| the happy graduate with her proud mom and pop|
Our travels took us through Texas where our first stop was in the Dallas area. We got to meet the family and friends of Tonya, a pioneer and fellow Needgreater serving with us here in Guasave. We were welcomed and made to feel like family while there. We visited her congregation and chowed down on some homemade Texas 'que, had lots of deep fried foods (we loved the catfish! and the chicken fried steak! and the fried chicken! We loved all of it!!!) and plenty of sweet tea to wash it down!
We then headed to Florida where we went to the graduation and then hopped on a plane for a very special trip. We wanted to celebrate Dani's graduation but also keep a spiritual focus while we were away so we took a trip in what I call the "footsteps of the Apostle Paul". We took a cruise that started in Rome and visited Athens, Turkey(Ephesus) and Crete- all locations mentioned in the Bible book of Acts.
Rome was quite a city to behold! Seeing so many old buildings and streets was amazing! We of course did some sightseeing; visiting the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain. We of course ate great Italian food (Pizza! Panini! Osso Buco-can you tell I am a foodie?) But for me the best part of being in Rome was getting to meet our brothers and sisters.
Okay now, stay with me on this one. We had two days in Rome before our ship sailed. We were going to be on the ship for a week and did not want to go so long a time without our spiritual food. So we looked up on jw.org meetings in English in Rome. Unfortunately the only English meetings were held on Sunday mornings, when we needed to be on the ship. So...we visited a Spanish congregation on Saturday evening. Imagine the picture: the three of us-in Italy- walking into a Spanish meeting ( it's so weird hearing Spanish spoken by the Italian friends. I understand the words it just sounds a bit off) We arrived a little late so there was no sneaking in-we stood out like the tourists we were. But once we felt the love of the brothers we knew we were home. After the meeting one of the sisters asked us what we were doing in Rome. We told her we were leaving on a cruise in the morning and she asked: "oh really, which one?" "The Navigator of the Seas" we replied. "We are going on that ship too!" So it turns out that there was a group of 12 brothers and sisters going on the ship and we were able to join them for meals and some sightseeing. It was quite funny when we asked the waiter to change our table to sit with the brothers. "You want to sit with them? But they all speak Italian" he said. "Yes, they are our friends" we said as we were all smiling and waving to one another, saying "Hola!, Buonasera!" The waiter looked at us all incredulously. Just think had we not gone to the meeting we may have traveled alone and missed the chance to meet our brothers and sisters.
It was very enjoyable spending time with the Italian friends, especially when we were in Sicily. They were so lively and fun to be with! Plus they spoke the language and we didn't worry about getting ripped off while we were with them! So we toured, ate Gelato and Rice Balls and enjoyed the beautiful Mediterranean weather. Our trip really kicked into gear the next two days as we reached Athens, Greece and my favorite stop on the trip Kusadasi, Turkey and the ancient city of Ephesus.
As a family we have decided that whenever we travel, if there is a Bethel branch in the country and it is at all possible for us to do so, we will pay them a visit. To me Bethel is such a special place, it is Jehovah's house. When there I am reminded of the privilege I enjoy of serving Jehovah. So when we were in Athens we visited the Athens Bethel branch. This was quite an exciting day for us as we rode the trains and buses to get there. What a welcome sight when we arrived at the gates and saw:
Once inside we took a tour and learned a bit about the history of the work in Greece. In years past our brothers and sisters there faced imprisonment for their neutrality as well experienced restrictions on the work, not being able to meet freely and preach. There is a nice section showing photos from those days, friends gathering in the woods for assemblies disguised as picnics or wedding ceremonies-complete with a "bride and groom"! Thankfully those days are in the past and our friends now worship openly and receive a steady supply of spiritual food. Much of the work done by the 80 member Bethel family involves translating the literature into Greek. On the site there is also a recording studio used to record Kingdom songs, sung in Greek of course! After touring Bethel in the morning we spent the afternoon viewing some historical sights in Athens including the Parthenon and the Agora or marketplace mentioned in Acts 17:17 before heading back to the ship.
Next stop-Turkey and the ancient city of Ephesus. Being there made the Bible account (Acts 19) come to life as there were so many ancient buildings and ruins. Walking through the old streets I could just imagine the silversmiths rioting, throwing the city into confusion. As we passed by the theater I could almost hear the thunderous roar of the crowd, whipped into a frenzy by Demetrius: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" The stone walkways, the marble columns; yeah, Ephesus was quite the scene back in the day. Now whenever we read the book of Acts these images will come to mind.
Alas our cruise had to end at some point. After a stop in Crete we returned to Rome and bade our new friends goodbye. We stopped off in Jamaica to visit Suzanne's Dad for a bit and then made our way back to Florida to see my folks. After return flight to Dallas, we attended the convention there (Great Program!!!), and picked up Tonya for the drive back to Guasave together.
All told in the month of June we traveled over 16,000 miles (wow), got to visit with family and friends old and new. We return energized and ready to get back to work in the field here in Guasave.
***some photos from our trip***
|The Colosseum construction was funded by spoils from the Judean War 66-70 C.E.|
|The Arch of Titus, commemorates the victory in the Judean War|
|with our brothers and sisters on the ship|
|site of the Temple of Artemis, all that remains is the one column|
|Theater of Ephesus (Acts 19:29)|
|The Library at Ephesus|
|"It's all Greek to me!"|
|for bonus points: can you guess what it is?|