Well, that was certainly interesting. We had about 8 to 10 visitors--all young people--at Vigil Saturday night. The prospective bishop for our diocese was visiting, so I assumed they came because of him. When none went forward to venerate the Cross, I knew differently. These visitors were clearly not from around here--all tall, blond and well-scrubbed--seemingly the nieces and nephews of Garrison Keillor's Norwegian bachelor farmers.
Come to find out, these young people were a contingent from the local Youth With a Mission (YWAM) campus. This group, and any number of other evangelical organizations have set up headquarters in the rural northwest part of the county. YWAM and Teen Mania are the most well-known--and of the two, the former is slightly less cultish than the latter. A number of straight-forward missionary efforts, such as Mercy Ships, also headquarter in the area. We were talking to some of the young people out on the front porch (excuse me, exo-narthex) and discovered that this was a team, in preparation to "take the Gospel to Greece." Their instructor at YWAM sent them to our mission so they would know what to expect when they arrive in an Orthodox country. Ho-boy.
I suppose we should be flattered, but the irony was lost on none of us. They are making assumptions about Orthodoxy in Greece based on visiting a convert OCA parish in East Texas??? Such naivete is somehow refreshing--for they are too young for it to be labeled as hubris. That will come later.
The team leader clutched his Holy Bible
to his chest the entire time, as if to ward-off anything that might be catching from Orthodoxy. He talked a bit about Greece and how they planned to hand out Holy Bibles and evangelize there. He was surprised, or at least interested to learn that several in our group had been there. He asked my son if he was Greek (ha!), and when he found out that he was not, he asked if the Greeks were "dark." Somehow the discussion turned to Patmos, and the team leader looked at my son and said, "Did you know that it was on the island of Patmos that the Apostle John received the Revelation?" For some unknown reason, my son can be a bit sarcastic at times. I give him credit here--he did not say anything but simply smiled and nodded.
We convinced 4 of them to stay and eat with us in the hall. Theophan and I set down with 3 of them, both of us interested to see where the conversation would lead. They had a number of questions, even the dream question that all converts long for. One of them asked me, "What made you choose Orthodoxy?" Well, first I had to turn the question around and and take my answer out of the American religious cafeteria. But then, I was able to do an abbreviated "conversion story." (Remember, it is okay to tell--but only if you are asked!) Anyway, the conversation was respectful, but spirited--with Theophan doing the heavy-lifting. They seemed interested, or maybe they are just taught to strike that pose in their classes as YWAM.
I wish the young people well. Travel changes a person (or at least it should.) My wish is that their experience in Greece is absolutely nothing at all like they expect it to be.