Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Efcharisto means "thanks" in the Greek language.  But it means so much more!  It is the same word as "eucharist" - literally the holy grail of Christianity.  One of Jesus's last directives to his disciples was to eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of Him. When we remember, we have joy, and we give thanks. Here is an interview with Ann Voskamp about this concept.

Once I knew this word picture, I never forgot the Greek word for thanks, and I tried to remember to use it as much as possible.

We met several Greek folks in Pangiouda that embodied grace to us and for whom we say "Efcharisto!"

First, this bakery owner who greeted us with a huge smile each morning! And another one each evening when we came by for gelato!

Second, our wonderful hosts at the Cosmopolitan.  They were always quick to offer directions, invite us to local events, and do some handyman fixes in our rooms.  They treated us like friends more than customers.  We hated to say goodbye.

And lastly, the "Olive Oil Lady." She owned a store selling items made of local olive wood.  When we first met her and she asked where we were from and where we were staying, she said "I will make you some cake and pies this weekend."  We told her we would be gone early on Saturday and Sunday, so she surprised us by delivering homemade goodies to our hotel EXTRA early!  She baked for us again the next week just out of graciousness.  I know this isn't communion bread, but I was reminded of the eucharist and efcharisto. 

She came by the following morning just to say goodbye.  There were hugs all around.  

Efcharisto, indeed!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Top 12 Tour of Lesvos 2018

Last year, I posted a tour of Lesvos, not thinking that I would be back again in less than a year.  This time we were in Lesvos for 12 days, so I'm going to post my top 12 sites.

12) Camp Moria

While this is definitely NOT a tourist attraction, our whole team was interested in getting an up-close look at the refugee camp.  It helped us to process what daily living is like for the women and children that visit the center.  William took us through the camp in small groups.  We weren't supposed to take photos except with much discretion.  I tried to "shoot from the hip" with my phone.   I'm not including the several photos I took of my sandals and the sky.

11) Errosos

This beach is recommended as the #1 beach on Lesvos.  I was not impressed.  It is probably the most like American beaches - crowded, hard to find parking, lots of opportunities to spend money, etc.  It also had the hottest sand I have ever stepped on.  Truly painful.  But still pretty.

10) Molyvos

We drove like crazy to get to this castle before it closed (every tourist site closes at 3 PM).  You can see it all in 30 min or less, though.  Its history is a bit sketchy - it was built, destroyed, built again, destroyed again, built again, and then destroyed by an earthquake in 1867 at which point they gave up.  The ruins had good views.

Also, near Molyvos, there is a site that is quite sobering.  It is the lifejacket graveyard - the remains of lifejackets and boats used by the refugees that have come through Lesvos in recent years.  I would say that's a photo of me looking sober, but that's just the face I make when taking selfies.

9) Petra

This beach was a step up from Errosos.  For the price of a Diet Coke, you can sit in a chair under an umbrella all day.  Instead, we just stayed about an hour.  It was definitely hot enough to enjoy a dip in the cool Aegean.

8) Thermis

This place was very close to where we were staying, so it was just a quick trip up the road.  There is a "prehistoric archeological site" there that was already closed, but we had a lovely walk along the beach.

7)  Xampelia Beach

This beach was about a 30 min. drive up the coast from Panagiouda.  The beach had mostly small rocks instead of sand, and there was some annoying seaweed (which looked like confetti paper) floating on top of the water, but this was a nice little beach.  It was a great place to take a quick swim, relax, and buy a cold drink (here's where we discovered some Stevia-sweetened diet drinks).

We also saw a local artist at work making some incredible 3-D mosaics out of shells.  The large restaurant on the beach was totally decorated with this artwork - including all four walls and the ceiling. A quick internet search told me the artist's name is George Hatzinikolas.  Here's one of the smaller pieces, but many were as big as 4 ft X 6 ft.  

6) Roman Aqueduct

We visited this little place near Moria on one of our last evenings on Lesvos.  It was only about a 15 min. drive from our hotel, through the narrow streets of the small village of Moria (not the same as the camp, but the town from whence the camp gets its name), and up into the hills above town.  We all really thought it looked like something from Lord of the Rings - a massive structure built by an ancient empire in what looks to be like the middle of nowhere!  Historians think it was built by Hadrian.  So I have now seen Hadrian's Wall, Hadrian's Arch and now Hadrian's Aqueduct.  I need to see what else he built so that I can make a bucket list.  

5) Agiassos

This was a cute little village at the base of Mt. Olympus.  It was very picturesque, with a large church in the center of town.  We had fun walking around.  I might have liked it a little more, but it was full of little trinket shops and had a bit of a "tourist-trap" feel to me.  The omelette I ate there was one of the best things I tasted on the trip.  One of the filling ingredients was French fries!

4) Skala Sykamineas

This town on the northeast coast of Lesvos is just so cute!  Some might like Agiassos better, but this one has the Aegean and lovely little jewelry stores.  This is also the spot where most of the refugees arrive by boat.  This little community has rescued many lives.

Melanie and I bought matching fish bracelets.  The shopkeeper told us that the fish symbolizes good luck and flexibility.  I told her the fish represents Jesus to us!  I also think it's a great reminder of the little town that plucks these precious souls from the sea and a reminder to us that we are fishers of men.  

3) Mytilini

By far the biggest town on Lesvos, we have a record in the New Testament that this harbor was visited by Paul.  It has a lovely stretch of sidewalk going all the way around an oval-shaped harbor, and it is magical-looking in the evening.  There are restaurants and stores across the street - even a place called "The Sugar Store" which was a favorite.  It also has a very interesting castle on the hill with great views from high above and even a cool crypt down below.  

2) Mt. Olympus

This was a favorite spot for our team.  Terry had been trying to figure out a way to get to the top of this mountain since he first saw it.  Turns out there is a road that goes up to the top.  We stopped a little bit short of the top (the road was a bit scary), and hiked the last bit of the way.  We had a great view of much of the island and stayed up there quite a while taking it all in.  

There was a Greek orthodox chapel at the very top along with this cool cross:

1) Panagiouda

My number one spot on this island is the little town that we called home for two weeks.  I loved the peaceful harbor, the wonderful restaurants right on the water, the silver church dome that sparkled at sunset, the clock tower lit up at night, our colorful little hotel, the local swimming hole and the wonderful people (more about them in a post to come). 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Baby Wuz and Other Blunders

The refugees in Moria speak a variety of languages - but Arabic is the most common since currently more of the refugees come from Syria than any other country.

None of our missions team went to Greece with any skill whatsoever in Arabic!  During our two weeks there, we all learned a few words, and most of us were inspired to learn to speak Arabic on at least a toddler level. Though we were trying to communicate the gospel without words (see this post), words are so helpful in communication!  That seems obvious, but spending a few weeks communicating with hand signals, charades, poor drawings (think "Pictionary"), and cell phone photos made me really appreciate the gift of words (it also made me realize again what a curse the Tower of Babel was). 

Here are some of my humorous moments attempting to use Arabic:

1) Baby Wuz

In an attempt to become more familiar with the women and children visiting Gateways2Life, I decided to start asking the moms their names.  I knew they didn't know English, but I thought if I just asked "What's Your Name?" enough times, they would figure it out.  A lady was dropping off her baby in the kid's area, and I asked his name.  After I repeated the question several times while pointing at her and the baby, she pointed at the baby and said "Wuz."  She pointed at herself and said "Zenam."  I recorded these words in the Notes section of my phone.  I then proceeded to carry the baby around and tell everyone his name was Wuz.  Later, I looked at my notes.  Wuz, Zenam.  (if you say them together, you realize the problem).  The mom was just trying to repeat after me!  I have no idea what that kid's name was.  He just became "Baby Wuz" to our whole team.


2) Not a Girl

A young mom asked me if we had any clothes for her baby.  There were a few items stored in boxes in the "attic."  Melanie was holding the baby and said, even though he's dressed like a boy, I think it's a girl - pointed out the painted toenails and little bracelet.  I searched for some pink clothes - unmistakenly little girl clothes because I felt a little sorry for the little girl having to wear hand-me-down boy clothes.  When I returned and showed the mom, she looked at them and said "no."  I wasn't sure if she was saying no because of the pink or because they wouldn't fit.  Melanie and I tried all the charades we knew to ask if it was a boy or girl.  Finally, the young mom laughed and pulled down her son's diaper!  This communicates in any language!

I was blessed to get to hold this little boy and pray for him several times - that he would leave Moria for a better place, be introduced to Jesus, and be protected by God (who affords much better protection that this little "anti-evil eye" charm that he wore).

3)  Not Moria, but Afwan?

Our third day on Lesvos, a brand new baby showed up in the Center, and a woman loudly proclaimed over and over "Born in Moria!  Named Moria!"  I naturally thought the little girl's name was Moria (I knew at least I had gotten the girl part right).  So our last day there, I asked the mom the baby's name using my best Arabic for "What's your name?"  which I had learned to say something like "Shoo esmek?"  She said Afwan.  I thought that was a pretty name, but as I started to mull it over, I realized that Afwan sounds like the Arabic for "You're welcome" and "Shoo esmek?"  sounds a little bit like "Thank You."  I did not have the nerve to ask again.  She will just be baby Moria to me.  

4) Husband Not Beheaded After All

You may have read an earlier post where I talked about my "conversation" with a young woman who said her husband was beheaded while her young son watched.  I am happy to report that I misunderstood!  I realized this when she showed me cell phone photos of she and her husband's trip through Syria, Turkey, boarding a rubber raft, being picked up by an English rescue ship, and in Camp Moria.  He is alive and well!  She continued to talk about beheadings and such (with unmistakable hand motions) but I began to understand that these were things she saw, but it did not happen to them.  This is why they fled.  She said Syria was beautiful.  I looked up photos on my phone and at first just saw soldiers and bombed out buildings.  Then I googled "beautiful photos of Syria" on my phone and showed them to her.  She said "Ah, Syria, Syria!" and began to cry.  In this case, a picture was worth a thousand words.  

I can also say with confidence that this woman's daughter's name is Lara and that they aspire to join relatives in Canada. 

5) The Arabs all love my name!

When I say my name is Susan, they smile.  They tell me it's Arabic (I thought it was Hebrew, but I don't bring that up).  They can not only say it, they know what it means.  So with all my blunders, I've got that going for me!  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Tale of Two Pharaohs or Two Ways to Look at Refugees

Note: This is meant to be a post about the European refugee crisis, but I also think there is application to how refugees and immigrants are viewed in the United States.  

I love this quote

"Now you have a distinct choice as you hear news reports about refugees arriving to your community.  Will you, like the pharaoh of the Exodus, hear about masses of people and presume they are a threat?  Or rather than labeling them from a distance, will you get to know them? The pharaoh who saw Joseph's potential and welcomed his family ended up being blessed in return - as did the entire country of Egypt, which was spared the worst effects of famine because God providentially placed this particular foreigner in their land, subverting the unjust circumstances that compelled the migration."

 From the book Seeking Refuge

During our last few days here, we've gotten to hear a few local Greeks complaining about the refugees here on the island.  We met one older lady (at least 75) down at the local Aegean swimming hole who thanked us for wearing swimsuits and said that the refugees have ruined their spot by swimming in their clothes (the women) or in their underwear (some of the men).  I must admit it was a little ironic to hear her complain about their attire when her more than ample girth could not be well-contained in her bikini, but I let her vent.

The refugee crisis has been hard on this island.  But before there was a refugee crisis, there was an economic crisis.  The tourist business was drying up before the refugee crisis hit.  And now the hotels and restaurants in Panagiouda are booming with business from volunteers who have come from around the world to help.  Our little hotel is full of evangelicals working with a variety of NGOs.  Our hosts are the most gracious people you would ever meet.

The locals here can see threat or opportunity (or perhaps both).  Starting when we leave next week, Gateways2Life will not be staffed by volunteers but by hired local Greeks (and one former refugee with asylum).  Though some have a heart for refugees, few are believers.  Please pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send workers.