I meant to post yesterday about our trip into Athens because it was such a full day, but by the time bedtime rolled around I was exhausted. I’ll split this post into two headings to make it easier.
Greece gets better with each minute we spend here. From the local bakeries to the beautiful sights, I just feel like I can’t take it all in. I can’t get over how blessed I am for this opportunity.
Friday, June 12
Friday was the busiest day of the trip so far. We started the day early with our traditional breakfast – cereal, bagels, and Greek coffee. I love the coffee here!
After breakfast we were shuttled to the heart of Athens. As we were making our way into the city, we could see for miles as the city stretched across the land and then into the sea. The white buildings against the green and rocky mountains made for a great landscape! Something that is interesting in Greece: people use solar panels a lot, and they have these shiny silver canisters that serve some purpose to the panels on their roofs, so when you look across the town all you see it bright shining silver lights reflecting back at you. Pretty neat!
I was amazed at how intense the city was. I don’t think it can compare to anything in the States. Greece has very few traffic regulations, too, so people are mad men on the road!
Our first stop was to the acropolis, which in Greek translates to “high city,” or high point in the city. There are several acropolises throughout the city, but this is the most visited and most popular one due to the fact that it houses the Parthenon.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Parthenon, it is a Greek temple that housed a statue of the Greek goddess Athena – the goddess of wisdom. The temple was used for worship and later a mosque after a Muslim overtaking of the area. Today it stands, in bits and pieces, serving as a tourist attraction. It’s crazy for me to think that a structure like the Parthenon was completed without modern technology and is still partially standing today. Modern day technology can barely keep a building standing for 200 years!
The Parthenon was incredible, and it offered beautiful views of the city. But what was the most impactful of the trip so far was coming next, and I didn’t realize it would impact me as much as it did.
After we came down from the Parthenon, we wandered over to Mars Hill. Mars Hill is another small hill area, mainly rocky, in downtown Athens. It’s impactful, though, because many great philosophers, poets, and thinkers gave speeches from that spot – including the Apostle Paul.
Thursday, our class time was spent studying Acts 17, a passage in which Paul visits the city of Athens and explains to the people the disasters in worshipping so many gods and goddess of this world. Paul’s sermon to these people began the spread of Christianity throughout Athens and into other parts of Greece.
Getting to stand on Mars Hill where Paul stood was indescribable. I can’t even begin to explain how humbling and inspiring it was. As we stood in awe, we began to sing “We Shall Assemble on the Mountain.” I just get chills thinking about it right now. After the singing, one of our professors read the actual speech Paul gave. Gosh, it was incredible. I could write all day about it.
A museum stop was next on our agenda, followed by lunch at an incredible gyro restaurant downtown.
After another museum stop, we headed back to campus for a recap and dinner.
Friday was an incredible day – incredibly exhausting and incredibly inspiring. The fact that I got to stand where Paul did blows my mind. The fact that I stood where Christianity started in Greece is just unbelievable. That’s what this trip is all about.
Saturday, June 13
Saturday was a much needed chill day at campus. We started the day with breakfast, then chapel, and a class and a quiz. The classes have been really interesting so far.
One of the things I love most about this trip is the intelligence of everyone here. Our class discussions are incredible because of all of the great minds and thoughts being shared. I feel as if I am elevated to a whole other level when I’m with these people, and I love that.
We were joined by Dmitri today, our cook’s son. He is going to Harding in the fall, too, so it’s great to get to know him and for him to get to know us before he heads across the world for college.
We concluded the day with a breath-taking sight. We were chartered to Sounio, a place that houses the temple of Poseidon. The temple was great and cool, but the views topped it all off. They say that this is one of the prettiest – if not the prettiest – place to visit in Greece. We arrived right before sunset, so it was a picturesque opportunity.
We returned to campus and had a late dinner, followed by a lowering of the disco ball – and the lights. We jammed to some classic American music because we’re not afraid to admit that we do miss our home country a little bit.
Now I sit here, exhausted, but overwhelmingly thankful and blessed, writing this blog post.
The family and community that has been created in the past several days is nothing short of a blessing from God. We’re growing together, discovering what makes each other laugh and cry, and learning how to grow in our faith together, too.
I’d like to close with a little short story.
On the bus ride home tonight, I was talking with a girl from Columbia, TN – Courtney. We were talking about the moment we left our families at the airport and how it was so full of mixed emotions. She said as she topped the escalator and made her way into security, she couldn’t be strong any longer. She broke into tears, not because she was sad or happy, but just because she would be leaving the family she loves for over 2 weeks and because this is a bit of a scary undertaking. She said that as she made her way through the line, a man and lady stopped her to ask if she was okay. She said yes, that she was just a little overwhelmed because of the circumstances. Upon telling the two other travelers that she was traveling to Athens and staying in Porto Rafti, the man quickly asked, “Wait, where do you go to college?” She replied, “Harding.” With excitement and awe, the man said, “Don’t worry, you’ll have the time of your life. I went to the HUG (Harding University in Greece) program in the Spring of 2003, and I had the time of my life.” Later on, Courtney sat next to a nice Greek lady named Athena on the plane. Athena was lovely and talked Courtney’s ear off the entire plane ride, but eased her fears and doubts. As Courtney reflected on that man in the airport and on Athena, she knew the two were nothing short of a blessing sent from God.
And I think that’s what this entire trip is – a blessing from God. Courtney’s encounters set the stage for the blessing we have and are going to receive throughout this trip. I just loved that story, and it’s proof that there is a God that loves, comforts, and guides us, even when we’re uncertain.
Tomorrow we’re heading back into downtown Athens for a free day of shopping and eating, which I am definitely looking forward to.
Pray for safe travels and open hearts and minds to what we’re learning and to what God is doing in our lives.
Until next time, keep smiling.