,

Ethan


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So it begins…

A lot has transpired in the past 48 hours since I have arrived in Greece. While the late hour keeps me from sharing all that has transpired since I have arrived, I would like to share a lesson I am learning in arriving:

I am not a humble person. I pride myself on being self-reliant, and not needing to ask for help/figuring things out for myself. I also do not like being the center of attention, or more specifically, sticking out like I do not know what I am doing. I aspire to feel and appear adept at what I do. And I great pride in those things that I am, and shy away from those that I am inept in.

But in entering a foreign country, I have dived deep into a sea of being and feeling inept. Essentially, culture shock has hit. And boy has it hit hard.

I remember as we started training for this trip, there was discussion of culture shock. I remember thinking and sincerely believing that I would be one of the last ones to “break,” to be homesick. Wanting to head back home. Definitely not the first one in my Greece team.

And in starting the trip, I was feeling very confident. While not a frequent flyer, I have flown enough to be comfortable with the in and outs of air travel. Both our stops in the US went smoothly. We entered the Wichita airport with plenty of time to check our bags and grab a bite to eat. Hopping on our plane with no trouble, we arrived early to Chicago, where we killed our 6-hour layover with local pizza, board games, and plenty of walking around the colossal airport that is Chicago O’Hare. We entered our plane destined for Paris with no problem, and settled in for our 8+ hr flight. “Things are going well,” I thought.

But then we landed in Paris, and that is where the shock took hold. Stepping off of the plane in Paris for our layover, I was overcome with the realization that “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” (insert rolling of the eyes emoticon) I did not know the language, the customs, the expectations. Nor did I look like those around me. I was not adept at my surroundings. I began to worry about simple things, such as being able to understand the chaser as we order coffee to wake up from our jet lagged selves, or if my card would be declined in buying some European candy as a snack. While both interactions went well, I began to think “what am I doing here?”

This feeling intensified even more so as we landed in Greece. Ken, our local guide, picked us up from the airport, and drove us to our apartment. Many on our team found it difficult to stay awake, even as we navigated the crazy Grecian traffic, as any traffic laws here are merely suggestions for those on the road. Arriving at our our apartment, we unloaded our luggage and began to familiarize ourselves with the apartment we would call home for the next three weeks. After making sure we had all the bedding necessary for ourselves, Ken drove us to an authentic Persian restaurant, where we feasted on lamb kabobs and Persian rice as our first meal in Greece. All this time thinking “what am I doing?” and thinking “I can’t wait to go home.”

While our first couple of days have been relatively easy, with us having helped organized a storage facility for Helping Hands (the organization we will be helping in the weeks ahead) on Saturday (May 12) and attending a Greek Evangelical Christian church service this morning (May 13), this culture shock has continued to hit me, though it is slowly going away. But it has not happened to me in the way I have expected. While the language barrier is there, it is insignificant, since English is used as an informal secondary language here. So we have been able to order food with little issue. And neither has the food been an issue. While perhaps some has been a bit outside my comfort zone, it has been delicious, and at this point I believe that the food is likely going to be one the things I will miss the most (I don’t think I will ever look at Gyros the same way). But it has been the sticking out part that has been on my mind. Or rather, how I feel so inept. How I am not familiar with the cultural expectations, and are still getting to know the area. How I am not confident nor familiar with my surroundings. How I am in need of a guide.

And so in trying to come to a close (as my tiredness continues to grow) I am looking forward to learning the lessons God has for me in the days and weeks ahead. Three I will highlight as I close: One, being reminded that I need a guide, both here in Greece and in life, that being the Holy Spirit. So I hope to grow in listening to that guide we have a Christ-followers.  Two is to walk in the path of humility. Realizing that I do not know everything, and the things that I believe I am adept at are really quite small in the scope of all things. And third, being willing to jump into the new experiences that await me, not focusing on how I am feeling, but rather to embrace the newness and awkwardness of it all. For it is often only after the experience that the lesson will then be revealed.

Blessings,

Ethan