Tuesday was our final morning at Porto Astro.
We’ve all got our problems with goodbyes. This Tuesday morning was no different. A beautiful August morning, we began our day by packing like the proper, responsible adults we are, making sure we hadn’t left behind a bedsheet. Of course, the excitement of the early morning was quickly subdued by the atmosphere of Porto Astro, calming us all down to merely nervous anxiety as we ate breakfast. We said our goodbyes to our Egyptian friends, watching them sail (well, motor) slowly away on the handy pontoon boat. We took a few more hours to quadruple check our bags, say a few more goodbyes, and do the Church Clap dance one more time.
Of course, the previous goodbyes had not been enough for our sentimental selves, and we said another four or five goodbyes before loading us and our bags onto the pontoon. We waved a rather emotional goodbye to the staff of Porto Astro, now our good friends and co-workers for the past two weeks. When we reached the port, we boarded the exact same van that brought us from the airport, and set off for Athens (or Athena, as it is known locally.) Two hours later we began the ascent to our AirBnB.
We were given a brief tour of Hellenic Ministries’ affiliates in Athens. First, we stopped at the Good Samaritan refugee center, run in one of the poorer areas of Athens. The outreach is focused on holistic health in education and assistance, in a social, medical, and psychological context, and serves about 150 people a day, with 40-60 children being taught in their classes. They have a medical clinic, a kitchen, classrooms for English and literacy lessons, Bible lessons, and more. The outreach is an effective way to reach those who really need the Gospel. They asked for prayer in safety and ability to serve the people better, whether through a bigger building or more clothes and supply donations.
Second, we visited the City Church, a church on the outskirts of Athens also run by Hellenic Ministries. They have several youth programs, and are hoping to begin reaching more and more people through a coffee shop connected through the church, which they hope to turn into a franchise. This outreach program is already like a second home to many Greek youths, and Alexander Macris expressed an interest in using it to begin church plants in other areas of Athens/Greece. After our tours, we loaded back onto the bus for one more drive. Finally, we arrived back at our AirBnB and had our two week debrief over dinner. We all scattered to get ready for bed. Currently, the building is rather subdued, as I’m fairly certain no one else is awake.
Earlier this morning, as we were giving our rather emotional goodbyes, one thing stuck out to me. This wasn’t goodbye as in “I’ll never see you again, we’ll miss you so much!” This goodbye was sad, yes, an ending to something we had all grown to love. But the fact that it is an ending doesn’t make it the end. In fact, I would consider this to be a beginning, not of a mission trip, but of something much larger than that. We have ignited sparks, and forged relationships with people halfway around the globe. We can always come back. We can always offer our help once more. And of course, there is the internet for connecting friends who live several thousands of miles apart. No, this goodbye wasn’t something sad, but something happy. We may have been on a short-term mission trip but we have made long-term friends.
We ask for prayer for Porto Astro and for those remaining there to serve. Pray for Hellenic Ministries and the work they are doing here in Athens and throughout Greece, that they would see more and more fruit. Please pray for us to continue on to a safe conclusion of our 17-day trip.