HUG and HUF are combining forces like never before! The fall semester students are beginning their overseas semester in Greece and switching to Italy halfway through their time while studying abroad. These students will be able to live at two of Harding University's overseas campuses. Right now, HUF is preparing for them - getting classes perfected, working together by updating the villa that the school owns outside of Florence, and doing some team building with their staff. We Beasons in Greece will do the same after our precious-ones-already depart from us to go to the Shackelfords.
I consider this blog a gift to our students' parents, so enjoy these words as they guide you through your students' travels with us. Your not-really-kiddos-anymore are GREAT (usually) at posting pictures, but sometimes they are sparse with their verbal descriptions. Hence, this is my gift to you.
Before I start with the travel stories, let me thank you for sharing your students with us. This group in particular is quickly making efforts to become a family. They are being inclusive and kind to all and are setting solid examples for each other and us. Your molding them to do so shines! So thank you for making them who they are - delightful young people whom we are enjoying already.
Mountains surround us as we head north on our first out-of-town tour with this new group. Olive trees, grape vines, cotton, citrus trees, olive trees, rice, and solar panels are the "fields" we see. Fall makes me think of family stories, yummy food at special mealtimes shared with family I love, and football games together with fellow fans - all sweet and wonderful things from which we can learn good life-lessons. The fall season of the year has long been my favorite.
We share lunch overlooking a beautiful village nestled in the distance. Delphi is our first class of the day. We hear of the ancient oracle and culture of the day and God's working through His plan even there in pagan Delphi. After the Delphi tour, we drive further north and spend the night in Kalambaka.
Meteora's rock formations greet us as we leave the hotel. The word means lofty or elevated. I'll say. These rocks shoot up from the ground in a show of strength. It's unlike any other place I've ever seen. There are six remaining monasteries sitting atop the giant stalagmites that dominate the view. We tour one of them where monks still live and worship daily. The Orthodox church's walls are covered with paintings, dark in color from age and years of incense smoke, depicting the stories of the Bible. "Ornate" doesn't seem enough of a description.
Down the road, the Tomb of Phillip II, recently found around 1980, holds my favorite museum in all of Greece. We descend under the domed ground and admire the gold death crowns, the tombs, and all the things buried inside that are still intact. It's incredible.
Nearby Berea has a synagogue. We learn about the Jewish people in this area before WW2 while we are invited inside.
Aristotle Square welcomes us all to Thessaloniki upon arrival in the evening. Always a busy atmosphere, we join the square's guests and enjoy a trio of stringed instruments playing for the passersby.
The Greek Orthodox Church built in honor of Lydia is lighter in color than that at the monastery. White marble and lighter, brilliant colors in the murals on the walls and ceilings make up the interior here. We sit around the octagonal baptismal font and sing songs to our Savior. Music touches us in a way that words sometimes can't. It's especially beautiful when meaningful lyrics are set to melodies that speak to our hearts. The combination of them is our gift to our holy God. And He shares His joy of our worshiping Him with us. He gives back continually.
Near where Paul met Lydia at Philippi, our favorite Greek guide and Christian brother James (your students will tell you how they've already come to appreciate our friend James) continues the story of Paul's and Silas' violent beatings in Philippi (leaving out none of the gruesomeness of this punishment used in their day), their imprisonment (including the conditions of the jails at that time - not sanitary after beatings leaving open flesh wounds, animals crawling, and more nastiness that makes us squirm and feel awfully spoiled), the singing of Paul and Silas after receiving such brutality, and the miraculous earthquake that opened the doors and scared the prison guard, which was a big deal; the man was trembling with fear - that's significant. A guard fell in humility and fear to his knees before Paul and Silas, asking what he must do to be saved. It was a quick conversion. Luke likes medical details, and we note that finally Paul's and Silas' wounds are tended to. James tells of the frightful realization that the Romans have beaten a Roman citizen. We ponder the seeds that were planted that day by Paul and Silas. We also discussed how scared that newborn church must have been since such harsh treatment happened to Paul and Silas; those new Greeks weren't Roman citizens; maybe this is why Paul didn't flash his Roman citizen card before the beating - to be an example for these particular people because Paul got the beating and the church did not. Paul continually shows a drive to move the gospel forward. May we have such dedication and determination.
We then tour the ancient site of Philippi together and learn even more about the culture and city of the time. What a rich day of learning we've shared.
The Mt. Olympus climb deserves a full post by itself! More on that adventure next time... Parents, please enjoy these blog entries from this special semester!