Kavala was originally called Neapolis in New Testament Times. The port in Neapolis is where Paul came through, and was the first place that the gospel came through to the western culture. While walking around the city, we saw an old church, with a plaque engraved with the passage from Acts 16:9-12
“In Troas, a vision appeared to Paul, in the night; there stood a man from Macedonia and prayed him saying, come over to Macedonia, and help us. After he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia assuredly gathering that the Lord has called us for us to preach the gospel into them. Therefore, loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia and the next day to Neapolis: and from thence to Philippi which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia.”
While in Kavala, we met with the evangelical church there; I was so encouraged and blessed to see how joyful they were, in spite of the circumstances that they go through.
Being an evangelical Christian in Greece is very tough, they had told us that they are alone as evangelical Christians, and that they’re called heretics, simply because they are not part of the Greek Orthodox Church.
I was very blessed by their joy! I really learned a lot, seeing the Bible come to life, walking where Paul had walked, being blessed and encouraged by the faith of the believers we met here! Getting to pray altogether, even though I could not understand them, we were all united and in agreement, in Christ Jesus!
On January 9th, we arose bright and early, in Thessaloniki, to head out for a day of exploration and learning in Berea, followed by a visit to King Phillip II tomb, and concluding with a couple hours at a refugee care center.
In Berea, we explored the old Jewish quarters of the city, which have now largely been converted to small hotels due to their charming character. However, many of the guests who stay in these hotels probably have no idea about the ancient history. In ancient times, the Jews were all confined to one area just outside of the city. They chose to stay outside of the city in an effort to avoid the pagan religion that had taken over the main city. However as these Jews became more secularized, they moved back into the city where it was safer from oncoming enemies. After our tour in Berea we went to visit the ancient tomb of King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. Here we saw the many treasures of the King that were buried with him in an effort to make his journey to the next life more enjoyable. At this point I couldn’t help but think about how sad it is that at that time they did not have the hope of heaven. Instead of looking forward to the glorious treasures and eternal life of heaven, they attempted to use earthly treasures as a substitute for that glory. Matthew 6:20-21 speaks of the importance of storing up treasure in heaven, “…for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart also be.”
After this, we went back to Thessaloniki to a refugee care center where we spent two hours visiting, encouraging, and fellow shipping with the refugees there. I, along with several other members of the team, spent the whole time in the children’s room. Initially the kids were apprehensive and shy with all the new visitors, but with a little bit of time they became our best friends. Three of the children spoke English very well and enjoyed teaching us how to count and play games in Kurdish, their native tongue. Even though we could not communicate perfectly, we had such a fun time filled with laughter as we attempted to pick up their language. All of the children were so full of life, joy, and laughter even though they had experienced more than I can ever imagine. After our time at the care center I spoke with Lauren, a member of our team, who explained the oldest girl we had played with recently went through heart surgery and was in desperate need of medical attention and medication. I never would have been able to guess that this joyful eleven year old was dealing with such a traumatic health scare. Her contagious smile and joy through that pain is incredibly humbling. When we said goodbye, the kids responded with a chorus of little voices saying “I love you!” to all of us. As silly as it may sound, the hugs they gave me were the best hugs I’ve ever received. Those hugs held so much genuine love and as they walked out the door, I knew a piece of my heart was leaving with them. It is mind blowing that these precious children could leave such a strong imprint on my heart after spending only a tiny amount of time with them.
The stories I heard from other team member about the horrors these families have endured is heartbreaking. Many of them left because of the constant bombings and others because of the increasingly frequent kidnappings that made it impossible to even send children to school. These are situations we, as Americans, will never have to experience. And yet we take the safety and security for granted so often. Please pray for all of the refugees as they sojourn towards a new, unknown home. A geographic location may provide earthly security, but even more than that is the importance of eternal security. Please pray that as they seek safety they would find even more than that; that they would find Jesus and place their hope in Him.