This morning we docked at Kavala (Neopolis in Paul's day), in northeastern Greece (Macedonia). The ship met with troubled waters overnight, and the rocking kept us awake. But all went well as we disembarked, planting our feet firmly the ground at the port where Paul entered Greece for the first time. On his way to Philippi, a distance of 10 miles, he travelled on foot via a Roman road called the Egnatia Way, which ran through Macedonia and beyond. Our tour bus had the distinct privilege of taking a walk uphill for a mile on that very road! I marvelled as I glanced down at the stones still in place after centuries of wear, and realized that Paul's sandals had been worn by this very path on his way to Philippi...awesome.
When we arrived at the ruins of Philippi, we saw the usual rectangular field that housed the agora, stoa, and bema seat where Paul would have be judged for his "crime" of releasing a slave girl from demonic influences. Just across the street (Egnatia Way, again), was the traditional site of the prison where Paul and Silas would have stayed. It was just a small shallow cave, housing maybe 5-7 prisoners at a time. We could just imagine them cramped but still singing praises to the Lord as the earthquake set them free. (Quakes were responsible for laying Philippi in rubble many years later.) Our group also sat in the ampitheatre, which was being restored, and again, "Paul" appeared to encourage us to wait in expectation for the Lord's coming. Just after he left the ampitheatre, a group of Koreans began to spontaneously sing "How Great Thou Art", and within a minute, the English speaking groups joined in! It brought tears to my eyes...
Our group travelled a short distance to the "baptistry of Lydia"...a quickly flowing stream where this wealthy cloth merchant's heart was opened to the Gospel when Paul came to the quiet stream to pray. Lydia and her family were baptized soon after in those very waters, and invited Paul and Silas to her home for a "new life" celebration. This act established the first Christian church in Europe.
Addendum to Thessaloniki blog...yesterday was the very day that the Olympic torch was being carried through the city on it's way to China. I don't know if I imagined it, but I thought I saw it in the fields near Veria (Berea) that morning.
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