Winding Down in Florence

From our final gala

This week was our final half-week with the Pepperdine students, who headed home yesterday. Carrie and I have a final ten days of travel, mostly involving Greek islands, before returning home on April 28. As we wind down our time in Florence, I’ve been taking a look back on what we’ve done during our time here. 

Here’s a partial listing: 

  • Countries visited: 8 total (4 for the first time)
  • Towns and Cities visited: 24 
  • Churches/Houses of Worship visited: 35, including worshipping at 5 
  • Museums/Major Historic Buildings visited: 21 
  • Audio Tours: 18 
  • Books Completed: 9 (plus two more in process) 
  • Gardens/Hikes/National Parks: 6 
  • People hosted in our apartment: 33 students for dinner, 8 out of town travelers 
  • Speaking Engagements during Sabbatical: 6 

Without a doubt, this has been the trip of a lifetime. Carrie and I have been reminded how much we enjoy sharing both life’s adventures and life’s routine days together. We have loved getting to know this cohort of Pepperdine students and to pour into them. We are deeply grateful, both to Pepperdine University and the Conejo Church, for this opportunity to live in Italy, to teach, to learn, to reflect, to travel, and to be still. As I look back over this blog, I pinch myself and ask, “Did we really get to do all this?”  

I’ve included some pictures encapsulating our final weeks here. We look forward to being back in the US soon!

With Gabrielle at the final gala
With program director Elizabeth W.

From our final Monday night devo
A finals review session in our apartment
Students in library, preparing for finals

Exterior of the Great Synagogue of Florence (Tempio Maggiore) in Florence
Interior of the the Great Synagogue of Florence (Tempio Maggiore)
Exterior of Santa Maria Novella Basilica in Florence
The pulpit in Santa Maria Novella Basilica (designed by Brunelleschi, the founding father of Renaissance architecture)
Exterior of Saint Mark’s Church and Museum in Florence
From Saint Mark’s museum: Renaissance preacher Savonarola (left); annunciation fresco by Fra Angelico
Paintings by Ribera, Tatian, and Rafael (L to R) from the Galleria Palatina at the Pitti Palace in Florence
Sculptures by Donatello from the Bargello Museum in Florence

Men of the cloth sticking together: with Father William at Saint Mark’s English Church on Palm Sunday
From the Orti del Parnaso (gardens of Parnassus); we just call it the Dragon Park
Two of our favorite Florence landmarks: the Duomo and campanile (left) and the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge)
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City of Canals

The Grand Canal of Venice at night


To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius. 
Alexander Herzen

We celebrated our Jessica’s 23rd birthday in Venice last weekend, in a city that has been called “The Floating City,” “City of Bridges,” “Queen of the Adriatic,” and “City of Water.” Venice spent four centuries as a regional superpower, exerting her vast naval and trading influence as a link between the Byzantine and Muslim east and the Roman Catholic west. Venice is by turns entrancing, lovely, and mystifying, a city well past her historic prime that still draws 150,000 visitors a day during peak season, full of charming narrow canals, mini-bridges, cozy restaurants, and high-end stores.

The historic heart of Venice is Saint Mark’s plaza (Piazza San Marko), which is flanked by Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. Saint Mark’s is a gorgeous church building, reflecting Italian Gothic, Byzantine, and Moorish influences. There is a lot going on, decoratively speaking, both inside and outside this basilica, in part because many items were plundered during the Venice’s heyday as a naval superpower and brought “home” to decorate San Marko. The Doge (related to our word Duke) was the title given to Venice’s chief magistrate and leader between 726 and 1797. His spectacular palace is directly adjacent to Saint Mark’s and today is a gorgeous museum, with some of the most incredibly decorated rooms I’ve seen in my life! 

Our favorite aspect of Venice was wandering the narrow alleyways and canals, alternately exploring and getting lost, while never being more than a stone’s throw from a café or gelateria. We enjoyed riding the vaporetto (water taxi) along the Grand Canal and out to the island of Murano, famous for its glass-making for nearly a millennium. We shared several delicious meals sitting by the Grand Canal and ate well—in honor of Jessica’s birthday, of course!

What I’m reading/listening to: 

  • “How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Christian Architecture,” by Denis R. McNamara (completed)
  • “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,” by Richard Rohr
  • “My First Summer in the Sierra,” by John Muir
  • Rick Steves audio tours on Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Bargello National Museum

Other Activities

  • Led a devotional at the weekly Monday night worship
  • Coffee appointments with students
  • Local visits (in Florence) to Santa Maria Novella Basilica, the Great Synagogue of Florence (Tempio Maggiore), Saint Mark’s Church and Museum, the Bargello National Museum, and the Palatine Gallery at Pitti Palace
If we look pretty happy, it’s because we are : )
We enjoyed our reunion and birthday celebration with Jessica
Water provides beauty and also creates damage around the canals of Venice
Elegant gondolas ply the canals of Venice
In front of the Saint Mark’s Basilica
The interior of Saint Mark’s Basilica (left), with gold leaf mosaic that took centuries to install; these horses were once displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople and were looted in 1204 and sent back to Venice
Saint Mark (the gospel writer) is the patron saint of Venice and his symbol (the winged lion) shows up a lot around town; his relics, which were plundered from Alexandria, are kept at San Marco Basilica
Atop Saint Mark’s, with replicas of the horses of Constantinople
The Doge was the chief magistrate and leader of the Republic of Venice for a thousand years; this is the Doge’s palace, which has been a museum since 1923
Weapons from the armory in the Doge’s Palace
The rooms in the Doge’s Palace were spectacular
This once was the largest canvas painting in the world, in one of the largest rooms in Europe (Doge’s Palace)
So many charming scenes all around Venice
Palaces, bridges, and canals; the upper right picture shows a building that is slowly sinking into the lagoon
Venice charms by day and by night
There was some kind of festival going on with local costumes and dances

If you are an email subscriber, and the following video doesn’t launch from your email, you can go to https://vimeo.com/330061531 to watch.

London, Two By Two

A classic but increasingly unused landmark

A weekend ago Carrie and I enjoyed a very meaningful visit to London, England. Coincidentally, most of the activities we shared came in twos. We toured two classic cathedrals, saw two noteworthy plays, enjoyed two guided walks through historic districts, took in two world class museums, attended two worship services, and enjoyed the hospitality of two terrific pairs of hosts (thank you Ken and Julie W. as well as Cambry and Heather P.).

A few general observations: 1) London is the most cosmopolitan city we’ve seen in Europe—the city has a beautiful mix of people from all over the world, and the culinary benefits were so good we could taste them (yes, we had Indian food twice)! 2) We loved being able to effortlessly communicate after months of impaired Italian, graceless German, subpar Spanish, weak Greek, and clumsy Croatian. 3) I observed an effort in London to remember. Some of the pictures below show various monuments, markers, and other indications that the British want to remember the highs and lows of their history. Not a bad idea!

Also, I finally figured out how to imbed videos in this blog. Be sure to scroll to the end of this post to enjoy some footage of a couple favorite moments in London.

At Pepperdine’s London House (left), with Heather and Cambry P. Apologies to Ken and Julie W. for not getting a picture with them!
At Holy Trinity Brompton Church, which produced the Alpha Course
The theatre scene in London is top notch — we got to see “Hamilton” and “Come From Away”
These pockmarks are remnants from Nazi Germany’s bombing Blitz of World War 2, left as a reminder on the west side of the Victoria and Albert Museum

At the British Museum
The British Museum was established in 1753 and was the first public national museum in the world; it has a great collection of Egyptian antiquities (among others)
Lots of ancient dudes with beards at the British Museum (mostly Mesopotamian and Egyptian)

Do you recognize this London landmark (center)? Neither did we! It’s Big Ben, swathed in scaffolding (seen on the Westminster Abbey walking tour)
Westminster Abbey, West Facade
Westminster Abbey: Above the Great West Door are statues of 20th-century Christian martyrs from various denominations, including MLK, Bonhoeffer, and Romero
Though he is not buried in Westminster Abbey, C.S. Lewis is remembered there, along with many famous British leaders, royals, authors, scientists, poets, musicians, and other worthies; some 3,300 people are buried or commemorated at Westminster Abbey (I felt like I was walking through British history)
The Prime Minster of England lives at 10 Downing Street (the black bricked building), which is under heavy guard — seen during Westminster Abbey walking tour
Seen during our Westminster Abbey walking tour
Trafalgar Square, our final stop on the audio walking tour that started at Westminster Abbey

Saint Paul’s Cathedral — seen during “The City” Walk of Historic London
Saint Paul’s Cathedral dome
The Bank of England in London’s financial district — seen during “The City” Walk
Monument to the Great Fire of London of 1666 — seen during “The City” Walk
Tower Bridge — seen during “The City” Walk

At the Natural History Museum
Museum of Natural History

What I’m reading/listening to: 

  • The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile (completed)
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “The Idiot” (completed)
  • “How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Christian Architecture”, by Denis R. McNamara
  • Rick Steves audio tours on Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the British Museum, the Westminster Walk, and the City of London walk
  • Westminster Abbey’s audio tour
Be sure to turn up your volume (better still, with earbuds)
Westminster Abbey, North Facade

Lovely, Lively Barcelona

Sunset lights up the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona

Carrie and I have traveled outside of Italy for fourteen days out of the last twenty. Of the six days we’ve actually spent in Florence, I’ve played tour guide for five.  And in our one day in town without visitors, I guest taught in Carrie’s speech class. None of this is offered as complaint. It’s simply to say, this has been our busiest stretch of the semester, and is the reason for the gap in my blogposts.

In this post, I’ll intersperse pictures and reflections as we go. I’ll begin with our visit to Barcelona two weekends ago. One of my favorite parts of this weekend were the meals we shared with our California friends Buzz and Christy, who met us in Spain and spent part of a week with us in Florence. These unhurried, lingering mealtimes enabled us to engage with a vital part of the local culture (shoutout to Phil T. and Paul B. for outstanding restaurant recommendations).

With Buzz and Christy (left); my first tacos in three months!
Tapas, paella, sangria and friends! We even caught up with Shyla B.,
who was in Barcelona with work
At the beach of Saint Sebastian (Platja de Sant Sebastià)
These street musicians liven up Barcelona’s sidewalks and park paths
Always something interesting to see in Barcelona
Atop and inside the Barcelona Cathedral (aka the Cathedral of the Holy Cross
and Saint Eulalia)
Barcelona Cathedral’s facade

The other highlight of our weekend was getting to see the Sagrada Familia Basilica, a church building unlike any I’ve ever seen! It was designed by Anthony Gaudí, a Spanish architect and a devout Catholic who combined his love of religion and nature into an organic architectural style inspired by natural forms. Sagrada Familia has been under construction since 1882 and is slated for (possible) completion in 2026, the 100 year anniversary of Gaudí’s death.

This edifice is impossible to describe in words or to capture adequately in images. In looking through my pictures of Sagrada Familia, I realized that I never did back up far enough to get a picture of the whole edifice. The challenge is, the facade of the Basilica is so intricate that to back up is to miss everything; but to move closer is to be overwhelmed!

After spending an hour walking around the richly sculptured exterior facades of Sagrada Familia, we entered the basilica. Here, Gaudí’s genius shone even brighter, as the setting sun suffused the pillars with hot hues of red, orange, and yellow as well as the cooler hues of greens and blues. The supporting pillars branch as they reach upwards, evoking a forest roof. The impact of color, light, and curvilinear surfaces was overwhelming!

When complete, Sagrada Familia Church will have eighteen primary towers
The Passion Facade — the whiter portion evokes the crown of thorns
Sculptures on the facades of Sagrada Familia Church: the sunlit images are from the Passion Facade and the shadowed images are from the Nativity Facade
Construction cranes at work behind the Passion Facade (left); workers trying to meet the 2026 completion deadline
Inside Sagrada Familia Basilica
Soaring pillars branch into a forest-like ceiling
Antoni Gaudí (upper left) and some of his works (clockwise from upper right): Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, and Casa Milá)
At Parc Güell

Other Activities

  • Guest taught a class on “The Twentieth Century’s Greatest Speech” in Carrie’s speech class
  • Florence visits to the Opera del Duomo Museum (and Ghiberti’s famed “Gates of Paradise”), the Accademia Gallery Museum (and Michelangelo’s famous “David”), and The Baptistry of San Giovanni Church
  • Mealtime conversations with students

What I’m reading: 

  • “How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Christian Architecture”, by Denis R. McNamara
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “The Idiot” (still!) 
Tuesday night dinner in our apartment with a group of students
Group hike during weekend spiritual retreat in early March
Great views of countryside surrounding Florence during group hike
Atop Florence’s windswept Duomo on final day of Jenna’s visit
With Michael (Jenna’s boyfriend) atop the Campanile, the Duomo’s belltower, with mug shot tribute to Doug H.
Parting shot from the stained glass windows of Sagrada Familia. Wow!

Hvala Croatia!

Krka Falls

This past week was travel break for Pepperdine’s Florence program, a rough equivalent of Spring Break that gave the students and us a five day travel “weekend.” We met our oldest daughter Jenna and her boyfriend Michael, rented a car, and drove through Croatia, a beautiful country (once part of Yugoslavia) across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. We found the Croatian people to be enterprising, resilient, and very helpful, including a taxi driver who made a special trip to return a misplaced phone! We split our time between historic towns and national parks and were NOT disappointed! Hvala (thank you) Croatia!

We spent a chunk of our first day in the coastal city of Split, which features a massive palace/fortress completed around AD 305 by the Roman emperor Diocletian. This palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, beautifully weaves the ancient white limestone blocks with contemporary stores, shops, cafes, apartments, and narrow winding alleyways. It also boasts the Cathedral of Saint Domnius, regarded as the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that remains in use in its original structure. We also enjoyed a harbor cruise and an outdoor breakfast by the water.

That afternoon, we took a winding coastal drive (reminiscent of Highway 1 from Cambria to Monterey) to the seaport of Dubrovnik, in southern Croatia. To picture Dubrovnik, think spectacular imposing coastal castle rising straight up from the craggy rocks. We spent most of the next day exploring its lanes, gaping at its red tile roofs, walking its perimeter ramparts, and saying “Wow! Wow! Wow!” The city was shelled for seven months during the Yugoslav Wars of the early 1990s but has been (mostly) rebuilt. It is a World Heritage site and one of the principle filming locations for the TV series Game of Thrones.

After driving three hours north, we spent the next two days walking amidst the spectacular and colorful waterfalls of the Krka and Plitvice National Parks.  Words cannot do these series of waterfall-complexes justice! Even pictures struggle to adequately convey the experience of walking on a four foot wide wooden walkway, surrounded by cascades of flowing water on every side, immersed in color and sound.

In Plitvice, we were disappointed to learn that the most popular waterfalls were closed due winter damage to an access road for the park shuttles. We took a chance late in the day and walked about three miles in an attempt see them anyway and were rewarded with our favorite series of waterfalls. It was like Disney’s Jungle Cruise had a baby with Jurassic Park! Lush foliage, crystal clear water streaming from virtually every direction, a sumptuous soundscape of aquatic melodies, and unbelievable colors. Carrie called it a top five favorite place on planet Earth—and I agree!

Our last day was spent driving to the capital of Zagreb, where we enjoyed a lovely stroll in the historic downtown area, coffee at an outdoor cafe, and a visit to the Zagreb Cathedral. We were blessed by a great week with Jenna and Michael, as well as by the Croatian people.  I’ll share a few closing reflections after the pictures. 

Belltower of the Cathedral of Saint Domnius (left) in Split;
doors of Saint Domnius (12th century) portray gospel scenes
The past and present interweave at the Palace of Diocletian
Harbor cruise in Split
Harbor cruise with Jenna and Michael
Sunset en route to Dubrovnik
The old walled city of Dubrovnik at Sunset
We enjoyed a walking tour around the walls of the old city (Dubrovnik)
Repairs are still being made on houses bombed during the Yugoslav wars
Roof tiles that survived the bombings in Dubrovnik; all the new ones are reddish orange
Cats of Dubrovnik
Krka Falls
Roški Slap falls are a series of foot tall dropoffs — spectacular!
“Adventure is out there!”
Plitvice Lakes National Park
Plitvice Lakes National Park
At Plitvice Lakes National Park
Serpentine walkway through waterfall complex (Plitvice Lakes National Park)
Smiles all around at Plitvice Lakes National Park
Sunday stroll in Zagreb
Coffee in Zagreb
All things bright and beautiful, all things great and small,
all things wise and wonderful…

A few parting reflections from “The Book of Nature”
In Croatia, I noticed a vine that would climb up the side of trees; some of these vines seem to have taken over entire trees. I reflected on Paul’s teaching on the addictive dominion of sin in Romans 6:12-19 and the good news that sin’s dominion has been broken since we have been united with Christ’s death and resurrection through baptism. These trees seemed to offer an invitation, “Let Christ set you free from sin’s dominion!”

As a California boy, I’m getting antsy for the arrival of spring (and more to the point, warmer weather). This week in Croatia, I noticed the bare branches of deciduous trees with buds on their fingertips, preparing to explode with the blooms and leaves of spring. I was reminded that many trees that appear barren are simply in a season of dormancy. God’s seasons bring new life each year, reminding me that God isn’t finished with me yet either (especially as we move closer to Easter).

Buds and the promise of spring

Other Activities

  • Shared a class session on “The Seasons of the Psalms” at the student Spiritual Retreat two weekends back
  • Carrie and I shared a convocation talk for the students on our vocational journeys
  • Carrie and I performed Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” for the student coffee house — don’t worry, we’re keeping our day jobs
  • Florence visits to the Basilica of San Lorenzo and the Basilica of Santa Croce, both with spectacular interiors
  • Coffee with students
A parting shot from Krka Falls — are you kidding me!?!

Southern Charm

The enchanting coastal town of Positano

This weekend, Carrie and I took a southbound train to the Amalfi Coast of Italy. We traveled light, with just the clothes on our backs and small backpacks with a few travel essentials. 

We spent our first day in Pompeii, which was a Roman city of 10,000 residents until AD 79, when Mount Vesuvius, some five miles away, blew its stack and sent volcanic ash, debris, and lava into the air, blanketing the surrounding area for miles around. Though about two thousand residents perished in the disaster, the result was that a Roman city was buried for later generations to uncover and study. Following extensive excavation, Pompeii is now a very well preserved Roman city from the first century. You can walk its streets, poke your head into homes and stores and temples and theaters, and get a sense of the traffic, commerce, politics, and religion of an ancient Roman city. 

We spent that first night in charming Sorrento, a smallish coastal town built on dramatic cliffs. We could see across the large bay to Naples, the third largest city in Italy, with over a million residents. Sorrento is known for its lemons, and we enjoyed several lemon based treats while there. 

The next morning, we boarded an early bus that took us up and over winding switchbacks to Italy’s spectacular Amalfi coast and the hillside hamlet of Positano. We spent the day there, mouths agape, taking in the stunning town carved out of the mountainside and perched on the rugged coastline. We enjoyed breakfast on the pebble beach, explored back streets and alleyways, and shared a dramatic hike that paralleled the coastline. 

I’ve also included some some personal reflections about Pompeii at the end of this post, for any who might be interested. 

In Pompeii’s forum, with Mount Vesuvius rising behind
A field and vineyard in Pompeii
A courtyard with beautiful mosaic; the shallow pool in the center served
as a catchment for rain water
On the Via Abondanza, one of the main streets of Pompeii
At the larger of two theaters in Pompeii, the Odeon (capacity: 5,000)
Various household shrines in honor of spirits and deities
Plaster casts of people caught in the layers of volcanic ash (RIP)
Chariot ruts (left) and a “fast-food” seller’s counter at a busy intersection
The frescoes of Pompeii still show a rich assortment of brilliant colors
(from the Villa of the Mysteries)
The Alexander mosaic (above, ca 100 BC) and “Beware of Dog” mosaic
One of about 30 bakery ovens in Pompeii (above); sweet counter in Naples
with “volcanic” pastries
At the town amphitheater (capacity: 20,000); the band Pink Floyd once held a recording session here due the excellent acoustics
We ran into one of Michaela’s high school classmates in Pompeii — small world!

Citrus trees are abundant around Sorrento, with lemons being the local specialty
Part of the Amalfi Coast, en route to Positano
Positano, with the Church of Santa Maria Assunta below
The spectacular Fornillo beach
Stairs are a way of life in Positano
Ever find the perfect parking space?
Spectacular colors
Men of the cloth, sticking together (left); a ship in the town cathedral seemed appropriate for this maritime community
We positively could not get enough of Positano!

Assorted Reflections Concerning Pompeii
Say what you will about the excesses of the Roman Empire, the Romans knew how to engineer, how to organize, how to distribute water, how to lay out city streets, how to create and construct impressive public buildings and public art, and how to build seemingly anything, including bathhouses with cold, warm, and hot bathing pools!   

I was fascinated to learn about the Roman obsession with status and status signaling. They built their homes to impress passersby, who could look in and see the hustle and bustle of an important person’s household. The wealthy built stone benches by their front doors to accommodate those who lined up to ask for favors. They left inscriptions everywhere regarding who served as the benefactor of this or that public space. They had their tombs built while still alive, to ensure others knew of their importance. The local forum had separate entrances for the elite and for the masses, all part of signaling who was who in the social pecking order. Small wonder where we “moderns” learned such games. 

The Pompeiians were, as Paul also noted of the Athenians (Acts 17:22), “very religious.” Throughout Pompeii we saw many home and neighborhood shrines and niches, as well as city temples, dedicated to and invoking the protection of various local and major deities. Reading between the lines, the people of Pompeii were an anxious folk, concerned about appeasing their gods and ancestors as well as mollifying local evil spirits, all the while trying to control the outcome of their lives. 

One of the challenges of being a religious person in any age is the temptation to turn one’s own religion into a means of trying to manipulate and control the gods (or God). The ancients were not the last to try to co-opt the gods (or God) to ensure prosperity, fertility, protection, happiness, honor, or power. Israel’s prophets repeatedly warned against such shallow and idolatrous understandings of the True and Living God. The eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 provides a case in point against the futility of trying to bargain with the gods. As I understand the Christian faith, we are not promised the absence of hardships and challenges in exchange for walking in Jesus’ way. We are promised God’s love and presence, come what may (John 16:33).

It’s All Greek to Me

A shaft of sunlight illuminates the Acropolis in Athens (as seen from atop Mount Lycabettus)

This past weekend, Carrie and I got to share a bucket-list trip to Athens, Greece, my childhood home. Athens is also, you may recall, where our daughter Jessica is living this year, serving as a high school teacher in the Fulbright program. Our visit to Greece was resonant with memories and full of joyful reunions. 

I LOVED getting to share my childhood home, school, and congregation with Carrie and Jessica. I was pleasantly surprised when phrases of Greek came back to me from somewhere in the recesses of my memory. I was delighted when store-keepers, looking perplexed, asked me if I was Greek (“You aren’t dressed like a Greek; why do you sound like one?”). I greatly enjoyed savoring favorite Greek foods, including dinner at the table of Eleni Melirrytos, a lifelong friend who with her husband Alexander, serve the Omonia Church in Athens. And we loved getting acquainted with Jessica’s school, apartment, community, and friends. 

A special highlight was getting to take part in the worship and ministry of the Omonia congregation in downtown Athens. Alexander Melirrytos invited me to preach in English, while he translated in Greek, and while additional translation was taking place in the back in Arabic. We were thrilled to witness the baptism of a young Kurdish man and delighted to meet a young friend of Michaela from her mission trip to Athens. On Tuesday, I took part in the church’s ongoing ministry to Syrian refugees (among others), many of Kurdish ethnicity. This included a two hour conversation about preaching the story of Jacob with five Syrian-Kurdish men, one of whom is studying in an online seminary. Several long-time members reminded me of the ongoing influence of my parents on their lives and on this congregation, from their time as missionaries in Athens (1967-74). 

Of course, we also took in a healthy variety of the sights and sounds of Athens, which I’ve tried to highlight in the pictures below. I’ve also included some pictures toward the end which are especially for my family (feel free to skip). When it came time to leave, I found myself feeling, not sad exactly, but wistful and full of yearning, like saying goodbye to a close friend you don’t get to see very often but dearly cherish. I’m deeply grateful for this opportunity to travel to Greece and to share it with part of my family. 


At the Parthenon, atop the Acropolis
The Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best preserved of its kind
At the House of Parliament, on a blustery cold day
There are wild cats roaming everywhere in Athens
The doors are from the beautiful Dionysius the Areopagite Orthodox Church; on the left, Andy considers an upgrade to his preaching wardrobe
We saw the beautiful Greek shoreline at Vouliagmeny beach
One of my favorite displays at the Acropolis Museum was about how the Ancients created pigments for their paint with various mineral compounds
From a charming hillside neighborhood just below the Acropolis, built to remind its original residents of their homes on the Cyclades Islands
Atop Areopagus hill, where Paul preached his famous sermon to the Athenians (Acts 17)
Greek food is some of my favorite — enjoyed the gyro (left) and the souvlaki
Sunday at the Omonia congregation
With Christina (left), a Syrian-Kurdish spitfire; and “mama” Eleni, as the refugees call her
Sermon prep with Kurdish-Syrian believers
With Twana, one of Michaela’s dear friends
Dinner at the Melirrytos home
Hospitality is one of Eleni’s great gifts that she has uses magnificently
in her work with refugees (and with us!)
Dinner with some of Jessica’s fellow Fulbrighters
At Psychiko High School, where Jessica teaches English
At Psychiko High School, a part of Athens College
Atop Jessica’s apartment in Chalandri, a fun suburb of Athens
At Andy’s childhood home
Proto Demoteko Sxoleo Glyfada, Andy’s elementary school from 2nd – 5th grades
Red poppies from the acropolis, with love for my Mom, whose birthday is today (2/28)!