First, you just need to see where we are right now (see below). This is one of the most popular beaches in Greece (apparently). We’re currently in Kavala, Greece, which is located near both ancient Neapolis and Philippi. As I said yesterday, it’s been a blessing to remain two nights here, as this tour has definitely kept us moving.
This morning we had a great breakfast (a deep-fried pancake? Yes please!) and had a bit of a later start. Our first stop was a church dedicated to Lydia by a river near Philippi. So far on this trip, this stop has been my favourite. If you don’t know the story of Lydia, please do yourself a favour and read Acts 16:11-15. Long story short, Lydia was the first convert in Europe.
A group of women met beside the river to pray on the Sabbath because no synagogue was yet built in Philippi. After Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man (Macedonia is the ancient area which Philippi and other leading cities were in – north of Greece) in Troas (in Asia Minor – across the Aegean sea in modern day Turkey) calling him to come over, Paul set sail to a new land.
Upon landing there, they sought out a synagogue but found none. They must have heard about some women that would pray near the river, and they went and spoke the gospel to them. The best verse that Dr. John emphasized today as he taught us next to the river (see below) was Acts 16:14,
“The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was being said by Paul.”
Here’s another shot of just the river.
The other aspect of this stop that made it my favourite was the church building next to the river. This church was built in memory of Lydia. Upon entering the church, there’s a massive mosaic art piece on the ground depicting Paul’s missionary journey. Pictures cannot compare with the real thing, but please try and enjoy my makeshift panorama! (It was hard to photograph).
Just think, this is the floor, and those are tiny coloured ceramic pieces. You can see in the lower right is Antioch. from there the trail goes to Ephesus (which we’ll be going to soon!), then Troas, then from Troas to Neapolis (where we’re currently staying), then to Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, then back to Ephesus and Antioch.
Inside this church on the ceiling was an incredible art piece depicting pretty much the entire story of Acts 16 in different sections! There must have been 12-14 massive paintings. Again, I wish you could see with your own eyes and walk through the story. But for the sake of this blog, here’s a (bad) picture of the first scene, “The Macedonian Call.” (Acts 16:6-10).
Keep in mind that these are massive paintings(?) all around the ceiling. Truly moving and incredible! By the way, these aren’t ancient pieces of art. The church was built in the 1970s.
From there we drove about 3 minutes to the ancient city of Philippi. There’s not enough time to get into how important Philippi and the church in Philippi was for the early church. Dr. John went as far as to say that the Philippian church was probably Paul’s favourite out of them all (but who knows!). It was fascinating to walk around the ruins of the basilicas, agora (the market place), and other buildings.
Two things were pretty cool, personally speaking. One is the room where prisoners were held. There is a chance (there’s not absolute assurance) that Paul and Silas could have been locked up in this room…
Secondly, there is an ancient road that was used called The Via Egnatia that went right through Philippi. This would have been the main road used to get into Philippi. Parts of the ancient rock slabs were still there and we were able to walk on them. So yes, we are walking in the footsteps of Paul, Silas, Timothy, Luke, Lydia, the converted jailer, etc. I’m not much for “Oh my goodness I’m walking where Paul walked!”
Well, maybe a little.
Anyways, here’s a shot of Dr. John speaking at Philippi. To the right of the group is where the prison cell is.
After that we briefly stopped downtown Kavala (ancient Neapolis) to see a church dedicated to Paul. It was here that as I was taking a picture, one of our two tour guides was in the way. Instead of interrupting her to ask her to move, I thought, “Hey, I’ll show people who Maria is!”
Maria and Nikos have done an amazing job showing us all around the various sites. Maria, Nikos, if you’re reading this (which you probably aren’t), thank you very much!
Tonight The Wiebe’s blessed us with a great musical concert. As Ben (CEO of Back to the Bible Canada) said, they don’t simply play music, they minister. Shane and Angela did an incredible job sharing original songs and covers. If you’re one of the people that read this blog and you’re on this trip as well, remember to encourage them with a “Thank You” when you see them next.
Well, that’s it for today. Tomorrow we make our way to Kalambaka and stop in ancient Berea on the way!