"Cleaning the Feet of Volos"

Hello to all!
I am finally able to sit down and tell of our time spent in Volos this past week.  We did not have Internet and remained quite busy.  Our time spent there was beautiful, and leaving was bittersweet.  And all these reasons of the bitter and the sweet are intertwined. 

It was sweet because of the wonderful friendships we created within His Bride, the church.  Sweeter still because of the trash ministry; Meletis’ passion for this ministry was infectious!  He described this ministry as “Cleaning the Feet of Volos”, and we saw God at work through this simple form of community service. 
“You see, to be Greek is to be Orthodox…to be a protestant and be Greek is to be a heretic and to betray your identity as a Greek” (paraphrase of Meletis).  ”Greek Orthodox will call themselves Christians, but not consider a Protestant a Christian”.  It is within this context that Meletis was called to the church in Volos in the 90s.  He said that when he came to the Volos church at that time it was full of an older generation who had responded to this cultural attitude by facing inward - and in his words, letting them define their place in the community... and, therefore, having little to no impact on the community.  It was in 1997 that Meletis began the trash pick up.  He says he went to the town office and told them what they were going to do, and the response was disbelief.  But Meletis did it anyways, just as he said.  He said that it wasn’t until the third day of them picking up trash that the mayor came (as he had said he would) rolled down the window and said, “So you did it” and Meletis replied, “I told you I would.”  In the following years the Evangelical church gained more exposure in Volos through this ministry and it was because of this ministry that the church began to be included in the community - from being invited to events to being put on the map.
We picked up trash Saturday (June 4), Monday and Tuesday.  And during those three days, I felt the sharp pain of bitterness fill my heart toward the people’s pollution to the beautiful land.  I couldn’t understand the Greeks' problem of littering and lack of care for God’s wonderful creation, or how anyone could be too prideful to do anything about it.  But as we picked up trash alongside the roads and beautiful coast, people would stop and ask us what we were doing – was it that unusual for them to see simple acts of community service?  Many thanked us and said “Bravo”, which was always encouraging, and some would honk politely as they drove past.  A few even stopped to help pick up for a while.  I saw that many were embarrassed that people would come from other parts of the world to pick up their trash.  And there was so much trash…so much that we couldn’t pick it all up.  We couldn’t get every piece of paper or every bendy straw on the ground.  But you know who can?  Jesus.  Jesus cleaned every single piece of trash in my life.  He picked up all the litter that gave stench to me, His temple…His creation.  He is the one true cleanser of the world (1 John 1:9).
We were also given the chance to pass out trash bags that told of the ministry and church.  Between the 7 of us and Meletis, we passed out 2,500 bags within 3 hours!  While passing out the bags, some would reply “Whose trash?”  As I wanted to lash out in anger saying “your trash – do you people not see your own trash?”  I was again reminded of the log in my own eye and how I need to take my own garbage to Christ each day.

On Sunday, we faced the bitter knowledge of the persecution of the 7 faithful members of the old country evangelical church in Karditsa, which is located 2 hours outside of Volos.  They experienced especially bitter struggles in the 60’s as they were accosted with insults and stones and vegetables thrown at them as they sought to enter their place of worship – for this reason the church even had to be shut down for a time.  However, we were given glimpses of the sweet love and answers to prayer this church has experienced – with a small yet faithful membership; particularly the answer God has given to a believing wife, whose husband once beat her for attendance of an evangelical church, now accompanies her.  Because the church has no pastor, it holds worship on Sunday evenings so other evangelical pastors can preach on rotation.

Wednesday, we went to the rock cliff towers of Meteora.  This is a group of monasteries built in the 10th century by monks and nuns who wanted to escape from the world and make for themselves a holy life.  Many of the monasteries were destroyed by the Turks during the Turk Invasion, however, the monks and nuns were careful to preserve their treasures of art, Biblical literature, and historical writings in crypts.  It is bitter to think of the idolatry put into all the icons and treasures, though, sweet to have them preserved so we can see and understand this culture better through their history.

There is the sweetness of receiving grace and hospitality in His name.  And the bitterness of leaving such a home… mingled with the remembrance that we each do belong somewhere greater, somewhere we will be truly satisfied by a stay with such a Host that the sweetness will neither end nor fade.

“We ought to always give thanks to God for you, brothers (and sisters), as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.”  2 Thessalonians 1:3 & 4

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your wonderful description of the work of Jesus to cleanse us! Your words called to mind "stench" so powerfully - and it is good for me to be reminded again today that my heart is not mildly affected by my sin. My heart is afflicted and it is a stench until our Lord Jesus comes to cleanse and purify!

    You all are doing great work - and your work to reflect and write is great work too. Thank you for pointing us back to Jesus again - and again.