Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary Blog

Santorini

June 19, 2013

Lola Gingerich, scribe

I have been pondering the opening shared by Sara Wenger Shenk a couple of days ago (#197 in Sing the Story):
Sovereign Creator of earth and sky,
Savior always with us,
Spirit sweeping over the waters,
Renew our hearts today
Surround us with wonder and awe,
So we may honor you
With our gifts of love and praise
And worship you with our whole life.

We awoke to rough water and high winds, causing the ship to rock back and forth. This created a new off-balance sensation for some in the group—quite different from the calm, gentle movement of the ship until now. Again I was reminded of that powerful Spirit of our Sovereign Creator who is evident in earth and sky, who sweeps over the waters surrounding us with wonder, who comes to each of us personally with gifts of grace and peace for each new encounter along the way. Praise God for the abundance of love, new each day, available to all who call on the name of Jesus, as power filled as the wind and water that move our ship.

Bruce Baergen, a member of our travel group, picked up enough tickets for all who wished to travel off ship to Santorini, Greece, today. There we took the cable car to the top of the cliff or the switchback stairs—a 45-minute walk to the top on 588+ steps! Once on top we found crowded streets filled with hundreds of vendors on narrow, stone-covered paths through this town of Fira. Its terraced streets filled with white-washed buildings with shops, restaurants, and domed churches.

We found a small Catholic church and we were welcomed by the voices of monks singing. It was a peaceful and restful sound and only a few people were there, where I sat quietly to reflect, pray, and ponder the events of this journey so far.

Next we walked back streets rather than those on which all the shops were located, and we found the reality of the home life that many who live on Santorini experience: laundry on the line, children playing, a child sitting on her grandmother’s lap. We also walked through resorts where lavish swimming pools welcome vacationers.

We also found the “Cathedral Church of the Candlemas of the Lord.” This church had nuns inside the door, telling gentlemen to remove their hats. No music was playing. There was a request for money near the door. The interior was beautiful, but they allowed no photos. It appeared somewhat cold.

As we left on the walkway, a mother with a sleeping child was asking for money while seated on the ground. We walked on and saw two small girls asking for money. They reminded me of my granddaughters . . . but they were on the streets alone with a small paper cup asking for money. They held a sign that said, “My mother has died and my father is ill. Please give me money to help take care of him.”

A few steps down the path a small boy playing a small accordion was also asking for money. My heart longs to know their story—each one of these children. Our guide in Rome called them “gypsies.” She didn’t like them, it was obvious. How do we respond to their cry for help?

We had a conversation with a woman shopkeeper from Romania who had lived in Santorini for eight years. She told us the reason the buildings were white is that when Italy took over Santorini centuries ago, the Italians would not let the residents of Santorini raise their Greek flag. So buildings were whitewashed and the doors were painted blue—the colors of the Greek flag. She also told us the clothes she had hanging along the walkway to sell become salty and smell, so she washes them often to hang again to sell.

In the evening some of us attended a concert by “Eden,” a world-class female duo who sang classical and pop songs, specializing in classical crossover. They were very good!

Quote for the day:
“The power of the gospel has survived the destruction of empire after empire. We are heirs to the saints who have gone before us.” —Gerald Shenk
 

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Welcome to this window on the 2013 Mediterranean Cruisetour. As Sara Wenger Shenk, AMBS president, and Loren Johns, AMBS professor of New Testament, and 43 other travelers explore the places where the Apostle Paul traveled, they will share photos and reports here. Come back to this space for what we hope will be daily snapshots in words and photos of what the group is experiencing.

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