March 30, 2013

project thessalonica: what we learned, part 1

I finally have a chance to sit down and finish writing about Project Thessalonica.
There isn't much left to tell. Just a few random things, and then some stuff our group learned while over there.

The few things:
1. I loved the new friends we made. Angelo, the Logans, and Kayode. And I love how being a part of God's family means that you can go across the world and stay with people you've never met before, and be at home. God's family has bond. I hated to leave.
2. I really miss Greek food. It's the only food I want to eat now. Top Ramen just doesn't compare. I could really do with some of that fried cheese right about now.
3. Tim and Karen, Dan and Brandi came home a week before Rachel and I, and it took them 58 hrs. And their luggage was delayed for almost a week. Holy smokes.
4. Rachel and I went to Rome for a week after being in Greece. It was spectacular. I'll write about that later.
5. It looks like they've found someone to take over the work in Thessaloniki when the Logans and Angelo leave! Praise God!
6. You have to read this: March 22. Oh my word. I wouldn't have been laughing like I was the day everyone got taken. I would've been furious. And probably crying. Poor Angelo. But I'm so glad about the people who were able to hear the Gospel past all the chaos!
7. It was hard to write about Project Thessalonica without Bro. Lowell being here. He was such a part of it. We had his memorial service last week. I'm so glad they waited for Rachel and I to get back from Italy before having it. Thank you for that, Toni. It meant so much to us to be able to be there. What a privilege to have known such a praying man.
8. I loved Greece, really, really loved it, and was only disappointed in one thing: the unfriendliness of the people. I guess I've just taken American friendliness for granted. I don't think I've ever even realized just how friendly we are until I went for two weeks without it. And when we reached Italy and some random stranger smiled at me (the people in Italy were way more friendly), I nearly cried. A friendly! I wanted to follow that person home and hang out. But other than that, Greece was amazing, and I want to go back.

What we learned, part 1:
I asked everyone what they learned on this mission's trip. Didn't matter how simple a thing it was, I just wanted to hear what they learned and noticed.
I took notes. Here they are.

Tim: There's no easy mission field. The harvest truly is great- huge. Laborers are few. Time is shorter. Must pray more. Must plant and water. Opposition is fierce.

Karen: I love Rachel's laugh. I never noticed her laugh before. Dan serves Brandi. I like watching him do things for her because he loves her. 

Greece is a lot bigger than I expected, and there are way more people than I thought there would be. The people sit down and talk face to face a lot, like at the coffee shops and restaurants. You don't see that as much in America. 
We ate a lot of good food. Wow. The food! 
Angelo loves the Lord a lot and he's really crazy. You could see how much he loves God. 
It's easier to pass out tracts to people when I don't know what they're saying back to me. 
Another thing I learned, was how the missionary wife seems so in the background, but makes such a huge sacrifice for her husband to do the ministry. Mrs. Logan gave up her husband almost every day just for us. If you see a need to fulfill, go and do it. That's what Angelo did. He's not "called" to Greece but he saw a need and said "Lord, I'll go." And he went. 
Foreign mission's trips are a huge eye opener when it comes to getting down to the day to day hard work of sowing. It really broke my heart to see all those tracts on the ground and in the garbage. But since I've been home, I've been thinking of the seeds that fall on stony ground. The people of Greece seem so stony and hardened by the Orthodox Church. Kinda like the tracts on the ground were a picture of their lives rejecting God's word. I want to pass out tracts more, and am praying for God to make my heart burn to witness. And to teach my girls to witness by my example. But I want it to be most of all because I love God. Not a duty. 

Me: The last several months, I've felt like there was some struggle going on between me and God, and I haven't been able to quite put my finger on the cause. I asked God about it.
What? Is it my frizzy hair? Do I need to shower? Is it the past that gets lugged around in big Samsonite suitcases? Is it because I'm always complaining about being skinny and cold? Do I need to be more active in church? Am I lazy?
Probably if I had just shut up and given God a chance to get a word in edgewise, He would've cleared things up a lot faster. But God keeps a small voice and I'm really loud when I'm complaining.
Anyway, I ever so slowly hit upon a thing that I figured was the root of my struggle. I'm severely lacking when it comes to witnessing. And I would watch other people who witness, those people who just talk about God and salvation in all their conversation, and it seems so easy for them, but here I am... pretty much tongue tied when it comes to telling people about Christ. And then I would watch Bro. Lowell so burdened for missions and well... I wasn't! I'm sorry to say it. But it's true. I didn't even know Bro. Lowell very well, but this one thing I knew for certain about him: he spent countless hours in prayer and service for the unsaved. But not me. And I wondered, how exactly does one get to be like Bro. Lowell?
So anyway, before we left for Greece, I prayed God would use this missions trip to give me a heart for missions, and for unsaved people. Make witnessing easy as pie for me, God.
And when we arrived in Greece, my first impression of Angelo was this, He speaks Australian. Also, he's one of those people who witnesses like it's easy.
And there were the Logans and Kayode, making it look so easy too. I mean, they spoke so boldly without being pushy. They were all giving up their lives, jobs, families, friends, and (the biggie) their home churches just to come to a strange land across the ocean where they don't know anyone... so that they can witness. 
So I was like, Alrighty, God. Here I am in Greece. With missionaries. Still waiting on that burden to fill up my heart and stuff.
And then one night we went out for pizza with Angelo, and while Angelo sat there eating an entire large pizza all by himself, he said that witnessing was hard for him. I was like, Whaaaat??? I would've never guessed that. And he was like, It's never easy and I get scared and nervous every time we go out, but you know, I figure God has done so much for me... I need to do for Him too. Because I love Him. 
Ah.
And there it was. Because he loves Him. And with every tract, every witness, it's a way of saying, I love You back.
So I'll see if I can make this make sense.
I thought I needed to love people more, to have a burden for them. But that wasn't it. That comes later.
What I need is to love God more. That comes first. How can I ask God to spread my heart out over people I don't even know, when I can barely spread my heart out to love God the way He should be loved?
Because love isn't a thing that stands still. Love is a moving, living thing. When water stands still, it grows stagnant, green scum on the top of a pond. And I've grown so happy with the life and things God has blessed me with that I've become content with my love for Him the way it was. And I've basically been loving God standing still, green scum on a pond. 
But what I want, is to love God moving and blooming. Like a cherry tree in the spring. It blooms, and brings forth fruit in the summer. And the fruit gives life. And that right there is love, it gives life. Not green scum.
And when you love Someone so much, you'll be ready and willing to run around telling everyone about Him. For one, because He wants you to, and for another, because you can't help it. Because isn't that what you do when you love someone? You talk about them all the time. 
My heart felt all crumpled up and squashed to realize how little I love God when here I thought I loved Him a lot. It's an awful thing to turn around and look at God, and say, Thank You for loving me so much, and so wonderfully beyond all understanding. I love You a little bit.
But here's the nicest thing about God. He's always up for helping me out. He always takes my hand right in His, and is like, Little chick, I'll help you every day to love Me more. It's my favorite thing to do. And His face gets all sunshiny and smile wrinkly. 

So anyway, I got it wrong about having a burden and wanting witnessing to be easy. Don't get me wrong, I'm not belittling having a burden. But loving God with all you have has to come first. After the living love, comes the burden and the willingness to just give up anything for Him.
Didn't Christ ask Peter, Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep. I read a book called The 5 Love Languages one time. It was a good book. I liked it. It was all about how people express love and want love to be expressed back to them. People want quality time, touch, affection, words of affirmation, gifts, service, etc. Well God wants something too... Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep.  That's the only time that I know of in the Bible when God flat out, point blank, says, This is how I want you to express your love for Me.
I can't just keep standing still.
And that's the first part of what I learned on this mission's trip. Part 2 is coming later.

Love,
Me

March 07, 2013

project thessalonica: a day in greece

For those of you who don't know, I'm in Thessaloniki, Greece on a missions trip with Tim and Karen, Dan and Brandi Jones, and Rachel. We'll be here for two weeks helping out missionary Brent Logan and his family with... whatever they need help doing! I'm supposed to be posting these updates on the official website, Project Thessalonica, but sometimes there's a delay between my posting and the website's administrator getting the posts up. Aaaand... I know we have peeps at home waiting to hear from us so I'm posting here as well. No delays. These posts are a journal. You'll be getting as much detail as I can remember. Also, we have a friend back home, Bro. Lowell, who really, really wanted to be able to come on this trip, and has been praying for this project ever since it started. But he's really sick with cancer and wasn't able to make it. So these posts are mostly for you, Bro. Lowell! I hope you enjoy reading all about Greece! Update: project thessalonica: the day lowell went home. 

Greece is so different from America. I mean, that's kind of a no brainer, but I guess I didn't realize just how different it would be. I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and that was pretty much what I had to go on as far what Greece would be like. That movie actually did a fairly bang up job of portraying Greeks. They eat a lot, and they're loud and affectionate.  They are not friendly to Americans though. That's one thing the movie got wrong.

Anyway, yesterday after we went letterboxing, we went to the mall. Yay. Not. I really, really hate shopping. So some of us went home, and the others went to the mall. And then we were locked out of the house, and had to go back to the mall to get the house key from the others. At which point, I was starving and decided to stay at the mall and utilize the food court (Greek food court is pretty awesome. Not like American food court at all.). So Benjamin came running out of the mall with the house key, and when I asked, told me that Angelo was in the food court, and then he left. And I went to find Angelo.
But Angelo wasn't in the food court. I guess he ate really fast and ran out of there. So I searched for him. And then I walked around the mall and searched for the rest of the group. AND NO ONE WAS THERE.
And then suddenly, I realized... no one knew I was there. They all thought I had gone home and stayed there. And I didn't have a cell phone to call anyone. And I didn't speak Greek. And everyone else was probably going to meet up at the food court at some point, and walk away laughing with their shopping bags on their arms, and they would cram themselves into Angelo's little Ferrari that's not really a Ferrari because it's a Toyota, and they would all go home, and when it came time to leave for church, someone would say, Where's Sunny Jane? And I wouldn't be there because I would be at the mall, crying. By myself. 
So then I sat there pathetically croaking one of my three Greek words, Parakalo? (Please?) Parakalo? And just as I had almost resigned myself to the fact that I would be living at the Greek mall for the rest of my life, and would probably have to celebrate Christmas there from now on and maybe even my birthday, I saw a bald head and some Wranglers off in the distance. It was Dan and Brandi, and I was never so happy to see anyone in my life. So anyway, the moral to this story is: Malls are dumb.

Meanwhile, back at the mall, Sunny Jane was sad, alone, and crying. And saying, Parakalo?

The driving here. Oh my word. I know I keep mentioning it, but it really is crazy. In America, there are laws. In Greece, there's just hanging on with your eyes closed. And especially if Angelo's driving. To all my friends at home who think I'm a crazy driver just because I ran over that lady at Costco that one time and the other time I ran into the tree... Angelo is much worse. It's true!
Some things you will hear Angelo say while driving: I'm so confused. Which way are we going? So... what am I doing? I hope I'm driving on the right side of the road. In Australia, we drive on the other side. I'm so confused. Why are they honking? GIVE ME A SECOND TO GET GOING. Is this a one way street?
And then he holds the map upside down until Tim takes it from him.
And then he randomly honks the horn a lot because when in Greece, you honk the horn whether it needs it or not. And then we kiss the ground when we finally stumble out of the car. And we're like, LAND!!!
But we all love Angelo anyway, and would like to take him home with us.

Angelo looking confused in the rear-view mirror.

Anyway, now that you know all about how I almost grew old at the mall, and almost experienced Death By Angelo's Driving Skills, here are some random pictures from the last few days:

 Rachel and Brandi found a little coffee shop around the corner from our house.
I haven't been there yet, but it's on my bucket list.


 Eating. We do it.

A lot.

Trying to make a decision at the sweet shop is like, basically impossible.

I love this church window. Love it.

Graffiti is everywhere. On fences, buildings, historic landmarks, and even on the cars. 
I hope that picture doesn't have any Greek swear words. 

Protesters. I have no idea what they're protesting. 
Probably the lack of a Greek driving manual, and parking laws.

Cops escorting the protesters. They totally think they're such studs.

 Kayode painted this picture thingy and gave the Gospel along with it. Pretty cool!
He gave it to Brandi to take home.

Kayode had some fans. They stood there for quite awhile listening to him.

Smiling Greeks! We haven't seen many of those. They smile at each other, but not at us.

Karen made friends. These guys were nice and didn't mind talking to her.

And then there was this guy. We saw him walk up to Karen and start whispering in her ear, and we thought it was really cute, and starting snapping pictures from across the street, and talking about Karen's "boyfriend", and we were having a grand time watching the two of them. The Angelo ran up and ran the guy off, and we were like, What? And he was like, That guy was talking dirty. And Karen was like, I had this really sick feeling in my stomach the whole time he was talking to me. And then we were like, Sorry we just stood here taking pictures of you...

Pigeons. They're everywhere in the town center square.
And they'll poop on your head if you're not careful. Rachel and I narrowly missed being pooped on today. It splattered right next to us.

Brandi out letterboxing. Don't you love the view behind her?

More letterboxing.

Tim and Dan pretending to be Greeks hollering at each other. Greeks holler even when they're happy. Tim fits right in here.

Angelo

The loveliest gate.

All us after letterboxing.

And all us after street preaching, coffee, and some shopping.


Love,
All Us

March 04, 2013

project thessalonica: the Lord's day

For those of you who don't know, I'm in Thessaloniki, Greece on a missions trip with Tim and Karen, Dan and Brandi Jones, and Rachel. We'll be here for two weeks helping out missionary Brent Logan and his family with... whatever they need help doing! I'm supposed to be posting these updates on the official website, Project Thessalonica, but sometimes there's a delay between my posting and the website's administrator getting the posts up. Aaaand... I know we have peeps at home waiting to hear from us so I'm posting here as well. No delays. These posts are a journal. You'll be getting as much detail as I can remember. Also, we have a friend back home, Bro. Lowell, who really, really wanted to be able to come on this trip, and has been praying for this project ever since it started. But he's really sick with cancer and wasn't able to make it. So these posts are mostly for you, Bro. Lowell! I hope you enjoy reading all about Greece! Update: project thessalonica: the day lowell went home.

We had church on Sunday. Duh. Since it's Sunday. Did you know, that in Greece, their word for Sunday actually means the Lord's day? Cool, right? I love that.

The church. It's a nice little building! And they have coffee there. I'm sold.

The littlest Logan, Lydia. She's a cutie patootie. She held the bathroom door closed for me at church when it wouldn't stay shut and I was worried about people walking in on my bidness.

The oldest and youngest Logans, Benjamin and Patootie. Stuffing their faces together. 
This one made me laugh.

Huddled around the coffee and muffins after service.

The middle Logan, Bethany. Looking all laughy and merry.

Angelo and Kayode. Hey look, Kayode is wearing a jumpah. 
Not to be confused with a sweater, man.
 It's like I'm learning a whole new language. Jumpah, rubbish bin, baklava... I've also learned how to say thank you in Greek, but I don't remember it right now. Sorry. I wouldn't spell it right even if I could remember it.

We forgot to take pictures of the guys preaching/interpreting together. So I asked them to do a little reenactment for us. They were like, What? What do we do? We don't know how.
So I was like, Just open your mouth really big and wave your arms around. It's the same thing.
So they did. 

And then they thought themselves pretty darn funny.



 That's us with Telemikos. I have no idea how to spell his name. Just go with it. 
He had a pen and paper, a map of Idaho, and a list of questions for us when he arrived at church.
Is true 95% of southern Idaho is mormon? And 8000 Indians? And is Moon Crater?
It was just like Bro. Lowell used to do when missionaries came to church! He'd ask them 95 questions so he could pray for them.


The guys did some singing after the service. Lovely! Bro. Logan and Telemikos have excellent voices. Telemikos just booms.  Angelo... well, he just sings from his heart. Bless his heart.


Case in point:

First, he pitched in from the back of the room. He's the special sounding one at the end.



Then he joined in.


Then he bowed out, scuttled off, and let the pros take over. I LOVE this video. They sound so wonderful.




And then we went and ate some more food. I think I've gained weight since I got here. All we do is eat, eat, eat. But then we do a lot of walking too. And Rachel says the walking counteracts the eating. Anyway, that's what she keeps telling herself. They have fried cheese here. Like, deep fried Feta. It's all golden and crunchy on the outside. It's the best. I'm hungry now. Bye.

Love,
All Us

P.S. The cheese is really smooth and yummy on the inside. Once you get thru the crunchy, golden part on the outside. It's yummy. It's breakfast time here. Bye.

March 02, 2013

project thessalonica: the day lowell went home

For those of you who don't know, I'm in Thessaloniki, Greece on a missions trip with Tim and Karen, Dan and Brandi Jones, and Rachel. We'll be here for two weeks helping out missionary Brent Logan and his family with... whatever they need help doing! I'm supposed to be posting these updates on the official website, Project Thessalonica, but sometimes there's a delay between my posting and the website's administrator getting the posts up. Aaaand... I know we have peeps at home waiting to hear from us so I'm posting here as well. No delays. These posts are a journal. You'll be getting as much detail as I can remember. Also, we have a friend back home, Bro. Lowell, who really, really wanted to be able to come on this trip, and has been praying for this project ever since it started. But he's really sick with cancer and wasn't able to make it. So these posts are mostly for you, Bro. Lowell! I hope you enjoy reading all about Greece!

Bro. Lowell died today.
We got an email: "Lowell is shouting as he's passing thru the air "Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer."

 Bro. Lowell with his family

He really wanted to come to Thessaloniki. Sometimes I felt a little bad about coming here when I knew how much he wanted to come himself.
This project, missions, was his heart. He prayed for the Logans and Angelo and the work here more than anyone I know. It's people like Bro. Lowell that keep projects like this one going.
But we came and he stayed home. And it's been like, what we've seen, we've seen for him, and the people we've talked to are the people he would've talked to if he could've. He would've loved Philippi!
And when we took pictures it was like, Take a picture for Lowell! And when we saw stuff it was like, Oh, Lowell would love that. And now we have a whole week left and he's not here.
We're bereft.
But here's the good thing, the wonderful thing: Yesterday, Lowell struggled to breathe, and his suit coat hung really loose on his shoulders, and he could hardly see, and couldn't speak. But RIGHT NOW... right now he sees just fine and his clothes fit and he just stuck his hand in God's and I pretty much wish I was there too.
At first I thought, Well, betcha Lowell's up there telling God about Project Thessalonica. But no, I don't think he is. Because if I was where he's at, and my hand was in my Savior's, I wouldn't be thinking about anything but Him. And what a day that will be when we see Christ. Today Lowell got to actually look right into the eyes of Christ. Can you just imagine the love there?

So friends, we're going to have to pick up when Lowell left off. And we're going to need to pray harder and more often for missions. Because we should and because Lowell isn't here to do it for us anymore.
And Thompson family, Toni, we love you. We're praying for you all. And we wish we were there with you.

Love,
All Us

project thessalonica: the day at philippi

For those of you who don't know, I'm in Thessaloniki, Greece on a missions trip with Tim and Karen, Dan and Brandi Jones, and Rachel. We'll be here for two weeks helping out missionary Brent Logan and his family with... whatever they need help doing! I'm supposed to be posting these updates on the official website, Project Thessalonica, but sometimes there's a delay between my posting and the website's administrator getting the posts up. Aaaand... I know we have peeps at home waiting to hear from us so I'm posting here as well. No delays. These posts are a journal. You'll be getting as much detail as I can remember. Also, we have a friend back home, Bro. Lowell, who really, really wanted to be able to come on this trip, and has been praying for this project ever since it started. But he's really sick with cancer and wasn't able to make it. So these posts are mostly for you, Bro. Lowell! I hope you enjoy reading all about Greece!

We had a day off today so Bro. Logan took us all to see the ruins in Philippi. We climbed all over the place and the other girls took approximately 992 pictures of all the ancient and sunken city ruins. I slept on the way over and on the way home, and I'm ready for bed again. So it'll just be pictures today. But lots of them!
But before the pictures, I have two things to say.
First, Bro. Logan won't be staying in Thessaloniki indefinitely. This project was supposed to be a fairly short termed one. And he was hoping that once it came time for him to leave, someone else would be able to step up to the plate and take over the project for, like, ever. The project ends in a few months and so far there's no one to take it over once Bro. Logan and Angelo leave to go back to their homes. Could you pray about someone coming over here to take their place? It would be a shame for all these guy's hard work and sacrifice to go to waste. It didn't seem too terribly important to me before I came here, but now that I've been here and have seen all the heart and sweat the Logans, Angelo, and others have put into this project, I'm like, paranoid that no one will come to see it all finished.
And second, I loved Philippi. It was probably one of the most wonderful things I've ever seen or been to. I had a lump in my throat all day, walking around in the places Paul walked. Seeing the stuff the early Christians saw. Sure they've been dead for pretty much forever, but back in the day they walked where I walked today, and they talked God to each other, and they stood faithful. I loved it. I was touched by it. Moved. I could've sat there and touched those stone walls all day. And cried while I was at it.

Anyway! On to the pictures.

 Tim cleaned house before we left this morning. 
We aren't sure why, but figured it was definitely something to document. 

  Brent Logan, the Best Tour Guide Ever!

 You actually have to buy toilet paper in the public restrooms. One euro for like, a teeny little swatch! I couldn't believe it. And trust me, you never want to use the bathrooms here. Grody. There was a random dog in the bathroom too, that's what I'm eyeballing down there.

 Everyone said I looked just like this guy. I don't see it. He has blue eyes. And a 5 o'clock shadow.
I don't have either of those things.

 We think of you every day, Bro. Lowell! Brandi made this sign for you:)

Bro. Logan and Tim in the amphitheater. Our voices really echoed in this place. And if you stand on the square to Bro Logan's right, your voice will really boom. And even cooler, they say Paul preached in this amphitheater. Just imagine!

Karen, looking pretty.

 This is supposedly the prison cell Paul was kept in. Whether it was or not, in my mind he was there, and I can't stop imagining what it must've been like.

 I decided the other day that I wanted a rock from all the places we go so I can take them home and write on them and keep them. (Because I'm even sentimental about rocks) And we found this purple marble inlay floor with loose pieces. (They were especially loose once you jabbed them with a pocket knife.) So I took one. It's my new prized possession. I love my little rock. Update: I found out later that taking rocks from old ruins is actually illegal. Sorry. Sorry about the one I dug out with a pocket knife...
Gorgeous archways. Just gorgeous.


 Tim being a nerd in the museum.

 Picking his nose...

 Karen, walking in her better half's footsteps.

 A really cool lion's head. With me in it.

 Brandi was like, Look! I'm Samson! But her arms were too short, like a T-Rex...

 So me n' Rachel came to help her.

 In the end, we decided we kinda liked the columns and would let them stand. 
Also, because we couldn't budge them.



 Rachel was in heaven. She told me fifty billion times today, Best. Day. Ever!
 Those double arches behind Rachel were my favorite part of the ruins. So beautiful!

 I take it back, the toilets were actually my favorite part. There was an entire toilet house! Like everybody just sat around and went together or something.

 We couldn't stop laughing. And I love this picture.

 Karen: But Tim... how do you KNOW they're actually toilets??? I don't get it.
 Tim: Babe... seriously? Watch. You sit here. There's a hole.
 Karen: I'm not sitting on that without a toilet seat cover. You don't know who's gone on there.
 Just keeping it real. Tim had several jokes about this one. A} Paul might've GONE here. B} "I... do count them but dung. And C} I'm sorry for my POTTY mouth.
 He thought he was pretty hilarious. So did we for that matter.


 


 I found a flowerpot. I wanted to bring it home, but for one, I didn't want to get arrested, and two, it was really heavy. So I just sat in it instead.


 Dan and Brandi waltzing. They're so sweet.

When we finally left the ruins, Bro Logan took us downtown to eat lunch. And beggers are allowed to come right into the restaurants and ask you to buy stuff. Or just flat out ask you for money. So strange to be sitting in a nice restaurant and have a little begger come up behind you, and no one does anything about it. Anyway, this little gypsy girl came in selling flowers. I tried not to look at her, but she just stood there next to my chair, looking pathetic. In the end, I bought three roses from her. And then she totally hammed it up for the camera. And then some grody looking guy came in right after her trying to sell everyone little tissue packets. But I didn't buy from him. He wasn't a sad looking little girl with a big purple flower in her hair! Brandi wanted to take all the begger kids home and feed them. Their big, sad eyes tug at your heart.

That's all folks.
We have 9 million happy memories of today, and 9 million pictures to go along with them.
We love you all!

Love,
All Us