Monday, June 19, 2017

Love - Family By Choice

On the way back to Indy from Chicago. And as I sit on a quiet bus with a group of tired students and adults, I am overwhelmed by the love these amazing people have shown one another throughout the last eleven days.

They have cared deeply for one another.
They have protected one another.
They have challenged each other.
They have cheered one another on.
They have supported one another.
They have held each other up.
They have spoken simple beautiful truths to one another.
They have loved one another.
They have been church with one another.
They have become family by choice.

Our hearts are full.

Please be patient with the students as they arrive home. It will take them some time to process all they have seen, done, experienced, learned, and felt. You have every right to be proud of this group. They are incredible.

Thank you for your prayers.

Today, we were present.

From communion on the final night. These were our servers. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

This Is It

"Love is real" is how one student captured their experience over these last ten days.
Another said, "Love is the most powerful thing."
Helene, our tour guide in Rome, said, "You show one another such love. And everyone wants to be a part of it." She is semiretired and committed to our group because of the legacy of love. She even led parts of our tour that she bormally would not lead just to be around the group.

Tonight, we shared about our experiences together, and the students agree that this is the most accepting and group of people in which they have ever had the privilege of participating. It has been an amazing ten days. This group of students and their adult leaders are absolutely amazing.

We started this trip with the challenge to . . .
Be present.
Move toward one another.
Makes sure no one is left out or left behind.
Ask the better question.
Be open.
See from someone else's perspective.

We have done all of these things and more.

Today, we added these things as a reminder to take that which we have seen and learned into the rest of our lives . . .
You are loved.
You are accepted.
You are necessary.

Here is what we saw today
The Colosseum

Palatine Hill

The Forum

The Mamertine Prison, where Paul and Peter were prisoners before their executions.

St. Paul's Outside the Walls

What a wonderful day.

Today, we were present.

See you tomorrow. Thank you for your prayers.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rome - Another Busy Full Day

We got back late last night, so no blog.

Allow me to highlight very briefly our activities of the day . .  .

We started at the Spanish steps.

We then went to the Trevi Fountain.

Then the glory of the Pantheon.


A visit to the Vatican Museums.

The Sistine Chapel - no photos, no videos, silence please.

The day was capped off with Giolitti's gelato. The oldest gelato spot in Rome.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Return to Rome

Today brought with it a crazy early flight and a long bus ride into Rome. But it was all well worth the trouble!

When we arrived we took some time to get ourselves together. Then, we took a short walk from our hotel to visit two incredibly holy places: Santa Maria della Vittoria (St. Mary of Victory) and Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs).

Santa Maria della Vittoria is a small cathedral in size but is grand in its ability to reveal the holy. It is home to beautiful pieces of artwork which are globally known and celebrated. Amazing frescos grace the walls and the ceiling. Incredible stained glass windows allow the light in. Breathtaking sculptures fill the chapels. The most recognizable work is Bernini's "Ecstacy of St. Teresa". When one looks at this ethereal piece of art it's as if you are waiting for the figures to breathe or move. You cannot help but be captured by the spirit of the artist as well as the subjects.

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri is constructed within the walls of a Roman Bath of Diocletian. The basilica was designed by Michelangelo. The grandeur of the space reminds you of the majesty of God. The art within the basilica reminds you of the faith and devotion of the artists. It all leaves you humbled and thankful.

Our evening ended with a dinner of pasta, meat skewers, potatoes, and some of the best tiramisu you have ever tasted! This was followed by an incredible time of reflection and sharing. Your young people are amazing. There really is no other word for it. The adults are honored to be a part of their journey and a small part of their story. Perhaps no one said it better than the student who said, "I am overwhelmed."

Thank you for your prayers.

Today, we were present.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sometimes You Learn So Much Your Brain Hurts

Did you know that two men dug a tunnel through the mountain on the island of Samos to deliver water from one side to the other beginning on opposite sides of the island in the 6th century BC? It took 15 years. They met exactly in the middle with only a 4 cm variance in height. 

Did you know the island of Samos was once bigger and more powerful than Athens?

Did you know that the largest temple of the Ancient Greek era was located on the island of Samos? It was the most important temple of Hera ever constructed. It was commissioned by the tyrant Polycrates in the 6th century BC. 

Did you know that Aristarkhos, a philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer, knew that the sun was the center of the universe, that the earth rotated on its axis, and got the order of the planets correct according to their distance from the sun in the 4th century BC? Yep, BC. He was from the island of Samos. 

Did you know that Pythagoras was from the island of Samos? He traveled to Egypt and India to share and to learn mathematics. 

Did you know that Pythagoras was the first to use the word "cosmos" to refer to the world and all that is in it? The word also means beauty. 

Did you know that Samos has been inhabited since the Neolithic times?

Did you know that Marc Antony and Cleopatra came to Samos in a show of their love for one another by mimicking the passionate love between Zeus and Hera? Legend says the two gods first came together on the island of Samos.

Did you know that the Ancient Greeks discovered that Carob seeds have a uniform weight in each plant? They used the seeds to measure their most important things like gold and precious stones. This weight became know as the carat. 

Did you know that Eleni is the best tour guide in the word? That's not just an opinion. It's a fact. 

Oh, and Robinson's has the best gyros in the world!

We had such an amazing time learning about Samos today, visiting the monastery, walking ancient routes, touring the tunnel, visiting the Samos Archeological Museum, eating the world's best gyros at Robinson's,  and playing in the pool this afternoon.  

What a great last day in Greece. 

Today, we were present. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Patmos - The Jerusalem of the Aegean

Today began on a boat, on a boat on the Aegean Sea. We sailed past Grecian Islands on lapis blue water as we made our way to Patmos, the Jerusalem of the Aegean.

Once we arrived we sat in a small gathering area and Chelsea led in a conversation about Revelation 1 to set the stage for our visit. We then made our way into the Cave of Revelation. It is here tradition says that John received the revelation to the seven churches that is contained in the letter by the same name found at the end of the Christian canon. This place is full of mystery and wonder. Following the experience many students expressed how real it made the scriptures to them. One student said, "I met God there." There are no better words to describe our experience. 

We loaded our bus and headed to St. John's Monastery located at the top of the mountain. This beautiful monastery was constructed in the 12th century. Inside is a magnificent church full of wonderful icons of the saints, a courtyard, and a museum that contains many important artifacts including early manuscripts, priestly vestments, jewelry from Kings and queens, and an El Greco icon. It is a privilege to be in such a holy place. 

We then had lunch and time to hang out on the island of Patmos before heading back to Samos for our evening meal. The conversations had were incredible and were evidence of big things going on in the minds of each one of us. 

Thank you for your prayers. 

Today, we were present.