Posts Tagged ‘zakynthos’

At Times Like This I Wish I Had Learned Greek!

August 10, 2015

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After the conference was over we were free to explore the island of Zakynthos with its many fascinating villages – some of them quite remote. I enjoyed meeting local people who readily accepted my little ‘John 3v16’ bookmarks but sometimes it so frustrating when we sincerely want to communicate in words that amount to much more than ‘yes, no, please, thank you, good morning, good afternoon or goodnight!’ Many Greeks speak perfect English but unfortunately some older people like those we met have no English at all.

Above are two lovely people that I encountered in the heat of the day, in one of those little villages with their narrow streets – and they have both accepted a little bookmark from me. When I asked them, they were also happy to have their photographs taken. Somehow I had a sense of some ‘unfinished business’ on this island; a sense that we definitely will return to the region…

How strange it must have been in those days when “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” (Genesis 11v1) I often wonder what the “Tower of Babel” looked like… After the Lord sees the need to “confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Verse7), He also “scatters them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” (Verse 9) And so we have the generations of Shem, Ham and Japeth to this day, scattered upon the face of the earth. Today there are roughly 6500 spoken languages in the world! However, about 2000 of these languages have fewer than a thousand speakers. There are also many languages which are only spoken – and have never been written. It is said that the top ten most spoken languages in the world are: Chinese (Mandarin), English, Hindustani, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Bengali, Portuguese, Malay-Indonesian and French.

As people travel more and more in the age in which we live, I believe that there are many opportunities for the Lord’s people to reach out with the simple gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I also believe that where our words and attempts to explain have been inadequate, the Lord Himself will take over and speak to hearts through His Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, though, He can lay it upon our hearts to make the effort to learn a language so that we may effectively communicate with the souls we meet. What I felt when I met these elderly people was a great warmth and love in my heart for them and I do pray that this simple little verse in their own language will speak to their hearts.

Meanwhile I have been scanning the evening class language subjects for Modern Greek – but unfortunately don’t see it listed at all. I will continue to do so – and also to pray for those people I came in contact with – whether it was a waiter or waitress in a restaurant, a shop keeper, the owner of our apartment – or an elderly man or woman watching strange tourists who insist on walking around in the 40 degree heat of their hot summer’s day!

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…”

August 4, 2015

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I admire the Greeks for their resilience in the face of a serious economic crisis. Having returned just recently from the island of Zakynthos, I noted that people on this island have helped each other in many ways, where sometimes a barter system operated. Nobody seemed to be panicking about the fact that the banks were closed for a while and on the whole everyone was good-humoured, smiling and gracious to tourists. In the heat of the day we stopped at a remote little mountain village called Agalás for lunch, intending to afterwards visit Damianόs cave and the Andronios Venetian wells. Only two elderly men sat in the old café and on seeing us sit down at one of the tables one of them departed to bring back a lady who had been in her own home just across the road! She immediately made us lovely toasted sandwiches along with ice-cold drinks (very reasonably priced) and as we were taking our leave, she kindly also gave us a free bag of her own home-grown lovely ripe plums.

This generosity was to be experienced throughout our trip, when after a meal out in a restaurant (usually less than half the price that it is at home) we would be offered a free desert, tea, coffee or some watermelon afterwards.

It is said that one of the ‘must see’ sites in Zakynthos is “Shipwreck Bay,” which is also known as “smugglers cove.” I took a photograph of it from a great high cliff (which was thankfully surrounded by a barrier) but it cannot be reached, except by boat. Apparently a ship (built in Scotland) ran aground here as recently as 1980; it had been smuggling cigarettes from Turkey and subsequently chased by the Greek navy. And so the rusty wreck on this lonely little stretch of beach has become a famous scene on postcards and travel books – and a rendezvous for tourists.

I find it interesting that the islanders can make something as simple as a (comparatively recent) wreck into a tourist attraction – with the result that many tourists pay to sail there every day. I heard someone say: “Honestly, those Greeks can use just about anything to make a living!”

Somehow I see an analogy here for those who serve the Lord. Each of us is a unique human being and each of our lives has followed an interestingly different path. He has given each one of us gifts, resources and very different opportunities to reach others but often it is the miserably negative experiences that we have and the times of brokenness in life which have the potential to amass the rich capital that matters – our growth in the Lord and the salvation of souls. An abandoned rusty old ship has been turned into a positive tourist attraction – and a life that has been suddenly hit by illness or bereavement can be turned into a positive opportunity to reach souls. It is only when we experience the low times for ourselves that we can reach out with real understanding and His love for others who need to know Him.

“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.” (2Corinthians 1v3&4)

How safe is Your Holiday or Business Destination this Summer?

June 29, 2015

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As recent terror attacks in three continents continue to send shock waves around the world, many people are now wondering whether to cancel their summer holiday – particularly if it happens to be in Tunisia. Horrific scenes have emerged in the last few days; of tourists, including young children running for their lives on a Tunisian beach; of rising casualties in a Shia mosque in Kuwait and of an explosion in a chemical plant near Lyon where a man beheaded his boss…

Elsewhere many areas of the world are in complete turmoil. Refugees and migrants fleeing war, poverty and persecution are floating in the open seas in rubber dinghies and little wooden boats which were never meant to hold the number of people that have been packed unto them. We see images of men, women and children being washed ashore on Greek islands – where the locals are barely able to provide for the needs of their own families.

On a personal level, my husband is to participate in a conference in the Greek island of Zakynthos next month but Greece, we fear, is on the brink of a humanitarian crises. School teachers in Athens have complained that young children are under-nourished and some are even fainting because they have not eaten in a couple of days. In the countryside at least, people it appears are able to grow fruit and vegetables, keep hens for eggs and goats to milk and make goat’s cheese from. However, I have to admit that I am a little apprehensive about our proposed trip to this lovely green island which the Venetians once named “the flower of the east.”

It was here, on this third largest of the Ionian Islands that dozens of terrified Afghan and Iraqi Kurdish refugees washed in to shore just recently, because they were unable to make it to the coasts of Italy. So what awaits any traveller this summer, having reached their destination – financial chaos, refugees on the beach – or worse still… a gunman on the beach?

Yes, it appears that even Greece is on the map of “tourist area hotspots with terror threat level” issued by the foreign office. On the red alert “high threat” list are France, Spain, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Turkey – and now Tunisia of course. Italy, Greece and Morocco are classified under “general threat,” while Portugal, Croatia and Bulgaria are listed under “underlying threat”.

“Oh, just stay at home,” some sigh… “Let’s face it, the world is just not safe out there anymore!”

‘But is it even safe at home?’ I ask myself. If someone had asked an 82 year-old British grandmother ‘did she think she would ever be beheaded in her own back garden?’ I’m sure that she would never have dreamt of such a horror – but this happened not so very long ago.

In an uncertain world, we brace ourselves for tomorrow’s news… but there is a happy band of people in this world who can claim these lovely words and apply them to any situation that they find ourselves in… “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Se-lah.” (Psalm 46v1-3)

Can you claim to feel a genuine peace when you hear these words? Whether it is financial unrest, wars, rumours of war, persecution; violence in the forces of nature, sickness or even death – if the Lord has control of all of your life, you have nothing to fear – either here or in the world to come. Of course pain, bereavement, anguish, or having to face up to our own death is horrendously hard to bear but thank God for the Lord Jesus Christ who loves us and wants to be our Burden-Bearer. He said: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11v28)

But He also said: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10v28)

And so, in an uncertain world, it is essential to be certain of this one thing – that the Lord Jesus Christ reigns supreme in your life.

If it is that you fear an uncertain eternity, it is not His will that you continue to live in this unhappy state. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5v8)

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died for your sins because he loved you and wants you to have an assurance of sins forgiven in this life – and a deep peace in your heart that you will spend eternity in heaven with Him. All He asks is that you repent and put your trust in Him today. Remember – tomorrow may be too late… for all our tomorrows on this earth are becoming increasingly uncertain. There is nothing comparable to the joy of feeling His Presence with you as you face into each new day. Oh that you would be one of that happy band who can honestly say…“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” (Psalm 48v14)

May the Lord bless these words to whoever reads them.