We currently have three teams oversees: Ireland, Kenya, and Greece. Please keep them in your prayers. They will be updating us with blogs throughout their trip. Here are a couple of pictures from our prayer sendoff for Team Ireland, led by Josh Bunce, and Team Kenya, led by Nate Perrin. We did not snap a picture of Team Greece, led by Ryan Haase, the night before. Team India, led by Dave Williams, will be leaving later in the summer.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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!
So this is actually Noah and not Ryan. Sorry but stuff wasn’t working right for me so I had to use Ryan’s login.
We have been in Greece for four days now I think. It has been really cool to see our group get into the groove of being in close proximity to each other while we work with these refugees. Yesterday I got to work with a few refugee men in an English class. While we were working, I got to know them and they got to learn about me. They seemed to really enjoy learning and getting to hear what I had to say.
Last night I had authentic Greek gelato and I might be in love… it rocks! All of the food here tastes so much better than anything I have had in Kansas. (Except my dads cooking of course.) Even the food here that I don’t like is more enjoyable then most stuff in America.
I adore the group that is here with me. Our leader Ryan is one of the group members and does a great job of keeping us on schedule. Ethan is our big man on campus. He is fun to be around, and I have seen him really get to enjoy the refugees. Michale, Taylor, and I got stuck on a VERY crowded bus yesterday and got to experience Greek life in a whole new way (don’t ask). Victorya is a great bundle of fun and I know this trip is better with her on it. We may not be a perfect team but we are very close. 😉 I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us in the weeks to come.
By the way if any of you know my mother and can show this to her I would be eternally grateful. Please let her know that I am not dead and I am having a blast!
Have you ever finally gotten the hang of something new just to have it switched on you? Well that was Team Greece today.
We take the Metro everywhere and yesterday I said to Taylor that now that we had finally gotten used to it, something would mess us up. And guess what.. the Metro was closed today. We have to take the bus and it was very crowded. Like just when you thought nobody else could fit on the bus..10 more got on. Then 10 more. (Noah, Taylor and Michale got an extra dose of it today, just ask them.) It’s safe to say we were very uncomfortable.
We also got to see some beautiful parts of Athens and a few of us got to help teach English to some refugees. Tonight we all sat around the dinner table laughing about our day. It was an incredibly humbling day and some how we all made it though.
We had an amazing lunch overlooking some beautiful parts of Athens. It was incredible! There are not words to describe how some of us felt today seeing the sites and appreciating the history.
In the next couple of days you will get to hear more about our ministry work so check back in!
Thank you for keeping us in your prayers!
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.
Somehow three weeks have already gone by and we are on our way home. Yesterday we spent our last day touring Ancient Corinth. Our first stop was to check out the Corinth Canal. It’s a spectacular view, even for those in the group who don’t like heights (I’m not one of those people; I’m the one who wants to bungee jump off the bridge!).
One of the highlights for all of us was to hike to the Akrokorinth. Although the hike was steep, the view of the area was worth every step. Personally I was even more excited because this is the first time in the theee years I have been to Greece that I was actually able to make it to the top. My first year I was really sick so I couldn’t hike at all and last year they closed earlier than expected so we didn’t have time to hike all the way. The temple of Aphrodite used to be at the top of the Akrokorinth. Aphrodite was the goddess of love and there were at least 100 prostitutes that would be up on this mountain. Knowing a bit of the history, it makes even more sense why Paul spoke to the Corinthians about love. He described real love and what love looks like, something completely different than what this temple represented. He brought a different message, one full of love and truth, not fleeting moments.
As we toured Ancient Corinth, we once again were at places we knew Paul walked. Being here we were able to understand Scripture in a different way. Today reminded me the importance of asking questions of Scripture. Why was something phrased a certain way? Why were those specific details included? Why is that important for the reader to know? For example, why is it important for us to know that Paul was a Roman citizen? Why are there times in scripture that he speaks up about this when he is being persecuted and why at there other times he remains silent? Understanding more of the history, geography and reasons behind the writing brings a whole new depth of Scripture. God is not bound by our limited view but he wants to continue to expand our understanding as we his Word.
Every time I know I’ve heard from Jesus, the message is incredibly simple–one you could give to a child. Yet “simple” doesn’t mean “easy.”
I want to tell you about my last message.
As I’ve already said, I don’t feel ready to leave Greece in a week. There’s too much beauty and redemption and hard, fulfilling work here to just walk away, untouched. Plus, the daily work and burdens we’ve been given to carry always feel harder and more ordinary than others’ seem to be (At least mine do). The moment we turn back and begin to journey home is always a hard one for me.
But I do not want to be ungrateful for the time I have been given.
I’ve rubbed shoulders with people wearing raw courage and contagious joy as the only barrier between them and the mocking What If’s of their life. Heartbreaking redemption stories are as common as most peoples’ stories of annoying commutes to work.
I’ve had a little girl run up to me and throw her arms around my neck and refuse to let go. So we walked and held each other and ignored the heat. And then she wanted to play, and I let her go. (Her family left camp early, so I never got to tell her how much I’d learned to love her in those short 3 days, how much I would miss her smile and sassiness.)
I’ve walked where Paul walked. (Nuff said!)
I got to be a part of an awesome team of people. I’ve laughed more on this trip than I have in a long time, and am so thankful that I got to live life with them for 3 weeks. (April, Tiffany, George, Josiah…I’m even #Blessed by y’all! 🙃)
I had a mother come up to me and in broken English tell me about her family back in Afghanistan. I smiled at her pictures and responded as well as I could, until I suddenly understood what she was showing me: A picture of a healthy 5-year-old boy who had been killed, probably by the Taliban. It was her little boy. Her eldest son.
Never have I been so very aware of the evil in the world. It had the power to wound a mama’ heart forever. To reach through time and bring darkness to a happy moment at a camp in Greece.
We, as a team, had several moments like this.
The most incredible part is the believers who lived through this–“baby” Christians who still need teaching in things like when God starts accepting us (before or after baptism?)–they have understood something that I am only beginning to see after growing up in the faith.
That something is this:
Jesus is the goal, himself.
Don’t underestimate the simplicity of it.
Let me try to explain what this means. So many times, we lose track of who we are, and spend our days a) building our own kingdoms or b) struggling to get to the point where we look like Jesus.
Maybe neither are correct.
Maybe Jesus is the goal.
If that’s true, than nothing we do really makes a difference. Whether we struggle with jealousy, or unkindness, or financial responsibility. Whether we’ve yelled at our kids once or a dozen times today. If Jesus is the goal, then our job is merely to stay close to him. It’s his to show us when we need to change something.
If Jesus is the goal, then no matter what happens to us, we’ll be ok. Whether a friend is dying of cancer, or you can’t find a job to support your family, or a legal case is resolved unjustly. Even if the Taliban kill your little boy. If we’re near Jesus, then nothing will break our spirits.
The most amazing part of this is what Jesus gives us back. He’s not a harsh God who demands we come close, to kneel and receive his judgment for the day. Listen:
“Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them–he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”
I pray you know how much he loves you. Pray that we–the team and the new Christians we spent last week with–do, too.
P.S. I have a hard time walking away from a chance to pick on people, soooo…a lighthearted postscript!
I’ve learned April is excited about buying an ugly fanny pack (weirdo!), and that Josiah kinda goes crazy when a painting on the wall isn’t straight, and that George eats a ridiculous amount of snacks on road trips. I have yet to learn that Tiffany is capable of walking near a table without injuring herself.
And I’m still perfect. 😉
Thanks for reading our blog!! Y’all are awesome. 🙌🏼
These past several days have come with several blessings and challenges that need different types of processing, and I am grateful that I have friends in my team to help. We recently ministered at a camp for refugees and I have to admit I was very nervous and did not have confidence in what God was calling me to right away. On day one, all of the doubt and nervousness faded away because of what I saw and how Christ was already at work within the people whom we were serving. Our role was to engage the men in many types of ministry but especially to lead the Bible studies and this was my first time leading. Although I was worried that I would not know how to lead, I really felt God leading me and we had very meangingful Bible studies because God led the way. We all were able to learn from each other and it was very fun to watch them experience God’s presence in many ways. I am grateful for this because I have felt that God has put me in yet another leadership position where he has asked me to pick up the local Bible study at Barclay College for men known as “Iron Sharpening Iron.” This is my first time announcing it but my heart is in it because I know it is needed and I am honored to lead it and serve others. I am excited to see how God uses me to lead others.
Our time of helping at the camp sadly came to an end and I wish that we were able to stay because how they loved each other and had a heart for God, it was very contagious and an amazing experience. One reason in particular that I wanted to come on this trip and I also believe that God was in agreeable, it was because I had only ever heard negative things about those who in the Islamic faith and I was tired of hearing everyone’s opinions that I did not want to view this religion the way we were taught. Since I have served with my time to help the many Muslim refugees, my knowledge of Islamic belief has changed for the best. The people we have been blessed to serve are very nice, outgoing, loving, and curious not unlike the many in America. I hate stereotypes and the power that they hold that we feed. Sadly the small five percent of how both cultures go to the extreme define those stereotypes on both sides. I learned in the past several days as the refugees learned from us, those living in or are from the Middle-East are not bad, but are very good people just as several had known that Americans were bad, our service changed their thinking. This week we were blessed to see God destroy those barriers within our service and learn from each other. As we left, many shook our hands and hugged us and I pray that Christ would use them and their hunger for his presence in their service to others.
Yesterday we left Athens to venture out to see the many ancient cities of the Biblical history. So far we have seen Thessaloniki, Philipi, and a small village where Lidia served. To see these many places that once and still do have an enormous impact on the world and Christianity is so powerful to experience. To walk where the Apostle Paul walked and to see the many sights where he had ministered, it is very encouraging. Tomorrow we will be exploring Thessaloniki even more and later this week we will visit Corinth and see what God has done and what he is still doing there. I am so very thankful that God has brought me on this trip and how it is enhancing my faith and my walk with Christ even more, although in these powerful moments I have been stumbling sometimes in worth within the team and what God is asking me to learn and take away from this trip even more than I already have. Many feelings from my past before coming to Christ have made their way back into my life and I know that it is the enemy trying to hinder me and I am thankful that I have a team that cares about me and these issues that I have to work through. God has helped me grow so much in my time at Barclay and he is helping me even more now, but this walk is not meant for me to do alone and I think that is where he wants me to focus. Blessed are those who accept God’s love.
Thank you so much everyone who has been praying for me and our team, it has been a lifechanging experience and it cannot be undersold. I am very excited to see how God uses these moments here in Greece for my service later in life. I am so happy that I can rest in the Lord and when we get back rest will be surely needed but God gives us what this world cant, and that is faith, love, and perseverance. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Phillipians 4:13
God is working through us even when we dont see it, dont latch on to your former self and do not let your fears come to life, I believe fear comes when we do not focus on God’s presence and we feed our own fears which is what the Devil wants. Take it from me and what I have been dealing with this past week, that the pain in the past can forever haunt your future if you latch onto it. It is a doomed life that God does not want for us and if we seek him the pains of the past will lose their power over us and that is when God showed us our potential and it is wonderful feeling to be free of the pain of this world. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid and do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
We decide what drives us, or we can decide to trust who wants to lead us to greatness. . .
It’s hard to believe over two weeks have already past. It feels like only yesterday we were getting off the plane, wishing we were in bed, but now we are less than a week from leaving and heading home. I have this strange feeling that our time here has been incredible incomplete. Like there is so much more to be done, and yet we won’t see it. But looking back, I suppose we just need to be grateful for the time we have. Over the past two weeks, I have been challenged in ways I never would have suspected and blessed in ways I never could have imagined. And I have been blessed beyond belief this week. But I find that the greatest blessing I have found came from the place where struggle and blessing meet. And this week, I was blessed enough to witness just a glimpse of that place, and my heart was deeply touched.
This past week we’ve been working at a little camp that this past week was hosting a refugee family camp. The camp mostly consisted of refugee families that had come to know the Lord, but that was not everyone. While he wasn’t the only one who came alone, one man(who we’ll call “R” for the sake of confidentiality) had been alone for much longer. Unlike everyone else R was not a Christian. For thirty-eight years he had no one he could call family. For thirty-eight years hate filled his heart. For thirty-eight years he had not heard the sound of laughter and joy coming from a child. For thirty-eight years he had no hope, love, or happiness. He had only recent arrived in Athens and had no where to go, and yet somehow and someway, R was brought to this camp, and for the first time in thirty-eight years he felt love and joy in his heart. For the first time in thirty-eight he felt like he had a family. For the first time, he had hope. For the first time, R had Jesus. Or maybe Jesus had him. R didn’t know Jesus when he came to camp, but worked relentlessly in his heart over the course of those five days and I believe in all my heart that he has left knowing Him a little better and that God is only beginning to work in R’s life.
So what do we say then? How do we process so much brokenness and so much grace? I’m not sure we can, at least I can’t. My words are too weak, too feeble, to even begin to approach the vastness of those things. People may even be able to write books upon books and fail to capture the hurt and joy that comes from life and from knowing Christ. I know this: we are all of us broken and worn. We are in desperate need of Christ. And this past week I have met people who have found that hope for the first time, the same hope I’ve taken for granted for so many years, and to see them all finding fullness in Christ when everything in their lives has fallen to pieces, gives my heart much joy. I think I will remember many things from this trip, but what I think I will remember most is people like R. People who are so hurt and broken and yet are overflowing with the joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as their savior. It is a joy that stands above all understanding and that warms the hearts of all who come into contact with it.