I mentioned briefly our time in Turkey and Israel in my previous blog. We had a great several days in Turkey at the beginning of our trip, even meeting up with Geoff's brother for a weekend. Then we were on to Israel to lead our extra special spring study trip, which fell on Easter and Pesach (Passover).
It was a great group and we were so thankful for everyone who was a part of it. Samuel was more dynamic this trip, to say the least, and loved having so many new friends surrounding him. It was especially good for my heart (and arms) to have so many others loving on him so well. What a gift.
This was a unique trip as we were combining two groups into one, and had several arrive early, and stay late after the actual "Study Trip" time. We saw our final group member off on Wednesday, April 8, and we were off to Athens the next day.
We have had increasing interest in expanding our Israel/Palestine Study Trips to other regions in the land of the Bible. Specifically, Turkey and Greece. We plan to offer our first Turkey/Greece study trip in June 2016. So, naturally, we needed a little more time there. Business trip, you know. Ah the joys of owning a travel-based business.
Geoff had visited many of the sites in Greece, and studied them more. I however, had never been to the country and was overwhelmed by its beauty. Other than having THE most frustrating airline and security experiences of our travel lives in Greece, everything else of the culture and experience was amazing. I was so impressed with the Greek people, the beauty of the land, and the magnificent Biblical sites. We visited many places including the obvious Athens, Corinth, Thessaloniki, and Philippi.
In the mean time, we had lots of grilled meat and french fries. Apparently the staple, most available food groups in Greece. Salad never felt so necessary after a few meals of skewered meat and fried potato in a row. And sorbets. There were lots of wonderful sorbets.
The highlight of our Greece trip was the couple of days we took to be still and catch up with each other. Traveling is fun, but grueling, and taking a day or so here and there to catch our breath is very life giving. We did that on the Greek island of Hydra and enjoyed one of our best ever times together as a family.
The university Geoff and I went to hosts a study abroad trip to Oxford, England that we had each participated in as undergrads. Geoff's brother, Kevin, was a part of the group this spring. Oxford is a special place for anyone who has been a part of this program. I had the good fortune to be a part of three study programs in Oxford during my undergrad, in various capacities. I had returned to visit additional times in the past, most recently nine years ago en route to Israel for the first time, where I met up with Geoff one fateful day...and the rest is history.
With Kevin in Oxford, we had all the excuse we needed to make the relatively short jump from Greece to visit again. We had a GREAT time in Oxford. Being reunited with treasured friends and places, sharing memories of our individual experiences in that place with each other, and especially spending precious time with Kevin in the familiar places so close to our heart was truly priceless.
Geoff was also able to teach class one day for the ACU students Old Testament course. They looked at the Psalms, which of course included just a few insights from the land of the Bible. Very fun.
I have told Geoff (and many others) about how much this community in Oxford had impacted my view of what the Church is truly to be about, and what a joy it was to worship with them. It was SO rich to finally be able to share that experience with Geoff. He knew how much I loved these people and had learned from them, but you can't really GET it until you experience it. And true, to explain it sounds like the start of a dangerous commune. Which is why most discount my experience when I begin sharing how amazing this example of Church is. But y'all. That's wrong. This is the real deal, and I was reminded yet again how incredible the call is to live in such communities of faith. How hard a call that is in our modern, selfish, independent societies. But beautiful indeed.
Geoff's brother had also braved my invitation to go meet these friends several weeks prior, and he along with several ACU students attended their Thursday evening gatherings regularly. I was so overwhelmed to see them there, and to have so many others who know now what I'm talking about! We were blessed to share three nights staying in the community home while in Oxford, allowing us more quality time with with these who I love so dearly. It was the greatest gift I could have asked for to share life with them, if only for a few moments during those days. To share it also with Geoff and Samuel, was very rich indeed.
We planned to visit a few other places in this "work abroad" journey, but rearranged our plans when Geoff was invited to work with a friend on his upcoming trip to Israel. So we are back in Istanbul today, and Samuel and I will return to Texas tomorrow (Thursday) while Geoff stays behind and returns to Israel.
That's right. Samuel and I. Alone. One flight. 13 1/2 hours (not counting the expected delays). Not a night flight (meaning he'll be awake, wanting to play and go to all the people he can see for most of it).
This could be REALLY fun, y'all. So, if you've a mind to, we'd appreciate all good wishes and prayers for that journey. We'll be in the air from around 5 am - 6 pm TX time on Thursday. Not to mention airport time before and after that. Then we have to endure a 3+ hour drive from Houston to Belton. With Samuel in the Dreaded Carseat. At least grandparents (and Reyah?!) will be available for that part of the fun, though!
Below are a few other pictures, of the hundreds I've yet to sort, from our last several weeks of adventures.