"Men of Athens..." (Acts 17:22)
We are starting our third full day in Athens. Life has been a whirlwind and it has been a little hard to sit down and write. We survived our trip across the Atlantic and things generally went pretty well. Our apartment has been a real blessing. It is located in a seemingly safe area which is fairly "touristy". That means that most of the shops have English speakers and we tend to not stand out as much as foreigners. It also means that there is a fairly visible police presence, which is a comfort for us. We are also very close to a subway stop and have only 3 stops (about a 10 min ride) to get to the church where we are serving. By contrast the location of the church is in a much rougher area and we would not likely feel as safe there after dark. We have been to the church each of the last two days and I am going again (by myself) to teach one-on-one language classes. We'll write more about the refugee ministry later, but for now I will just say that it is going quite well and has been very encouraging.
Let me tell you a little bit more about our apartment and neighborhood. We are about 2 blocks away from the Acropolis and have a great view of that historic section of the city from a rough top deck of our apartment building. (Above is a picture of me and Stella celebrating the Penguins victory.) On Monday night we did family devotions on the roof top and I read from Acts chapter 17 and Paul's address to the Areopagus. The Areopagus is a section of the larger Acropolis and it was a place for regular philosophical discussion in ancient Athens. The entire acropolis is a section of the ancient city which was located on top of a large rocky outcropping. It made for a great defensive position and was a fortified stronghold that the Athenians could retreat to in times of trouble. It was the home to the temple to Athena which was (as the name says) a very important goddess for the Ancient Athenians.
Reading Paul's address to the Athenians while the Acropolis was in sight was a pretty powerful experience for me. I have been blessed to travel a fair amount in my life, but this is the first time that I know for sure that I was in the same location as a biblical character. I can say, for sure, that Paul walked these same streets. Perhaps sat on some of the same stones. It is one way that the biblical stories come to life.
But there are other ways that stories are coming to life. Many groups of people that had previously existed for me as vague characters in the events of our modern world have also become more personal. We have spent the last two days eating lunch with refugees from Afghanistan, Palestine and Syria. We will need to write much more about that, but for now my simple observation is that it is always a powerful experience to meet - in person - the people that you had only read about. Suddenly the refugee crisis becomes more real and personal. Real people with stories and hopes and dream. Real experiences of suffering and loss.
We are thankful to be hear and ask for your continued prayers to make Christ known in a hurting place.
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Matt Koerber is the senior pastor at City Reformed Presbyterian church. This is his personal blog that he also asks guest writers to participate on.