Defining Moments Mark Students’ Journey to Greece

 

 

“This experience will help me to be a better Christian and witness for Christ,” said Yvonne Harold, a Master of Divinity student from Killeen, Texas, as she expressed details of what she called one of the most defining moments in her life.

Harold was one of 12 Hardin-Simmons University students to journey to Greece on what has become an annual pilgrimage for students enrolled in Bible and missions courses in HSU’s Logsdon School of Theology.

“While the trip occurs during spring break, the journey is not about the frivolous things that can sometimes be associated with a nine-day break from university. It is a journey of discovery and awakening, of exploring avenues of new opportunities for service to those in need, and acquiring the knowledge and skills to become an effective Christian in the service of God,” said Dr. Ken Lyle.

This was the fifth year Lyle, HSU professor of New Testament and Greek in the Logsdon School of Theology and Logsdon Seminary, has taken students to work with Bob and Janice Newell as they serve as educators in the heart of Athens’s Koukaki neighborhood.

As Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Global Missions field personnel, the Newells oversee the ministry that serves more than half a million Albanian immigrants displaced by the collapse of communism and the war in Kosovo.  

Chad Moore, an HSU junior ministry major from Hurst, Texas, said he was shocked by the subjugation, injustice, and oppression the immigrants struggle against, the product of a backlash from mass immigration, resulting in a denial of access to many social services for Albanians.

“One example of injustice perpetrated against the Albanian community, and the entire immigrant community, occurs within the connection between work and immigration status,” observed Moore. “Many Albanians are allowed entrance to Greece through a work visa. This means that their immigration standing is contingent upon maintaining verifiable employment. Some employers take advantage of their immigrant workers’ need to be employed by refusing to pay them. If immigrant workers fight back, the employer threatens to fire them and report them to immigration officials for deportation.”

Through donations from the CBF Global Missions Offering and from numerous individuals and churches, the Newells founded PORTA - the Albania House in Athens in 2007. Through PORTA, the Newells welcome immigrants into a setting where they can receive practical care, assistance with building respectful relationships with Greeks, and learn about Christ and his church. The ministry offers a number of useful training programs for both adults and children.

“The children had fun learning American songs, listening to music, and dancing,” said Harold as she and her HSU teammates helped with the PORTA Enrichment Program for children (PEP) at the Albania House. Harold also helped with two adult English classes. “I saw how committed the Albanians are to learn English. Many of the women walk more than five miles to attend these classes twice a week,” declared Harold.

HSU students also participated in the Global Citizenship Seminar with PORTA English as Foreign Language students (EFL). Harold explained that, before leaving for Greece, each HSU student submitted a picture representing a difference between the cultures or something that is the same in both cultures. “I chose a picture of me in uniform in Iraq standing behind a pulpit. The Albanians have great respect for those who serve in the military. Many are also accepting of women in ministry. I shared with them that Jesus saved me while I was in the military and that it changed my worldview and allowed me to love those different from me,” said Yvonne. 

In addition to ministry and learning opportunities, HSU students also visited important biblical and historical sites: the acropolis of Athens, Mars Hill, Corinth, Akrokorinth, and Sounion. 

“It is an awe-inspiring experience to stand on Mars Hill in the shadow of the Parthenon, overlooking the ancient agora, and to be reminded of the words the Apostle Paul spoke while standing in that very spot two-thousand years ago,” said Moore. “Standing in such a powerfully pivotal place brings the Scriptures to life and allows one to more fully grasp the nature and brilliance of Paul’s rhetorical and evangelistic method. One has a very similar feeling when standing in front of the Bema of Corinth, where Paul’s accusers brought him before the proconsul Gallio under charges of teaching false gods. It is invigorating to experience the text in such a living, vibrant, and dynamic way.”

Harold was equally in awe of ancient Corinth, explaining that being there allowed her to see how Paul’s message resonated among the people.  

“Having stood in the footprints of Paul and on the stones of the ancient world, I will never be able to read the Bible quite the same again,” said Moore. “Rather than only having conceptual definitions or theological ideology in my mind when I read the letters of Paul, I will now have mental images of his world and ministry. The text moves from being an abstract collection of ideas and theologies that we try to make sense of in the 21st century to being beautifully alive with deep, strong roots in the ancient Greco-Roman world.”

Harold said she will be forever grateful for the accrued knowledge of the world, a new desire to know and love the people around her, and her widened perspective of Scripture.

“Every time I am blessed with the opportunity to travel, I am reminded of not only how beautiful and diverse the world and its people are, but how blessed I am to be in a freedom loving country where the resources to fight economic, social, and institutional injustices are readily available if we will take hold of them as people of spine and conviction,” summarized Moore.

 

 

 

  • A Princeton Review Best Western College  
  • Council for Christian Colleges & Universities  
  • Center for Student Opportunity: Promoting a College-Bound Culture  
  • US News Best Colleges  
  • The Chronicle on Higher Education, Great Colleges to Work For: 2014  
  • Military Friendly  
  • Colleges of Distinction  
  • University and College Accountability Network