Posts Tagged ‘greek islands’

The Unknown Homeless Man Of Kalyves

August 5, 2017

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Life has been hectic since our return from the Greek island of Crete just last week but somehow I keep thinking about him. These are words which I scribbled down on the night we had made enquiries about a homeless man we had previously met in 2009…

“We returned after eight years and found the square again in the same traditional Greek village of Kalyves but you were gone…

“Look after yourself,” I had told you but sadly I cannot remember now our conversation. We bought you something to eat – you, the drifter, a million miles from home. But where was “home?”

“America,” you had said. When we said we were from Ireland, you smiled at some distant memory and whispered simply: “I remember Ireland… lots of rainbows…”

Mystery soul, you are gone, a local told us; buried in a municipal grave; your funeral financed by the government. Every night you would sit on a circular seat built around a tree in the square. My husband gave some money to the nearby kiosk owner before we left. We had only stayed there for a week in 2009. “Please give that man some food each day when we are gone,” he had asked him. But there was a different kiosk owner now. Nothing ever stays the same, as life ebbs in, like the rolling tide beyond our little balcony…

Where did you come from? You never really wanted to talk about yourself or how it was you came to be there. Were you a missing person from where you once lived? Somewhere in this world a mother gave birth to you once. Then you drifted around the world, or perhaps you were running away from something or someone… You weren’t very old – forties perhaps. Is your mother alive or did she die, not knowing where on earth you ever went to?

The full moon reflects tonight on the rippling waves of Kalyves as we think of you, homeless friend, wondering whatever happened in the end. Sleeping rough, even in Crete, can wear a body down. Where is your soul tonight, homeless man? Will I ever meet you again? Did I share salvation’s story with you? What did we say to you?

These are questions that have been burning in my mind, as I think of this and other souls I have met in recent years – only to later discover that these souls had passed into eternity.

As I journey along, sometimes meeting a drifter (or even a very conservative settled person) that I will never ever meet again in this life, Lord help me to be faithful to them, sharing Your love and Salvation’s Story with them. Their reaction is irrelevant – I must do my part in the strength of the Lord – and then pray with all my heart for these souls you loved and died for.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1v16)

Lord, help us to be faithful. Help me to be faithful.

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Holocaust Memorial Day – and Personal Memories of a Jewish Cemetery on the Island of Kos

January 27, 2014

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 On this cold 27th January day while many mark the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945, my memories are of a hot day a couple of years ago on the Greek island of Kos. That lovely summer afternoon we found ourselves in a village called Platάni where we decided to have lunch. It soon became evident (from the names of the restaurants) that Platάni was home to Muslims as well as those of the Greek Orthodox persuasion. We sat for a while in one of those Muslim restaurants watching the villagers go by in the heat of the day and later we took a stroll down a narrow road a little way out of the village where we were intrigued to find two well hidden cemeteries, in very close proximity to each other.

The first cemetery was clearly a Muslim one – again we could tell by the names, the Arabic inscriptions used and those shallow graves that are typical of how Muslims are buried. Walking around this cemetery, I thought of the souls of those buried there…. Sadly some of them were comparatively young; I wondered what type of life they had led and why they had died this young. I later learned that this cemetery is still in use by the local Muslim community which is small on the island; they have their own mosque, although the children of Turkish speaking Muslims on Kos attend regular Greek schools.

I felt, in a strange sense, the type of atmosphere in that village which is still prevalent in parts of my native Northern Ireland. At a first glance it would appear that the members of that local community knit well together but I felt an undercurrent… I instinctively knew that behind that peaceful village scene lay deep cultural, historical and religious differences – and perhaps even hostilities.

With these thoughts in mind, we wandered out of the Muslim cemetery and there, just a very short distance away, we saw two lovely stars of David adorning an old gate. Sadly that gate was locked and these days I’m not so good at climbing high walls but I did manage to get a few photographs of the tombs of this Jewish community which, in 1922, still amounted to 66. In 1943 those remaining members of the Jewish community were rounded up by German forces and taken away to concentration camps where many were murdered. Today the only remaining synagogue on the island is used as a cultural centre.

I remember my feelings of disappointment on discovering that the gate was locked to the old cemetery. For a long time I just stood staring through the bars of the gate at the grey tombs set amongst the fir trees where little birds were flitting around the branches. There was an eerie silence about the scene and an atmosphere of deep sadness which words cannot adequately describe… How terrible, how unthinkable I thought, that the forces of hatred pursued the Lord’s ancient chosen people and captured them even from a lovely Greek island to bring them to a horrific place of torture and misery…

Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away; first the King of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones…” (Jeremiah 50v17)

And yet the Lord said: “Behold I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria, And I will bring Israel again to his habitation…” (Verses 18&19)

Memories of talking to a young Jewish couple on the deck of a ship which was sailing between Cyprus and Israel return to me on this Holocaust Memorial Day. The year was 1981, I was young (and young in the faith) – but trying to be a witness to this couple who were coming from different parts of the globe, to return to Israel and live there. How amazing and what a miracle that Israel became once more a nation on May 14th 1948!

Surely “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh…” (James 5v8) This time He is returning to judge the “quick and the dead” (2Timothy 4v1) “for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (Romans 13v11)

Hidden graves and ancient tombstones will open and the sea will give up its dead; billions will rise again – either to be with the Lord or to face the horrific consequences of a lost eternity.

 “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16v15)

Love and pray for the people of this world, wherever possible witnessing to them of God’s love for them, in sending His only begotten Son to be their Redeemer.

To those who know and follow Him… “there is neither Jew, nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3v28)

The divisive traditions of mankind melt away, when souls have been truly touched by the Lord Jesus Christ.

“He came unto His own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1v11&12)

Yet many have come to see that he was the Messiah – My prayer is that many many more would do so, seeing the wonderful prophetic truth in scriptures such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53…

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53v4&5)

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A Memorable Trip to the Isle of Patmos

September 26, 2012

Patmos… I had often dreamed of visiting it and one early morning while we were staying on Kos I realised as I looked across the sparkling sea from our balcony that this dream was about to come true that very day!

In the mellow early morning sun we drove to the harbour in Kos town where we parked and then boarded the Puglia Queen bound for Patmos. Unlike the boat to the volcanic island of Nissiros, this was a large vessel for the much longer sea journey involved.

The Greek island of Patmos, referred to as the ‘jewel of the Aegean’ and the ‘Sacred Island,’ is the island to which St. John the Divine is said to have been exiled “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 1v9) He wrote of his experience of hearing the Lord speak to him there in Patmos…

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” (Rev. 1v10&11)

It was a smooth pleasant journey – more like a cruise and as I sat there I reflected on the fact that human nature has not changed at all since the days when John, the servant of God, was inspired to write those sacred and precious messages which the Lord revealed to him.

At first sight of the little island (these days home to around 3,000 people) my thoughts turned to John and how he must have felt as he approached it, not on a comfortable ship with refreshments at hand, but most likely by sailing boat on rough seas – banished to this small remote island because of his love for “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 1v5&6)

Despite his circumstances John continued to praise God, being filled with His Spirit to the extent that the prophetic words that the Lord gave him to write and the wonderful visions that were revealed to him, would speak to billions of souls down through the ages ahead.

 After docking we boarded the coach for ‘the cave of the Apocalypse’ which is where John is said to have received his revelation; yet sadly I knew that very few of these pilgrims to the cave would truly own the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.

Several monasteries on the island are dedicated to St. John too and as I suspected, the cave etc. are used by the Greek Orthodox authorities to make money from the thousands of tourists who visit there each year.

I chatted with a friendly little elderly man, dressed in black with a white beard, who accepted my Greek John 3v16 bookmark with a smile and a ‘thank you,’ while my husband got the opportunity to talk to one of the monks who showed a genuine interest in what we believed.

We also met two young Dutch girls, Evangelical Christians, with whom we had a good conversation.

All in all, it was an unforgettable and fascinating day. I noticed that when we initially boarded the ship, a passenger list had been made, reminding me of the ill-fated Titanic… How many of those names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?

The last words of Jesus, written in Revelation 22v20, are these: “Surely I come quickly.”

John could say with complete assurance: “Amen, Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (v20)

How many today can truly say these words with confidence?

Jesus’ message to each precious soul for whom He died is still the same as it was when John walked the dusty earth on that lovely little isle of Patmos, around the year AD 96… “Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Rev. 3v20-22)

Jesus is coming again… oh that we would be ever ready for that day that no man knows – and that we would see His face and that His Name would be in our foreheads! (Rev 22v4)

Walking in a Smoking Volcano on the Greek Island of Nissiros

September 16, 2012

My memories of our recent summer trip to this volcano, aptly named the “sleeping giant,” are still fresh in my mind this autumn. One morning we took an early morning trip to the nearby harbour at Kéfalos where we boarded a boat bound for the small picturesque island of Nissiros (also known as Nisyros). What a turbulent sea journey it was! However, although I normally get seasick quite easily, on this occasion I sat out on the deck and somehow the fresh air helped. Something else which greatly helped was the fact that I didn’t wander around the boat; I sat still, determined, keeping my eyes on one solid unmoveable object when conditions were at their worst. That solid unmoveable object did not include one of my fellow passengers – for they could quite possibly let me down in this respect, especially when most of them seemed to be having a hard enough time dealing with the conditions too!

Later I was struck by this wonderful spiritual parallel… when life presents us with some turbulent conditions; the only safe place is to have our eyes firmly fixed on the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, our unmoveable Rock and Fortress.

At one point I noticed a distant rocky and misty coastline and asked one of the Greeks where it was, to which he replied shortly… “That is Turkey.” On arrival at this little island of Nissiros, home to around just 1,000 people who are distributed over four villages; we boarded a coach which drove away up into some very barren, but fascinating countryside. As soon as we reached the site of the volcano, I was struck by the fact that this was a very unique experience for me and quite possibly something I may never do again in my lifetime.

Outside the coach I was immediately overwhelmed by the unpleasant smell of sulphur – I could only describe it as being like very rotten eggs mixed with dust and ashes. By now it was around mid-day and the heat in the area of the volcano was almost too much to bear but I was still determined to say that I had walked in a volcano!

Looking down from a height, I noticed tiny figures walking right in the crater and knew that soon I too would be another one of those distant tiny figures when we had reached it. The barren, lunar-like landscape of the area was strange and somehow overpowering and the smell of the sulphur reminded me of  a story that I had heard once of someone who had claimed to have had a vision of hell. He had described the smell there as being of ‘sulphur.’ Even the concept of hell is not a subject that anyone wishes to dwell on and yet I know that hell is a very real place and that Jesus talked more about this horrific destination than about heaven, for He is “not willing that any should perish.”

Clambering down into the crater, the soles of my feet felt extremely hot, as a fierce wind blew dust all around us. In fascination I stared for a long time at the smoking holes all around my hot feet and after a while decided that the mid-July heat that day, combined with the choking smell of sulphur was just too much! By now the water in my flask was very hot too (it is said that one can fry eggs quickly in that crater) and soon we were clambering up the slope again towards our coach which thankfully had the air conditioning running!

The “sleeping giant” is indeed an ever present threat to the people of the island of Nissiros. It is a very beautiful island in many respects but I could still smell that sulphur even when we had returned to the small village of Mandráki where we had some time to wander around the lovely narrow little streets before we once more boarded our boat for the return journey.

In 1996 and 1997 the islanders also experienced terrifying earth tremors for many months and some cracked dwelling places had to be vacated at this time. Scientists are constantly monitoring the “simmering giant” too, but what can mankind do against the forces of nature – but flee to safety when they receive a warning?

Boarding the boat for our return journey, I clutched a piece of volcanic ash – my souvenir from that unforgettable day trip. Staring back at Mandráki, I watched the waves of the sea crash against its ancient walls and then turned to see the sun go down over the sparkling waves on the horizon. I had left little John 3v16 Greek bookmarks with some of the villagers – and some in a monastery to which we had climbed from the narrow streets. But what are these among so many? Nissiros… 1,000 people and yet another lovely Greek island, for whose inhabitants my Saviour died. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Luke 10v2)