St. Paul was a highly educated Jew who held the coat of Stephen when he was stoned to death because he had converted to the Christian faith. Little did Paul know that he would be visited by God in a dramatic way to be one of the greatest teachers and missionaries of the Christian faith. My husband and I have recently had the opportunity to see the places where Paul brought the Gospel of Christ at his own peril…the country of Greece.
How Paul became a Christian:
As Paul neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
“The men traveling with Saul stood speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Paul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”— Acts 9:3–9, NIV
“For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (Galatians 1:13–14)
Paul’s missionary journeys were followed by our group from Educational Opportunities* to places that many have read about in the Holy Scriptures: Athens, Corinth, Thessaloniki, Philippi, Meteora and other places as shown on the map below.
These places in Greece are some of the most beautiful places one could visit with high, snow covered mountains and deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea. The thoughts, however, of St. Paul and the disciples traveling through this rugged area is amazing. Having read about the cities where he traveled in the Holy Scriptures, I was not prepared to see the challenge that lay before him. The experience brought a new realization of the God-given command that Paul was willing to follow. Danger was everywhere…from the people who opposed him to the ruggedness of the journeys.
Below are some of the pictures of the terrain including Meteora where Christian Monks built monasteries high on the rocks. Originally, they climbed the rocks, which proves that they were young men and athletic. To bring others up or goods, they pulled a large basket or rope up the steep rocks. Theirs was a life of prayer and isolation. Some became hermits, making their dwelling and lives in the rocks shown below. ( There are no longer hermits there and the monasteries are open to visitors.) Meteora is truly a fascinating place and one of our favorite places in Greece as we traveled the “footsteps of St.Paul.”
The Christians continued to spread the gospel of love and tolerance even though St. Paul and the apostles were beaten, imprisoned and eventually martyred for their faith in Christ.
Below are churches that honor the memories of those who followed Paul and became believers in Christ. Lydia was one of the women that believed in the message brought by St. Paul. The church below is St. Lydia built in her memory. It is beautifully adorned with icons and mosaics. Many Christian groups gather at the stream nearby to remember their Christian baptism by pouring water over their hands or having Holy Communion.
Other beautiful parts of Greece include ancient ruins:
Museums and Archeological Finds:
Athens…a modern city with views of the present and past:
Sun sets over the city of Athens. It was a great ending to a perfect time to reflect on all that St. Paul and the early Christians endured to spread the gospel of love and forgiveness. When Paul saw the light and heard the voice of Christ on the road to Damascus, God not only showed His mercy to a man who had persecuted believers but gave him the commission to bring the news of the one true God to those who worshiped many gods. No man is beyond God’s reach when they trust in Christ and follow His direction for a new beginning. We are able to know this message because of the footsteps and journeys of the faithful before us.
Amen and Amen
2nd Corinthians 5:17 “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” New Living Translation
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*Educational Opportunities EO