Posts Tagged ‘kos’

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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Thoughts on Hippocrates – and the Greatest Physician Ever

October 17, 2012

A recent comment (which shocked me) about a young person who was given sleeping tablets after just one consultation stirred my memories of Kos and the day that I stood by the statue of Hippocrates in a park in Kos town. (By a strange coincidence on that day I also found two Israeli coins lying in that park close to the statue!) Often referred to as ‘the father of modern medicine,’ Hippocrates was born on the island of Kos somewhere between 430 and 370 BC. and made his living as a travelling physician. Today Hippocrates is mostly known for the ‘Hippocratic Oath,’ various versions of which are still taken by modern-day doctors all over the world.

Confidentiality and care of the patient were said to be most important to Hippocrates and it is also said that his medical care was gentle on his patients. Hippocrates was the first to argue that disease was not ‘a punishment from the gods,’ but rather caused by the environment, diet or living habits of his patients and today it is recognised that he made several major contributions to modern medicine.

But a few hundred years later and a few hundred of miles from the island of Kos, the Lord Jesus Christ was born into this world – the Greatest Physician and Counsellor that any individual could ever have the joy to meet! He cared deeply for His creation – and He still does; He cares for me – and He cares for you… “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1Peter 5v7)

Yet, even if we love Him and belong to Him, we are not immune to the prevailing conditions in this tainted world. I have heard it said that doctors nowadays seem to turn to their computers, the minute that their patient walks into the surgery! You may be just another face to them in their long day of listening to a catalogue of ailments – but rest assured that there is One who truly cares about your pain and for your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Your tears are important to Him and your health is important to Him, whoever you are and whatever your situation.

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4v23)

This sickness, we learn, was not confined to those who disobeyed God, or as a consequence of personal sin, or worse still – the sins of their parents. The disciples questioned Jesus: “who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered with these words: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9v2&3)

Today we have “health, wealth and prosperity” cults telling us that we must have all three attributes. I wonder what they think of Timothy’s “oft infirmities?” (1 Timothy 5v23)… Or the fact that Jesus Himself “had not where to lay His head?” (Luke 9v58)

Today I praise Him and look to Him for the riches that count… those spiritual riches of contentment under all circumstances, for surely He is “the God of all comfort?” (2Cor. 1v3)

If you are suffering today, Jesus knows all about it: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4v15)

Praise God that when we as Christians suffer, we can have much more of a rapport with our fellowmen and women who have perhaps had the same health diagnosis as we have had…

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2Cor. 1v3&4)

However, if you have never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, my prayer is that today you will do so, for when sickness comes your way (as it does for everyone, whatever their spiritual status) that Great Physician and Father of mercies will comfort you and carry you through to journey’s end, where you will be able to say with all who love Him: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Cor. 15v55-57

Lagoúdi – a Small Koan Hamlet Untouched by Mass Tourism

October 3, 2012

“Blink and you’ll miss it” is an expression that the Irish give to some of their tiny villages when driving through them – and Lagoúdi could certainly be described as a “blink and you’ll miss it village.” But the tiny village of Lagoúdi on the Greek island of Kos will always have a special place in my memories because of its lovely atmosphere of peace and authentic ‘Greekness.’ I had this feeling that here was a place untouched by time and tourism. We spotted it one hot afternoon as we were driving towards the better known village of Zía, famous for its tourist shops and beautiful views. Pulling off the dusty road, we parked and strolled through the village street. (There is only one.) Cockerels and hens were roaming freely along the narrow little street and I spotted one of those elusive Greek ladies dressed in black retreat into her dwelling place. Numerous cats were slinking everywhere and after a while we heard some beautiful violin music carry, faintly at first, above the noise of the crickets. It was then that I saw him – the elderly Greek man playing a traditional melody, while he sat at the entrance to his home in the heat of the day. Enjoying the atmosphere and the music at that moment, I asked his permission to take his photograph and although he seemed to be a shy person, he readily agreed. I gave him a little ‘John 3v16’ Greek bookmark, for which he thanked me, as most of the Greeks so politely do.

The entire village seemed to be asleep (it was siesta time, after all) but for the two people we met. Another younger man sat outside his house with his feet up, contemplating his small part of the world with an expressionless gaze. He too, accepted a bookmark but how I wished at that very moment that we had more of a grasp of the Greek language, to talk to these people.

Now, on a rainy autumn day with leaves flying everywhere in Ireland, my thoughts turn to that lovely little Greek village and to the souls who live there. The village, we discovered, was dominated by the ‘Panagia Theotόkou Genesíou,’ a very ornate Greek Orthodox Church. In the heat of the day we strolled in there and took a seat in its quiet coolness. I noticed, too, a purring pregnant cat lying under one of the seats; obviously she needed to take refuge from the strong sunlight! I can still see, in my photographs and indeed, in my ‘mind’s eye,’ the magnificence of this building we discovered standing above the village: the beautifully carved candle sticks and rich chandeliers; the intricately carved seats, the shining marble floor and the stunning artwork – all in strange contrast to the simple village itself.

But in reality ‘the church’ is not a building, or even an organisation; the ‘Church’ are those believers who together make up ‘the Body of Christ.’ (Romans 12 v4&5). Does the Church have many members in this and other little villages on Kos and on other islands and on the mainland of Greece? Oh that those Greeks who profess to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, would reach out to their fellow countrymen and women – but how few really know the Lord and have been touched by the simplicity of the gospel…

“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10v12-15)

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)

Another Hot Day in Kos… Another Rainy Day in Ireland!

August 5, 2012

Often when we were out and about in the afternoon in Kos, these words from an old song would come to me… “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” Even the cats and dogs, it appeared, would sleep between the hours of two and six o’clock which is the usual Greek siesta time and perhaps we should have followed their example. It is difficult to acclimatize yourself to the fierce heat of the sun here in this little island so close to Turkey, especially when your native county happens to be Ireland. And it is even more difficult to adjust to cold grey skies and lashing rain when you return!

In Ireland the volatile nature of our weather is an ever-popular conversation piece throughout the island. It is also a safe subject matter to dwell on – unlike politics, or religion. Strangers from the north of the island who are holidaying in Kerry will freely discuss the weather situation with the natives. It is something that affects all of us, sometimes very deeply, when we depend on benign conditions to grow fruit, and other crops that are grown so effortlessly in other parts of Europe.

The same Lord who said “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9v13), is He who is sovereign over earthquakes throughout the world, tornadoes in the Americas, melting glaciers in the Alps … and wintry days in an Irish summer.  He has lessons to teach the human race – both collectively and individually. I have no right to feel angry about a “grey day” for “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew5v45) So many are suffering in our world today, which is something I know nothing about! Certainly we can, (and must) pray about weather conditions when lives are in danger, or when the livelihood of farmers is being affected. Let us never forget … “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5v17&18).

With all the great advances in technology in recent years, people have found no way to drag clouds away from a blue sky, or create rain in the parched lands of the earth … but “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5v16). This is as true today, as it was in the days of Elijah!

I read media reports on global warming, and yet God’s word tells me:  “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”  (Gen. 8v22). And yet someday the earth will be subject to the ultimate trauma, for we read … “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” (2Pet. 3v10).

Are you ready for this day? Remember that while we live in this, the ‘day of grace,’ His invitation stands in rain, hail, sun or snowstorm!  To the Christian He says: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness.” (2Pet.3v11) “Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2Pet. 3v13). With these crucial exhortations and wonderful promises, let us in the words of Peter … “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever.  Amen.”   (2Pet.3v18).

Walking Uphill to the Traditional Greek Village of Kéfalos

August 1, 2012

So enthusiastic was I about being in the sun that I made the mistake of getting too sunburned on our first days in Kos! Soon I felt much better but we still decided not to go to the beach and so on the third day, armed with plenty of water, we walked steadily uphill towards the large medieval village of Kéfalos. I discovered that the latter was actually the first capital of Kos, named Astypalaia. After an earthquake destroyed the town in 412BC, it was abandoned and Kos town (today’s capital) was founded by the survivors.

Along the dusty road we were passed by all sorts of transport, including motorbikes and those beach quads which people seem to hire here. I had purchased a straw hat enroute, in a little shop where an elderly lady, sitting at the door and dressed all in black accepted one of my John 3v16 Greek bookmarks: “Οὕτω γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ’ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.”

She, of all the people we had ever met made an impression on me; I was very touched by how grateful and enthusiastic she was about it. She did not speak English at all but a younger man behind the counter looked at the bookmark and said: “You are Christian?” This gave us an opportunity to talk to him and somehow I felt more than the warmth of the sun as we left that shop.

Soon we were walking along a more rural area where the parched scenery was relieved only by the beauty of vibrant pink bougainvillea, growing wild by the roadside. After a while I began to feel quite ill in the heat of the day and I was just praying for some shelter from the sun when we spotted it… the little Greek Orthodox Church at the top of some steps. It was worth the climb to be able to find an open door to a cool place with a seat, where we drank most of our remaining water. As we sat there in that little church, I took in our silent surroundings… Greek icons, revered here as if they were the very saints themselves. Coincidentally my daily reading was in Jeremiah at the time: “The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.” (Jeremiah 7v18) Although Orthodoxy denies that the icons themselves are objects of worship, there is evidence that the regard in which they are held is certainly tantamount to worship.

Apart from small Muslim and Jewish minorities in Greece, as well as very tiny numbers who follow other sects and cults, most of the population adhere to the Greek Orthodox Church. While not accepting the pope of Rome as the spokesman for Christianity, the Greek Orthodox clergy also oppose the Reformation and Evangelical Christianity. It is sad that much of the Greek population today have still never been presented with the true gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

After exploring the ruined medieval castle in Kefalos with its few remaining walls overlooking the beauty of the azure sea below, we strolled into the sleepy village, largely untouched by time.

How good it was to have had the opportunity to leave the little bookmarks in the Greek Orthodox Churches that we visited and in Kéfalos and other villages; yet I feel in my heart that this region is so spiritually needy. I love the people of Greece and its island and wish that they could be reached with tracts in their own language that they could read and absorb. Most of all, I pray that precious souls would come to a knowledge of sins forgiven and a firm assurance of knowing my Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

Embarking on our Journey to the Greek Island of Kos

July 24, 2012

I’ve never been a ‘morning person,’ particularly when the morning in question consists of frantic weighing of suitcases and sleepily wondering whether my husband and I had remembered everything – both for the journey ahead and for those we had left at home. It was a quiet, cool grey dawn as we drove along the motorway to the airport. ‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘it would be good to get a break from Ireland’s torrential rain for a while!’

For some reason I was selected for a random thorough check by airport security. “Oh, don’t worry,” laughed the lady who searched me, “this morning we’re just selecting every twentieth person.”

Later as the aircraft accelerated along the runway and rose shakily into the grey mist, I thought about what is termed in aviation as ‘the point of no return’ and I immediately thought of those words in Hebrews 9v27: “… it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.”  Mankind, in this life alone, can make His peace with God. There is no chance to put things right either with our Creator or our fellowmen after death…

I thought about the ill-feeling which can develop between neighbours and even family members and remembered two men I had known in my life. They had stopped speaking to each other; I don’t recall much about the reason why now or whether they had ever been reconciled to each other before they had passed their respective ‘points of no return.’ I certainly hoped so. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Col. 3v13&14)

Yet, it is a fact that only those who have come to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour can ‘put on charity,’ for we can only be forgiving in His strength.

Later in London’s Gatwick Airport we had some hours to wait before our flight to Kos and I heard a lady’s voice over the intercom: “Ladies and gentlemen, you are invited to a service of Christian worship in the south terminal, starting at…”

“Well now,” said my husband, “wouldn’t that be a good way to pass some time, since we have quite a while before the gates open for our next flight? After that we can have lunch.”

I agreed with him and we made our way down to this ‘service of Christian worship.’

We were disappointed, however, with the outcome. As I expected there were very few people there but that wasn’t the disappointing part, “for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them…” (Matt. 18v20)

The service was held in a communal worship centre which is also used by other denominations and religious sects. Amongst those who attended were some enthusiastic young people who had come to witness with Christian literature to those who were attending the London Olympics and I did find this encouraging. However, I felt that the lady who spoke at this service was an advocate of ecumenism and I also felt uncomfortable with the other religious symbols on display there, for… “what communion hath light with darkness?” (2Cor. 6v14)

Later I purchased something in one of the airport shops and the assistant put my purchase into a ‘London News Company’ bag. I looked with interest at this bag which depicted the London skyline, complete with all sorts of religious symbols, including the mosque. For some reason the tune of “Rule Britannia” came into my head, with the words… “Britons never never never shall be slaves…”

‘Slaves,’ I thought, ‘but many are slaves now… slaves to the concept of political correctness.’

Our flight to Kos was smooth and the hours passed quickly – but not uneventfully! I thank the Lord for those opportunities He gives us to reach our fellow passengers within the confines of aircrafts, or ships, or trains – and on the journey of life itself.

Later as our taxi driver, in the heat of the dark night, sped along strange new roads which consisted of hairpin bends overlooking dangerous cliffs, I dreamed of home so far away now. Our driver accepted my ‘John 3v16’ Greek bookmark with a smile, as he helped us out with our cases.

A moment later a friendly face greeted us at our accommodation. “Welcome home!” he said kindly, as he shook our hands warmly. Yes, this would be ‘home’ for a couple of weeks and I prayed that warm night, as I fell asleep to the tune of a thousand crickets… ‘thank you Lord for your goodness, for safety, for your mercy and for the opportunities that you will give us in this place…”