Thursday, May 7, 2015

It’s Thursday afternoon here. I’ve just finished three hours of teaching, or should I say, leading the group in a robust exploration of Luke 15:11-32—the Story of the Prodigal Sons. They have gathered in small groups to study this passage in depth. Paul and I have also used Rembrandt’s famous painting, “The Return of the Prodigal” to engage their imagination! What a fascinating week it has been with these Iranian men and women. This group has been wrestling with Scripture unlike any other group I’ve ever been a part of. Their questions are penetrating, their observations are riveting, and their applications have been heart-warming.

Each day Paul and I have rotated teaching in the morning and afternoon sessions with the Iranians, while Terry and Lisa have worked with the innumerable refugees who show up each day (some are Afghans, some are Syrian, all with hard stories to tell). In addition, Lisa has been carrying an extensive counseling load each day (sometimes as many as 7 back-to-back one-hour sessions). While she is counseling individuals, Terry has been teaching, talking one-on-one, and even leading a children’s session (are any of us surprised?). If our pace seems full, it’s because it is! But we rejoice that God is using all of us according to our gifts and in a variety of ways. We’re tired, but it’s a good kind of tired!

Yesterday we took the afternoon off to explore the city. We toured the Acropolis and visited the famous Parthenon. We viewed the “agora” and stood on Mars Hill, where according to Acts 17, the Apostle Paul explained the Gospel and debated the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. What an amazing experience! I tried to do my best imitation of Paul preaching atop the hill, but was completely unconvincing!

Our hosts, Dave and Jane, kindly took us to a very quaint Greek restaurant in the Plaka district of Athens. Narrow streets dotted with sidewalk cafes and young, hip urbanites enjoying a bustling nightlife. There is little evidence the Greek economy is near collapse! By the way, everything we learned in the movie, “My Great Big, Fat Greek Wedding” is true—Greeks love to eat. The cuisine is quite tasty and delicious!

Later tonight, Paul and I have been invited to officiate a renewal of marriage vows. Some years ago a couple here were married as Muslims, got converted to Jesus and now want their marriage renewed as followers of Christ. How cool is that? They now live as part of the Iranian community in Italy and we’ve decided to sing Italian songs, read Scripture, have them renew their vows, and then throw a party! I can hardly believe I get to do things like this

Tomorrow morning we will gather the Iranian believers and those working with the refugee teams to share the Lord’s Supper. Please pray for these final hours with these dear men and women. We’ve only begun to hear the remarkable stories of faith and courage, along with the pain and suffering of many. We are grateful, humbled and deeply aware of the importance of these days together.