“And the next year the Prayer Weekend will be in Athens, Greece.” as soon as it was announced I knew I had to go. The city where Paul preached to the Athenians! Maybe I might even get to see the “altar to an unknown god” that he mentioned?
This year the annual prayer conference for Students for Christ Europe was held in Athens, Greece. Now it might be easy to think that as someone from the Nordic countries I would be looking forward to a break from the cold weather, but that wasn’t first on my mind.
Every year I have been at the prayer conferences have been a great blessing. It is great to meet others doing student ministries, to share about what we are doing and pray over the ministries across Europe. To be able to do so in the country where Christianity first came to Europe was really great.
As the departure date came close, the weather reports weren’t overly positive. On our designated sightseeing day on Friday, heavy rains were forecasted. Though the temperatures was well above what I have seen in Scandinavia so far this year.
The weather on the trip down was reasonably well, allowing for some great views over some of the Greek islands on the east coast of Greece. Before boarding the second leg of my trip down, I had met several other heading to the conference as well, so as we landed at the airport we came together to find our way to the center of Athens and our hotel. Less than an hour later we departed from the metro. Listening to the others talking about where to find the hotel, I looked around and to my surprise: To the right I looked upon a small hill with ruins. Acropolis! I interrupted the others: “You might want to have a look up there!” and our cell phones came out to take pictures!
We couldn’t resist doing a bit of sightseeing even that evening. As soon as we had our meal, several of us went up under Acropolis and got a great view of the ancient city. We couldn’t get up on Acropolis proper, as it was late in the evening by then, but the view was still great!
Friday morning, and a quick Greek breakfast, it was time to see the sights! We headed first for a open church nearby, and were lucky to find enough street sellers of umbrellas. The weather forecast had not failed, nor had the rain! But we the brave explorers got our umbrellas, or trusted our faithful rain coats as armor against the rain. So again gathered outside the church, we finally headed past the ancient agora on our way to the entrance of Acropolis. Near the entrance we found the place that Paul preached to the Athenians, the Areopagus (Acts 19;16-33). The rain had wind had not been too much of a problem this far, but several of us wanted up on the rocky outcrop by Areopagus. As we came up there we were welcomed by the magnificent view over the rainy city… and the wind. Malmö levels kind of wind… with rain. No umbrellas could be used up there, and I wanted pictures. I came down from the outcrop drenched. In less than a minute my pants had gone from mostly dry to mostly drenched. Even my rain jacked showed signs of struggling with keeping the water on the outside. And I wasn’t the only one who had discovered that the weather of Athens in January can feel very much like the weather of very early spring in Scandinavia. But hey… it did definitively feel very much like spring!
Half the group decided then to return to the hotel to change and explore the nearby stores, or warm up a bit. The other half still wanted to see the Acropolis itself. Their report was that it took them about half an hour, and they didn’t need to worry about any crowds either! I on the other hand had resigned to get back to the hotel to warm up and try to dry what I could before the evening’s prayer session.
Friday evening was dedicated to personal prayer, as we split into smaller groups and prayed for each other personal needs. It is such a great blessing to pray for the others as well as being prayed for. I feel there is a great deal of personal connection that arises from this prayer time together.
Saturday morning came, and it was time for the prayer marathon of the weekend. Quite fitting for the end goal of the original marathon, I would say. Our marathon lasted for most of the day, with no meals until we had prayed for all the ministries. We started shortly after nine in the morning, and prayed through the day till about five in the afternoon. It is really great to hear what God is doing in the different ministries, as well as such a blessing to pray for them.
Around six in the afternoon we were ready for some food! But first we needed a photo taken of the group with the iconic Acropolis in the background. Finally, we could order our different meals (we had three different courses to chose between). The food was delicious as it had been on all our other meals out in the city! Great food, great people, great time together! Eventually it was time to head back to the hotel to catch some sleep, though we did manage to sneak into a place to get some extra dessert!
Sunday morning came upon us and it was time for the annual business meeting of SfC Europe. This is where the main decisions of the organization is done, and elections made. Though this may not be the most exciting part of the Prayer Weekends, I have always enjoyed being part of these meetings. Seeing where we try to head towards, as well as trying to plan for how to take some real action to reach our goals.
The business meeting luckily didn’t take as long as planned, which meant I had about two hours before I had to head for the airport. The day was sunny and it was time for some real sightseeing! I and a large group of people that didn’t have to leave yet used the chance to get up on Acropolis and enjoy the sights and the sun. Many pictures were taken! It did feel quite strange to think of how old many of those structures upon that rock were. I also found it fascinating to see how the rock of the ground, which seemed like it originally had been quite rough, had been polished down to an almost slippery surface! Just imagine the number of feet and shoes that must have stepped on it through the millennia! For a Norwegian where we really only count our historical age by about a thousand years, it was quite humbling and fascinating. Many of those building structures are two or three times as old as the beginning of the Norwegian nation! It was also nice to see Areopagus and its outcrop in nice weather, getting some more time to enjoy its view.
As I started feeling the effect of the sun on face’s wintery skin, it happened to also be time for me to head for the airport. It was with a thankful heart I sat on the metro on the way to the airport, thinking that this will not be the last time I will visit Greece.
Johnny Danielsen – Mosaik Malmö