Backpacking with Bill: Athens
Our final day in Europe has taken us to Athens, the capital of Greece. We traced Paul’s path on his second missionary journey across Greece and the Aegean Sea. We visited the city of Ephesus and the island of Patmos where John the apostle’s ministry followed Paul’s 35 years later. Today in Athens, we climbed Mars Hill, site of Paul’s speech to Greek philosophers and visited the Acropolis, site of the Parthenon and temple to Athena/Nike.
We stopped by PORTA, a ministry to Albanian migrants in Greece and a great example of a “Macedonian ministry” today. Bob and Janice Newell, former Cooperative Baptist Fellowship missionaries in Greece, equipped and trained Albanians to bear witness to the one million Albanians in Greece. Today, Vledi and Blerina Mile teach English to Albanians, provide seminars and computer training for the locals, and have planted an Albanian church in the area.
We’ve had a wonderful trip, and the “unhindered gospel” of Acts means more to me today than ever before. Only the power of the resurrection and the leadership of the Spirit could compel persons to travel this distance. The Spirit opened doors in small, surprising ways in thriving metropolitan communities and across islands separated by miles of ocean. No single person could have ever possibly dreamed up this route. Through the power of the risen Christ, the gospel spread. God used people like Priscilla, Paul, Aquila, Timothy, Phoebe, John, Jason, and many more to be his agents.
They faced daunting tasks by even modern standards. Their temples and arenas on an ancient scale rivaled modern day sports and entertainment venues. But despite the money, influence, and power in these places, small clusters of 50-60 people converted, believed, followed, and gave. This excursion was not just a missionary journey of one apostle and a pastor in Ephesus. This was a travel adventure of God’s work that’s still alive today.
In Athens 2,000 years ago, the resurrection puzzled and disrupted the lives of philosophers. Acts records the names of only two converts. Today, this place is in the middle of a changing Greek world. The gospel is still being sown by people like Vledi and Blerina. The adventure continues.