January 16, 2017
The final day. It seems so strange to be at the end of the trip. Less than 2 weeks ago everything was so fresh and new. It simultaneously feels like we have been here for a very long time and that we just got here. While the weather hasn’t worked in our favor most of the trip, today, God blessed us with beautiful blue skies.
We started off our journey today with a bus ride south of Athens to the ancient city of Corinth. Before going to Corinth, you need to cross the Isthmus of Corinth. If you know the geography of Greece, the Greek Peninsula comes to point with the Gulf of Corinth and the Aegean Sea begin only about 4 miles apart. We stopped there to see a canal built in the late 19th century to get ships around Greece faster. Even though this canal is only a little over 100 years old, even the ancient Romans wanted to build something to get boats around faster. First they built a road in order to carry ships over land, and Nero eventually tried to build a canal to no avail.
January 15, 2017
Today was our second day in the beautiful city of Athens and what a beautiful day it was. The sun was shining and it was warm enough to go without a jacket for part of the day.
Yesterday we got a view of the Athens from atop the acropolis where we got a look at the Parthenon, several temples, and the Areopagus (Mars Hill). Today we started off by first exploring the agora. This is the open space which would have served as a marketplace. Over time so many ceremonial buildings and monuments would have taken over this space that a second–more commercial agora–was built. Both of these are in the shadow of the Parthenon.
January 14, 2017
This morning I had to admit that my belt was to tight. I took a deep breath and loosened it. Eating has been so delightful in the last ten days that despite all the steps that I have taken, I am gaining weight.
Early in the morning we set out for the city of Athens, the capital city of Greece.
When we were on the highway, Dr. Weima gave a lecture based on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12. He pointed out to us how Paul became like an infant, a nursing mother, and a father to the Christians in Thessalonica, who questioned Paul’s integrity. He urged many of us who were pastor-wanna-be’s to be like Paul: innocent like an infant, caring like a nursing mother, and authoritative in a loving way like a father. This made me think of how God also came to us as an infant, and became to us like a nursing mother, and a father. He calls all of us to go and do likewise.
January 13, 2017
Although Paul had to leave Thessaloniki under cover of darkness and threats from the ruling authorities, our group was able to leave on a much more positive note. This was our second consecutive day of sunshine and blue skies as we traveled anticipating out of the way cities, treasures, and the monasteries in the sky.
Our first stop was Berea (a city to which Paul traveled after sneaking out of Thessaloniki) where we heard about the noble Jewish Bereans and their testing of Paul’s message. We were also able to see an old Jewish synagogue (perhaps the one Paul preached at) and make a brief stop to share a hymn in a small Pentecostal church.
January 12, 2017
The day started off with a couple of unexpected surprises. The first was the weather. After a few days of not the best weather, the sun was shining and the snow started the early stages of melting. That made for a much lively group as we were able to get off the bus and makes some much needed stops. The other was running into a bus full of Calvin College students at a rest area. A few of us were even able to catch up with people that we know.
January 11, 2017
“..I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation..”
Today I was supposed to blog about Acts 16: the Philippian jailer. However in the last 48 hours Turkey and Greece have both dumped record amounts of snow. Due to this Midwest-like weather that we had all hoped to briefly escape, we haven’t been able to travel as expected. Some sights are postponed, others delayed indefinitely, all while our Greek tour-guide is stranded in the Athens airport, away from us, due to the snow. Needless to say, the trip has not gone as planned.
In the lives of Jesus and Paul, whenever things are seemingly wrong and terrible, God is fashioning something beautiful, furthering His kingdom through it. I hope in all circumstances, this is enough to keep us content.
January 10, 2017
Our day started off with the pleasant surprise of bacon during breakfast. In all of our previous hotels, there was a full breakfast buffet but no bacon to be found. Instead, we were greeted with hot dog chunks that were presented as “breakfast sausages”. So you can imagine my excitement when there was a stack of bacon waiting for me at the restaurant. Professor Weima reminded me that “too much of a good thing is not a good thing.” Although this may be true for most things in life, I don’t think this applies to bacon. I guess we can agree to disagree.
January 9, 2017
If you had any preconceived idea that ancient peoples were primitive and unsophisticated, you must immediately set aside those notions! The last two days we visited one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Lost Temple of Artemins in Ephesus (which unfortunately is now mostly rubble). Then today, we visited the Temple of Apollo at Didyma, which is the fourth largest marble structure in the world! It is unbelievable that people without cranes or air-tools could have made such massive structures!
January 8, 2017
Cold! Today was really cold! I never expected Turkey to be this cold!
After a sweet rest in our hotel with an amazing view, we started our journey to Ephesus. Ephesus was about only 20 minutes away from our hotel. We left our hotel at 8am and it was freezing. When we arrived in Ephesus around 8:25, it was still freezing. When we arrived in Ephesus, we were amazed by two things. First, there were literally ‘no one’ in the very famous historic tourist spot and second, it was really cold. It was -3 degrees Celsius with strong wind. We tried to keep ourselves as warm as possible and started our tour. But cold couldn’t stop us from learning! And it was so great to have no people around except just us!
January 7, 2017
It’s hard to imagine it’s only the third day of visiting sites! We’ve seen so many different things, and every day someone says “surely it can’t get better than this!” then Dr. Weima brings us somewhere new that proceeds to blow our minds.
Today’s class portion took place at the Turkish crack of dawn: 8:00am. We were hot out of the gates as we learned about the message sent to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 2 and 3, offering a cornucopia of insight into our visit to that city yesterday.
January 6, 2017
It’s hard to believe we’ve only really been at this four two days. We’ve already seen so much and been bowled over so many times by the sights we’ve seen.
This morning we left Antalya and drove all morning through the Taurus mountains. This was a phenomenal drive. We wound through the mountains, higher and higher, until eventually we were in a snowy winter-wonderland dotted by villages and forests. Some of us remarked on how this shifted our perception of Paul’s world. Paul would have had to cross those mountains at some point in his journeys, and while he likely didn’t go during winter, Roman citizens would have experienced snow. This was something many of us (who imagine all Romans as wearing sandals and togas) had never considered!
January 5, 2017
After leaving Antalya in the morning we traveled to the first site called Perge. You may know this as being the place where Paul and Barnabus went their separate ways. The city full of ancient columns and walkways that have been there for over 2000 years. Knowing that Paul probably walked to same streets was awesome.
Then we went to the best preserved ancient amphitheater in Aspendos which still hold concerts today. I have a fitness tracker and it told me from the bottom to the top is 7 flights of stairs. And 7 flights of wet marble stairs can be a bit concerning, but that is all the danger we have faced.