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Showing posts from May, 2010

Further Reflections Greece

Greece is in the main shockingly run down. There are unfinished building constructions everywhere. It is messy, dusty, and dirty. The buildings are in the main in poor shape. It is crowded. Tagging is everywhere! It is on trains, doors, signs, and any surface. Even the rocks beside the shore in Kavala are tagged! And the tagging is poor. Thessaloniki was the worst, but even here in Kavala, by far the nicest place we have visited, it is everywhere.


The people drive madly. The drive from Tolo west toward Patara along the northern rim of the Pelopenese was a lesson in driving. I thought I was in a formula one race. Rather than a nice 2-lane motorway as we had previously experienced, there was one lane with a wide shoulder (not wide enough for a lane). Everyone flies along firmly pressed into the shoulder and it is 'who dares wins' in the passing stakes. It is bedlam. The speed limit is 120 but that is clearly a guide. In fact, all road rules here are general guidelines, anything …

Corinth

Corinth! What a day it was. We hired a car, effectively tossed a coin as to who would drive (neither of us were keen), and headed out of Athens about 90 mins or so to Corinth. The drive went without incident thankfully; although I have to say that driving on the right hand side of the road in a manual with right hand gear changes challenged me greatly. Here’s hoping we can continue to do so safely.

Before coming to Corinth we stopped at Isthmia to view the canal. Unbelievable! Fantastic! I recalled that Nero had wanted to build this. When I saw the dug out sides of the Canal which were hundreds of feet high, I could see why it was beyond him! Amazing! I reflected on what it was like for the slaves and animals to drag ships across the isthmus back in the day! Crazy!

We passed through modern Corinth proper, a lovely little town. Then we arrived at ancient Corinth. What a lovely little place. The day was gloriously fine as the photos on facebook testify. We wandered the ancient site. T…

Athens

Rome was incredible, but as I said in an earlier blog, I struggled with it for theological reasons. It was also lacking in good signage and guidance. Athens I love without reservation. Everything was signposted, its history easily explained, you always knew what you were looking at.

In Acts 17:16 Luke tells us that ‘while Paul was waiting for them (Timothy and Silas) in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.’ This is clear even today as we visit the ancient sites. The three temples of Acropolis dominate the city and are devoted to the patron goddess of Athens in particular, Athena. There is the remains of the Temple to Zeus completed by Hadrian after the time of Paul. There are temples everywhere. The Parthenon must have been a glorious site, resplendent with marble dominating the city. There were also temples on the other hills around the Acropolis.

Another key difference with Rome is that the historic sites are not overlaid with centuries of Chri…

Other thoughts on Rome

Roman people were interesting. I found the word that came to mind was 'swarthy'.  They tend to be of short stature, olive skinned, dark haired, and well dressed. I saw few blondes. Emma stood out in this regard. In fact, I noted quite a few locals admiring her form. It seemed the norm to do this. I allowed myself a little pride at this point - she's mine!

We found the people loud and demonstrative. When there were in crowded places, this did not dent their enthusiasm to express their opinions openly and loudly. Most unkiwi!

We noted in Rome too that everywhere we went, groups of men in suits were standing around idly chatting. It seemed obligatory to be standing in one of these groups!

Does everyone smoke in Rome? It seems so! We thought, to love and kiss a Roman would mean to taste smoke! Mints were freely available, perhaps needed!

Affection was everywhere. The double kiss, one on each cheek, was the norm for men and women. We often saw women out walking arm in arm, a…

Rome More Thoughts

Italy overall was surprising. It was fantastic to visit Rome and all the ancient sites. But the country appeared to be very run down. There was graffiti everywhere, and bad graffiti at that. Apartment living is the norm. Unlike Hong Kong, which is full of enormous skyscrapers, the apartments of Italy seem 4-8 stories hight and in the main, in very poor shape. One tour guide suggested that the Romans gave the world apartment living. They need to rebuild themselves now!

The driving here is chaotic to put it nicely. It seems reflective of life. There is a semblance of order but the rule appears to be: stick to right, at least most of the time, however, anything goes; have courage, just don't hit anyone. Somehow it works. We had a MacDonald's meal in Bari, and the same rule applied. Line up and then ignore the lines and go for it. We tended to get boxed out, but we are learning.

Rome is so narrow and crowded! People drive scooters and smart cars and park at every possible angle. R…

Rome

So, what do we make of Rome. Day one we arrived after an uneventful trip. It was a worrying start as our lift was not waiting and so we had to shell out for the trip to the hotel; that put us back a few euro! Still, we can get that back. Out hotel is the Hotel Trevi near the Trevi Fountain. It is a comfy wee place. On the first day we went exploring checking out the Fountain, which is always overflowing the tourists throwing coins in and making wishes. We then found the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and checked out the Pantheon. It was built just after Paul’s time, a temple to the gods of Rome. As Christendom took hold it became a church to Mary. It seems to me that Mary is bigger in Rome than Christ, which is most disconcerting for a Protestant. We then found out that MacDonalds is as nice here as anywhere, average!


After an early night, yesterday we did the crypts and catacombs. The catacombs were amazing. Over 60 underground burial chambers used by early Christians from the second …

Ministering Among the African Asylum Seekers

One of the greatest things about the Vine Church in Hong Kong is there ministry among asylum seekers. Hong Kong is a hub, so many people come here without documentation having, for whatever reason, fled from their native country. They get put in detention, released, but wait while there case is assessed in the hope of being able to go to another country on refugee status. One guy at church, a Kiwi, decided one day to do a prison visit to some of them. This opened the door, as on release, he came to church. Now there are over 350 of them at the Vine. They have mid-week services for them; African, SEAsian, and Nepalese. I had the privilege yesterday of preaching to over 100 of them.

It is astonishing how hungry they are for God. NZ is a spiritual wasteland compared to them (if comparisons are fair). We are cynical, skeptical and reticent spiritually. Whereas they pray with genuine fervor, pouring their hearts out to God, worshiping without restraint, crying out to God in joy and sufferi…

Back to Jerusalem

I remember when I read the Heavenly Man a few years ago and saw that there were Chinese Christians with a desire to head east with the gospel until they reach Jerusalem. I didn't take much note of it. Being here has ramped my interest in this idea big time.

In preparation for a sermon I looked into Google Books and found a title 'Back To Jerusalem' by Paul Hattaway in which three Chinese Church Leaders speak of the vision. It is a very intriguing idea. One chapter speaks of how the gospel spread west after Christ. These Chinese leaders had looked east and seen the Islamic world which resists the gospel.

They have a strategy to go into these countries, start Chinese restaurants and from these bases establish networks of 'underground' house church's. These are people worthy of respect. They have all suffered greatly for Christ. They know what it means to live in a persecuted context, the Chinese church exploding after Communism in 1949 and despite persecution. T…

Eddie Jones and Frank Hadden

What a treat. Last night I was invited to a get together of Hong Kong rugby dudes to hear Australian coach Eddie Jones and Frank Hadden an ex Scottish coach. Frank was interesting, talking about trying to get Scotland to improve in the face of very few players and money. He was good.

Eddie Jones was excellent. I of course wore my All Black rugby jersey for a laugh. He spotted me coming in and made a couple of jibes my way, I said back that I was wearing it now because the way things are looking, I might not be able to after the 2011 World cup.

He is a great analyst. He noted how rugby had oscillated attack - defense - attack - defense since the mid 90's. He claims rugby is now in a great state, attack is dominating. He thinks by the 2011 world cup defenses would have adapted and defense would be back dominating. Others in the room were not so sure including a ref who believes the new tackle law will ensure attack keeps dominant. I think I side with Eddie. He believes the second pe…

Another Day in Hong Kong

I saw another side of Hong Kong today. The south side of the island is full of beaches, markets, and resorts. There are high rises but there are also homes more akin to those in NZ with bigger sections and houses. It was teeming with people at Stanley. I met a sad burnt out artist. He had given up art because he was fed up with people not being interested in artists and quality and buying stuff of the shelf. His name was Vincent. I brought a painting and chatted to him. He got out a photo album and showed me his paintings and awards he had won. I encouraged him and told him that artists should paint whether anyone appreciated it or bought them. It was nice moment.

Saw a Baptist Church where there was a full on healing time on. The church was in the middle of the market. Interesting.

So, Hong Kong is not all high risers. The south side is more akin to something a Kiwi would recognise. Ate a Korean bbq dinner. You cook your own dinner on a bbq in the centre of the table. Excellent.

I al…