Monday, November 10, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008
Glyfada, Athens, Greece.

My Dear Sisters,

By God’s grace I am back in Athens as of Sunday evening, November 2nd. I was challenged - my temper was with the airlines and the way they treat people at the New York airport, but I kept concentrating in the fact that I just got through telling my Christian sisters how we should be the aroma of Christ, no matter where we are. The particular airport is some of the biggest challenges, I must say.

Three of my sisters in Christ in Athens -Victoria, Ludmila M. and Ludmila S. (got to tell them apart) –with Alexander were waiting for me at the airport behind a bouquet of some beautiful salmon color roses. They were all dressed in their Sunday outfits and reminded me a lot of the way everyone was dressed at the Santa Fe restaurant we tried to have dinner at - following the retreat I was invited to speak at, during that week. I think all of the Catholic “South American” congregation attendance had gathered in this particular restaurant dressed in their best.

Talking about the retreat, this was the reason - or rather one of the reasons - I got to travel last month to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The invitation came last year from a good friend, Helen King, who had recently moved there with her mother, Ms. Anna, from Redondo Beach, CA. and became part of the Mountainside congregation. To be quite frank with you I did not even know where exactly New Mexico was when I accepted the invitation. In fact two days before I left Athens I looked up on the map and told Alexander I would better find out where that place was on the occasion of an accident or something, only to know which way I needed to walk and get to Nashville!! Accepting the invitation I thought I should think about a little bit more - and I thought and again I thought to think about it and all of a sudden thirteen months went by and I was in the plane flying to Albuquerque, NM., quite a long walk to Nashville for anyone who decided to walk the distance!

I have decided that when our Lord’s will takes place in our lives we do consciously make decisions, yet something else happens where you want to seriously consider the circumstances. At that point it seems as someone is carrying you in His Hand and Will. There is a force in our lives called, God’s will, that once we have committed our life to it, takes over and carries us in places we have never even dreamt to go. I mean why would I ever plan or thought of to go to Albuquerque, besides visiting my good friend – though a long way? Or Sri Lanka, Nigeria or England?

Those of you who know how “different” I am as an individual, you may as well know that I am fully convicted and believe with every cell of my being that nothing happens in my life that is simply a “happening” or occurrence. To be more specific: I got in the plane from Athens to cross the ocean, arrived in Atlanta and on to Albuquerque. I asked for a window seat change and I got to sit next to a very interesting man instead of the “boring lady” behind. A physician who had bought a house in one of the Greek islands and who had retired there for some years. My new friend Michael was from Los Angeles and had worked for years with cancer patients. We exchanged thoughts for about eleven hours on healing and on God’s power. I rehearsed my lessons to be shared at the retreat, since the theme was “Food - for the Body, Soul and Spirit.”

At the table…
We safely got to Atlanta and on to the next plane ride. Just three hours away, but by now my body was complaining and I got to hear all of it. The difference was that the person now sitting next to me was a young man – a soldier travelling to his new post in Albuquerque, NM - he got to hear it as well. Things like …oh, I am cold, oh it is so far, oh are we there yet? Goodness, I thought the flight was only two hours, but we were stuck on the third hour forever!

When we landed I wanted to clap and kiss the pilot - could not have taken even ten more minutes. I got out and picked up my luggage, which, by the way included 19 qts. of olive oil and a good part of the Athens Flea Market. Janet, Helen, Claude and one more “new lady on the block” were waiting for me. There is no greater excitement to arrive at a new place and meet your friends there, especially finding out that the “New Lady” Marilyn is of all things GREEK and welcomes me in GREEK! I know my friend Helen can be extravagant - did she really “import” the lady to make me feel at home? By no means. It is the One - the “Other Person” in our life Who is extremely extravagant and Who goes a long way, even up to a cross, to make us feel good and joyful, satisfied and redeemed. Our Lord! - through Helen of course, this time!

My new wonderful Greek Christian friend is Marilyn. The kind of Christian woman you will be extremely blessed with to meet once in your lifetime. A praying warrior, a kind and gentle spirit, filled with His Spirit and love.

I thought “o.k., we are doing well, this looks really good.” And so it was. God had perfectly planned the three-day retreat at the Glorietta Conference Center in Santa Fe with the help of the Mountainside Church sisters. A three-day truce away from our daily routine was now available, so as to be touched and blessed by our Father. In fact I believe that all retreats should last three days - enough time to relax, sit back and be blessed. This particular retreat is organized by a different congregation every year. This year was the Mountainside congregation. Under the coordination and direction of Janet Schleyer, sisters presented an amazing organization with a lot of “interactive” activities. Listening to me, as you know, for four speaking sessions that was quite “interactive” as I move my hands all the time and as every so often I asked them if they understood what I was talking about – always considering my Greek accent. Truth is that I had never such a good audience before. I do not know if it was my accent they were trying to “catch” on what I was talking about or simply God being in charge of my words.

What I know was - and still is - that the pleasure and blessings were all mine.
A great “Thank you” goes out to all my new Christian friends for the devotion and commitment to materialize God’s plan for this blessed gathering. I met and fell in love with over hundred Christian women who are hungry and thirsty for God, His word and His Spirit.

I was hosted at the lovely home of Helen and Anna King. Their loving hospitality captured my heart and all of the sisters from the congregation did so much to give me joy and love. I am so thankful and grateful to God for this opportunity. Helen’s good friend Marti came from Redondo beach, Ca to attend the retreat as well.

Oh, did I tell you I got to see the Balloon fiesta? Helen invited Marti and me to a glorious dinner at the Balloon Fiesta museum overlooking the Balloon glow one evening. I was charmed by New Mexico and found out at the end of my visit that this was the “State’s name” - land of enchantment.

Following our retreat I was attacked by the worst migraine I ever had. My sister Marilyn came along with her daughter in law Hope to pray over me and help me. It is one of the occasions that I truly felt that this was an attack from the enemy - of course - using the weakness of my body. For whoever knows anything about this kind of migraine pain surely knows that they do not exactly go away that fast or that easily - not in my case as well. Instead it took twenty-five minutes of intense praying and praise and Marilyn reminding me of God’s promises quoting scripture and Hope relaxing my muscles with olive oil… the migraine was gone…that hard! Or that easily!! It was hard but my Father made easy because we chose to go through Him for deliverance.

Following our retreat, Helen along with the Mountainside sisters and me cooked a “lamb” dinner. As you know from the Big Greek Fat Wedding: “Oh, but I am a vegetarian”. “No problem at all; I will cook you lamb!” The Greek aunt in the movie really thought that “vegetarian” meant some kind of a sickness, disease or allergy, so lamb was good, an elixir for everything… even for vegetarians. How funny we Greeks are! I think all the brothers and sisters enjoyed the Greek big fat dinner. Even the very “reserved” ones about trying lamb for the first time were rewarded with the beautiful flavors.

On the next day I travelled to Los Angeles with Marti and got to see Danae. Once again, I sat next to a lovely man from Arizona. As always my funny accent gave me away and I had to rehearse not only who I was but also why and what I did in Albuquerque. My new friend Randy was hungry for Gods’ good news. Our conversation came to an end as we picked up our bags from the conveyor belt. Before taking our way, Randy told me he would never look at the table and the food on it in the same way again. To my amazement he also said that he would do his best to work less and meet around the table with his family more often.

Our Redondo Church sister in Christ Nadine met us at the airport and delivered me to the minister, Dan Hoard to drive me to Malibu, CA. Danae had just taken out - rather the dentist did - her four wisdom teeth at the same time with total anesthesia, while she and had to move as well on that particular weekend! God blessed indeed the one day I spent with her and made it feel like an entire week. We moved couches, went to IKEA, bought a bed and finally got to enjoy dinner at the Greek restaurant where she works as a hostess, “Tony’s Greek restaurant –( They do not come more Greek as Tony is a first generation Greek from the island of Corfu. The evening was filled with joy, laughter and fine Greek food. I also met some of Danae’s new friends and this was an amazing blessing. Godly young people whom God has put in her path - we are so grateful for having favored her in such a fashion.

In the following morning I flew to Nashville, TN and got to spend another five amazing days among friends who love us beyond words can describe. Lee and Jerry met me at the airport and took care of me. We worshipped with the Smyrna saints; then I went on to stay over at the Lowery’s home. God arranged every possible detail or need I might have had. I kept looking up, praising and thanking Him, while I kept thinking of what kind of Father we have. Simply amazing. The Lowerys indeed use their home to the Glory of God. I cannot explain this differently as their home was the warmest and most hospitable refuge to me while in Nashville those days. I also enjoyed the company of some fellow guests, Murry and Jamie who moved to Nashville recently; they work with one of the congregations. They have two lovely children, Faith and Ily, whom I am in love with.

I know this is getting a little too long, so I will try to keep it short… if it is not too late and you are still reading…

I got to meet and fellowship with some really special friends. I have a wonderful Greek friend – Katerina - who works at the Nashville Airport. I was very happy to share some Greek food with her and her beautiful little boy Giorgos. I also shared lunch with our friend Linda Rose, the best immigration lawyer on Earth - now a friend. We shared our life and family events. These two visits were truly the highlight of my visit to Nashville. So difficult to part from people you love….

Jill and my sisters at the Granny White congregation invited me to share God’s love with on Wednesday night. My best friends from Gallatin, TN., Mary Lynn and Kelley came to see me. Our friends Pat, Steve and Donny came from Mt Juliet, TN. as well that evening. Penny, a precious sister came as well. Truly I did not want that evening to finish… Christian fellowship at its best. Warm, loving, God centered moments that no other occasion can compare to it.

Thursday night I spent the evening with my Hillsboro congregation best friends…it was a soup night… I made Russian bors(c)h soup - I hang around my Russian sisters too much… another wonderful occasion. We have known and loved our Russian sisters for the last nineteen years now. In a recent discussion I told them that nothing, but nothing can change the love that God has for them and their families, a great and timeless gift. We feel the same way, loved and honored every time we visit. If the world only knew the beauty and wealth of Christian fellowship, they would queue up outside the church buildings… but there is ignorance, I suppose. I shared with them some of the message I brought to the Albuquerque Retreat and some of our family news. I was told to speak for fifteen minutes but once I got the microphone – come and get me if you can! – I spoke for over thirty minute. I am glad nobody fell asleep!

Finally, Friday was there and I was supposed to leave for the airport, only to find out that my seat reservation was not still confirmed. So I looked up again and said “What now?” “What am I supposed to do today?” Looks like my Father had plans for the day – but I just thought I was supposed to be on that plane…

God is so good, all Sovereign and all Faithful! Why we are still looking for something more or even something different, I cannot understand; I ask myself so often! Does anyone have a better suggestion for living out this life?

I thank my Lord every time I think of all of you...and I
Thank you
For everything!

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