Yes, the title of this post is a lame joke, I know. But if you know me at all then you know lame jokes are my specialty and you should expect nothing less. I hate to disappoint! Surprisingly though, in the week and a half I recently spent in Greece with my fellow Americans, that joke was only made once in my presence. I thought it would be a daily occurrence.
The first five days in Greece were spent at a conference on Evia Island. I kind of forgot about pictures until the last morning, so all I have are a few shots at the hotel where I stayed.
Now that you’ve seen a little of the hotel, let me tell you about the conference itself. One word – amazing. They flew in a pastor from the States who taught the Word of God with incredible clarity and passion. I think every sermon he preached cut to the core of my being and I absolutely ate it up. I walked away refreshed, convicted, encouraged, challenged, and worshiping my Lord.
It was also a tremendous blessing to be a part of corporate worship through song… one of the things I’ve missed most since being here. It was funny, though, to realize how even that is different for me now. I loved, loved, loved it! But I’ve also learned that it’s not about how you sing, or what songs you sing, how many instruments are there, or how many people are singing with you, or if you’re even singing at all. It’s about worshiping and praising the King of Kings because He is worthy. All I need for that is me and Him.
I won’t lie, there were also some awkward moments at the conference as well. I’ve told a few of my friends that it often felt a lot like being a high school freshman again. You know a few people, but not very many. You’re the newbie again. And at mealtime you’re looking around the cafeteria hoping someone will graciously let you sit with them. Haha! We also had a basketball tournament (which was a blast), but I thought for sure that with over 1000 people at the conference there would be more than one girl playing. I thought wrong. But I managed to get a couple of points and not make a total fool out of myself so I count it a success. It’s the little things in life.
Overall, I would say the conference was a huge success and a beautiful time for me and my colleagues. I am extremely grateful for all of the leadership and planning that went into making it possible. I’m sure it was probably an administrative nightmare, but they got the job done! I’m also grateful for the hotel staffs (we were spread out over 3 or 4 different hotels) who fed us, cleaned up after us, and helped us in so many more ways than that. And, then there were the volunteers from the States who gave up vacation days, time with family, the money for travel expenses, etc. etc. etc. to come serve us. Wow! There were over 100 volunteers just helping take care of the kids! Then there was the praise band, the speaker, people helping with member care, and our medical team (I am still TB free and found out my expired prescription won’t kill me – woot woot!). It really was amazing seeing the body of Christ come together to love and serve and encourage one another.
But as most things in this life go, the conference had to come to an end and most of us said our goodbyes – it was weird knowing that there is a good chance I will never see many of those people again this side of eternity. But fortunately, some of my friends and I kept the good times rolling and headed into Athens for a vacation!
After that, Nick and I said farewell to some of our friends and went to meet up with some other friends. We walked around and saw the Changing of the Guard at their Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (it was weird, but kind of cool) and the old Olympic stadium from the 1800s.
We left Mars Hill and had a great dinner, some delicious ice cream, and then headed back to our rooms to call it a night. The next morning we woke up early and met back up with our friends – and a couple more joined us as well!
We had decided before we got there that we would rent 4-wheelers or mopeds to get around the island, but upon arrival we learned that there were no 4-wheelers for rent and that you had to have a motorcycle license to rent a moped. This left us with two options – walking or regular bicycles. For those of you who are unaware, I cannot ride a bike. I rode all the time as a child then didn’t ride for a few years and when I tried again I couldn’t ride to save my life. (So, yes, I hate the saying, “It’s just like riding a bike!”)
The magic moment came when the man told us he had a tandem bike. *Cue light beams from Heaven and angels singing in the background.* We still got off to a rocky start, but by the end of the day I was starting to pick up on some things and we were quite the team… granted, he probably wanted to die by the time we turned our bikes back in that evening.
I didn’t know we would be going to an island so I had sent my swimsuit home with my supervisors. So… I swam in my denim capris and tank top. Not something I would ever intentionally plan on doing, but I don’t regret it. The cool water was a wonderfully refreshing escape from the heat of the sun, and I got to have some fun times with friends.
Our waiter was from Scotland, but he made the comment that the island was his home now because he had made a conscious decision to live there. That comment has really stuck with me and made me evaluate what “home” means to me. I still consider Oklahoma, America to be home. I consider Prilep, Macedonia to be home. But really and truly, my home is not on this earth. My home is in Heaven with my Savior, my King.
After lunch we rode around and found some pretty sweet places off the beaten path.
My pants were just starting to dry out, so I opted to stay out of the water and hang out under a beach umbrella.
One of my friends mentioned a couple of times while we were there how fun it would be to just up and move to a Greek island and live there. He followed that statement once with, “But my call to the gospel and my burden for the lost is too great. I couldn’t just give that up to be a waiter by the sea.” (Or something to that effect.) This sparked a whole new conversation among us about how the greatest life any of us could ever dream of having is one in which we are being obedient to the calling the Lord has placed on our lives. For those of us in that group, that means not living in America or on a Greek island right now. Could God call any or all of us to either of those places in the future? Sure. But right now we are called elsewhere to share His love and truth with those we meet.
That conversation was a fitting way to end our day on the island. We turned our bikes back in, grabbed some drinks, and waited for our ferry to arrive. Back on the main land we walked around a bit, ate dinner, and headed back to our rooms to rest up for our final day.
We met the next morning and headed to the Acropolis.
After the Acropolis, we visited the Acropolis Museum.
After the museum we walked around a little more.
While we were up there we read Luke’s telling of Paul’s visit to the same location nearly 2000 years ago (Acts 17). Then we spent some time in prayer together. That is a moment in time that I will cherish forever, and coupled with the ice cream and fellowship that followed, it was the perfect way to end our big fat Greek vacay.
Both the conference and my vacation were full of beautiful moments with brothers and sisters who love the Lord and earnestly desire to see Him glorified all over this world. It was like a wonderful, heavy rain for my heart – the kind of rain that refreshes. The kind that makes you want to twirl your umbrella, jump in puddles, swing from light posts, sing at the top of your lungs, and dance without a care in the world. I love falling more and more in love with the body of Christ.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
~ Hebrews 12:1-2 ~