Last week Deb and I went, without kids, to Greece for a week vacation. Bronwyn and Brent watched the crew while we slept, ate, walked, talked, and repeated 7 times!
Besides the rest and gorgeous weather, a highlight was visiting some ancient ruins. One was on the island of Delos. Click here if you are interested in history – this tiny island was home to a bustling port of 30k, 10k of which were slaves +2,500yrs ago. What makes it so unique, as a world heritage official site, is the preservation of streets, market places, statues, amphitheater – sitting in the middle of the Aegean Sea it literally sat, for a 1000yrs unspoiled.
The birthplace of Apollo & Athena, a polytheistic and multicultural melting pot that even included one of the oldest remaining Jewish synogogues as well, predating Christ by 300-400yrs.
History was a major theme during our time away. I grew up in Canada, went to school in the US – our ideas of history date back a whopping 200yrs.
To visit places of antiquity, take in the immovable scenery, touch the same stones – connects you in ways textbooks can’t.
There are over 500 Greek Islands. Many make it their summer destination each year and visit new ones. It was incredibly windy, the entire time – Ukrainians would have a fit trying to stay away from the breeze 😉
On the way home we had a 3hr layover in Athens. We wanted to try and at least see the city center, namely the Acroppolis, even if it meant driving past – but the airline workers and most of which I read online said, “minimum 5hrs needed.” Athens is about 40min by car from the airport, so we decided to grab a taxi and go for it.
We are so glad we did! God provided, and I don’t say this lightly, a young man named Anatoli (Tony) who was excited to try and make it happen for us. He lived only blocks from the Parthenon, and knew the city like the back of his hand.
Thankfully it was nighttime, the streets were mostly cleared but for scores of tourists wandering about Athens. Our first stop was the most moving for me.
Tony drove around the tiny streets, up over and around some blockades I’m fairly certain were to keep cars out – until he stopped about 3 meters from a massive rock jettisoning out of the ground. He said, “Get out. Paul here.” I excitedly jumped out and noticed the engraved speech from Paul (Acts 17) on his visit to Athens.
For 5000yrs, this collection of massive rocks became the place of gathering, of worship and ideas. What hit me immediately was the myriad of young people, possibly 100’s (it was dark) gathered on this particular historic rock. It continues to draw, like a magnet. Paul chose this place to lay down the gauntlet of Jesus Christ, the Monotheistic God who has come to destroy sin on His back and set searching hearts free.
You see, what blows my mind and strengthens my faith as we consider in particular the Roman and Greek history – is that what stood for centuries in columns of immovable and impressive cement fixtures – was rendered irrelevant and unnecessary by Christ and His disciples in one lifetime. The Gospel’s power grabbed hold of civilizations arm and swung it into light – nations were transformed. Looking backward, we see the mission of God – the plight of man, the grappling in ignorance, then, in an instant, the coming of the Son. When Jesus comes, in His authority and salvation, change happens!
We are His triumph, the surrendered people of God. We are marching still, through history. We posses the same power to persuade the heart of men in the Gospel. We have the power to transform cultures and destroy all that speculates against the Truth of Jesus Christ. I came back energized by the Gospel through it’s power displayed before my eyes.
This is our hearts desire for Ukraine. We’re not building massive temples or statues, but vehicles where the love of God can be experienced. Vehicles like a Cafe, or park. This is not easy, for there’s a battle and the hearts of men are so easily focused on the wrong things. Every nation wants to be great, wants to be ‘free’. Without Christ, we are an enslaved people. No amount of flags, no amount of national pride or independence will free us from our greatest enemy – sin. In the words of Erasmus of Rotterdam: “Flee to His wounds and you will be safe.”
We have lots to do. The park is still in full swing – the halfpipe has been completed and is amazing! Shane, Josh and Nazar did an incredible job – this was from scratch folks, no pre-made kit. We now need to quickly get some safety gear as kids are already starting to use it and if you know skateboarding, it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt. What have we built!? 🙂
I do think we need to consider a campaign to raise $ for equipment and some boards to sign out, especially for the young kids. We have gone over budget on the park unsurprisingly but can’t afford to just open without some thoughtful rules and requirements. It’s going to be a huge draw and meeting place. Our own Acropolis!
Besides the park, we are getting our kids ready for school like everyone else. The starting of the school year in Ukraine is a bit like a series of false starts at an Olympic Race (By the way we saw the first olympic stadium too!). It sort of starts, then is stops, you give some gifts to teachers, starts again, need documents… oh and the search for the official uniform each year because your boys grow too many inches.
We have students returning this week as well, some already texting and excited to visit – I’ve missed many of the young boys God has surrounded us with. The girls were able to do internships this summer and all of them grew in their faith – we are praising God for this and now plan to encourage further growth through some leadership opportunities. Pray for us, for them!
Ok time for work, vacation is over. Oh by the way really enjoying the audio book “Bonhoeffer” if you also enjoy history. On Thursday I’m taking Bronwyn to Germany for school, have rented a car and hope to visit Wittenberg as well as Herrnhut. Reformation and Moravians, it’s history month!
Bruce & Deb