Saturday, June 18, 2016

My Heart Is Full

This was our last full day in Rome. And was it ever a full day. 

It all started with us catching the Metro to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum - the Flavian Amphitheater. If you want to be overwhelmed, consider the history of these places and the historical figures that walked these hollowed grounds. 

Following lunch we headed to St. Paul's Outside the Walls. This magnificent structure was built near the location where Paul was martyred because of his message and faith. We entered during a mass with hundreds of people in attendance. As we walked in the Jubilee doors (we also walked through the Jubilee doors at St. Peter's Basilica) the congregation and cantor broke out in "alleluias". Our hair stood up on end. We then had our own private service where two young people were baptized, all celebrated their own baptism, and received a blessing and benediction. As one student said, "As I sat there, my heart was full." I believe we all experienced the same through our tears. 

(Photo credit, Maisy Foley)

It was here that we met God. 

Our evening ended with a dinner in a building that was constructed in 230 AD. When we returned to our hotel we had an extended time of sharing. 

Your young people are amazing! I am more than proud of them. I am thankful for all they are and who they are becoming. 
Thank you for your continued prayers. The group heads home tomorrow. They are looking forward to sharing stories of our adventures together. Be patient as the stories come. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Grandeur of Rome

Today, we set out for Vatican City - our fourth country on this trip. We walked through the museums and gardens seeing pieces of art many thought they would never see on our way the the Sistine Chapel. Once there, we stood in awe of Michelangelo's masterpieces - the ceiling and the front wall which contains the last judgment. He painted the ceiling when he was in his 30s, and it took four years. He painted the front wall in his 50s, and it took seven years. Then we walked into St. Peter's Basilica. Wow! There are no words for this, the world's largest church. 

From there we went to lunch - PIZZA! Lunch was followed by visits to the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon. Rome has history, faith, and surprised around every corner. 

Our day ended with dinner and shopping in Piazza Navona. This piazza was once a circus where chariots were raced. Today it's home to Bernini's fountain - Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. Gelato at Giolitti's - the best in the world. 

What a day! We are ready for our final day together before heading home. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

3 Countries; 2 Continents; 2 Boats; 2 Planes; 24 Hours

What a crazy 24 hours. 

We were in Turkey - Ephesus and Selçuk. We got there by boat. 
We flew from Samos, Greece, though Athens. 
We arrived in Rome. 
3 countries; 2 continents; 2 boats; 2 planes; 24 hours!
So, now we are in Rome. What an amazing first 12 hours we have had together. 
We first visited Santa Maria della Vittoria. This beautiful church houses the Ecstacy of St. Teresa. It is one of Bernini's masterpieces. This statue and the entire church are breath taking. What an amazing way to begin. 

We then walked down the road to Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs). This is a magnificent basilica housed in the ruins of an ancient Roman public bath. There are no word to describe its grandeur. 

The response of the students to these two structures was unexpected and a wonder to behold. It was humbling to be in conversation with them about how this brief and beautiful appetizer to Rome struck them. 

Welcome to the majesty of Rome!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ephesus - Where Our Story Comes to Life

We boarded a ferry, crossed the Aegean from Samos to Kuşadası, rode a bus to Secuk, visited the incomparable ancient city of Ephesus, walked through the unimaginable terrace houses, had a lunch that we will never forget, saw the ruins of the Basilica of St. John where he was buried, toured the Isa Bey Mosque (the Mosque of Jesus), and ate gyros (the best in the world - no exaggeration!) for dinner.

I will let these pictures speak of our experience. 

Thank you for your prayers. The students have been amazing. No complaints even after a 5:00am wake up call!

What a journey!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sometimes Your Plans Change

And they end up looking like this...

So the sea was too rough today to go to Patmos. There were storms this morning and more this afternoon. We are sad that we missed that holy site - the Jerusalem of the Aegean. However, we made the most of this day with pool time, ping pong, hanging out with friends new and old, wonderful food, and Pythagoria - the port on this side of the island (yes, you guessed it. Pythagorus is from the island if Samos. 

Here are some pictures of the day as we recovered from some frantic days and prepare for the busy schedule ahead.

Thank you for your prayers. More adventures ahead! The weather looks great for tomorrow. Full speed ahead. 


Monday, June 13, 2016

Island Hopping

Today we had a free morning to do as we pleased. It was a leisurely morning as we waited for our afternoon flight. Some hiked to the top of the Muses Hill to the Tomb of Philopappos with its spectacular view of the Acropolis, others went to Syntagma Square and the parliament building for the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier, still others went to the National Gardens, and some went to the Temple of Zeus. It was a fun day around Athens!

In the afternoon we welcomed our friend Claire to Greece (it was really good to see her) and flew over several Greek islands on our way to Samos. Samos is an amazing little piece of heaven on earth. The views from our hotel are spectacular. 

We had a delicious buffet dinner at a local resort and a relaxing evening hanging out and sharing with one another. Your young people are incredible. We are thankful. 

We look forward to what tomorrow might hold. 

Continue to pray for us as we continue to make ourselves present with one another. 

Thank you!

Saying "Hello" to Athena

What was our adventure on the second full day in Greece? Athens!

The day started with a looooooooong walk. Even though the Acropolis is close to our hotel, we walked nearly nonstop for 5 hours. 

First stop, the birthplace of theatre. The Theatre of Dionysus. We were able to sit where the ancients sat and see the vistas they saw.

The next stop on our way to the top was the Odeion of Herodes Atticus. This is an active theater used to host musicians, operas, and musical productions. 

After this visit we turned the corner to witness the majesty of all that is found atop the Acropolis: The Temple of Nike, the Erectheion, the Parthenon, and other magnificent structures. Your mind wanders at the spectacle and beauty of it all. Pictures cannot do it justice, but here are a few to give you some highlights.

We headed down to Mars Hill, the site where Paul spoke of his strange new ideas about Jesus and the resurrection to the Areopagus - the Supreme Court of the day. Madison led us in an amazing discussion about Paul's words and the way in which he approached the religious of Athens. The students were incredibly insightful in all they shared. 

We then entered the agora, the ancient marketplace of Athens. This is where goods were bought and sold, ideas were traded, and legislation was shared. Socrates and many other philosophers taught here. And this is the location where he was sentenced to die by poison. We also walked up to the magnificent Temple of Hephaestus. It is the most complete temple of the classical era of Greece. 

Whew! Break time for lunch and getting refreshed (a well deserved shower). Then it was off to the New Acropolis Museum and small group dinners. This museum houses the original Caryatids (which held up the roof to the Erectheion) as well as many ancient treasure of the Acropolis. It also has a spectacular view of the holy hill. 

Here we are with our amazing guide, Smaro. 

What an amazing experience so far. It is unforgettable. We are prepared for our next steps along the way. 

Continue to pray that we be present. We are praying for you all as well as you grieve the tragedy in Orlando. May you find peace in the midst of sorrow. 

Thank you for your prayers.