Sunday, June 03, 2012

Just Like the Greeks, huh?

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. 




14 comments:

Becky said...

When Jonah came home and told me, I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He said he thought to himself, "you guys better be glad my Mom isn't here". He knows his mother is not the most gracious of converts. ; )

I pray that they find someone like Father Maximos in The Mountain of Silence when they are in Greece. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.

Becky said...

By the way, speaking of mission trips, keep our priest Father Brendan in your prayers - he left yesterday for 3 weeks in Ulan Bataar, Mongolia with the OCMC.

Steve Hayes said...

I have no doubt that there are plenty of Greeks who are quite godless and need evangelism, but from what you have described these seem to be more interested in prosyletism than evangelism.

ochlophobist said...

I had a horrible trip with YWAM to mexico one time. I was never a YWAMer but I did this one three week trip with them because it was cheap and my bible college required a "trek" that summer. Anyway, some crazy pentecostal dude on my YWAM team decided that God had told him to stop taking his meds, and he got weirder and weirder over the course of the trip. We were at a service one evening and an old man came in bent over and walking with a walker, so crazy dude who hears things from God walks over to said old cripple-ish man and presses his head and prays, very loudly, in the name of Jesus that he be healed. It didn't happen. So crazy dude starts to slap the old man on the forehead, harder and harder. Crazy dude was probably 6'2" and 280lbs. Bent over old man was less than 5' tall and maybe 110 pounds. Old women in the church (it was a protestant church of some sort) start shrieking and yelling at crazy dude - the old man is crying. Crazy dude had to be held down by a half dozen men, and eventually the police came, and then an ambulance, and apparently a few days later after he was sufficiently medicated he was sent back to the states and welcomed to not come back to Mexico. Some of the other groups my group was supposed to work with on that trip dis-invited us after word got around the Protestant groups in Monterrey that we were bat-shit crazy. That was actually nice, because it resulted in more time for shopping and hiking in the mountains and, in my case, going to Mass at the Catholic parish down the street from where we were staying, which had a good looking 40something year old priest who walked home with an attractive 30something year old woman after Mass each day. One day I talked to some of the younger Catholics after Mass and as we were talking a natural lull in the conversation came and we all happened to look at the priest and his female friend walking down the road and one of the Mexican Catholics looked at me and put on a wry facial expression, smiled, and said "yeah" and he shrugged. I remember thinking that I would take a Catholic priest who was getting some on the side over YWAMers any day of the week and twice on Tuesdays.

ochlophobist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ochlophobist said...

-cont'd-

The Evangelicals did send me to Russia in 1992, though. And the leader of that trip had us visit a number of Orthodox churches and monasteries and even work on a restoration project at an Orthodox church for a couple/few days. But he (the team leader) was an extraordinarily anomalous mission trip leader. We spent time in 7 different times zones in Russia during that summer long trip, and visited Orthodox churches in each one of them. It was a great trip, other than losing a bunch of cash and my American jeans to a group of (speaking of Mongolia in the comment above) Mongolians on a train trip in Siberia. The train rooms bunked 4 and we were allowed to bunk with either 3 other members of our team or 1 other with 2 nationals. My Nazarene buddy from Ohio and I chose throughout the trip to bunk each train leg together and with 2 nationals (some of these legs were up to 72 hour long train trips). That one leg we got in a room with 2 Mongolian sweater salesmen who had 4 Mongolian buddies in the next room. So all 8 of us eventually were crammed into our little room, wherein they set up a tiny coal burning stove they made tea on, and they had a makeshift table they played cards on. They offered us their handrolled cigs, which my friend and I felt safe to smoke because when our team leaders smelled cigarette smoke on us we could (and did) just say that our cabin-mates had been smoking and in such a small space of course we would wreak of smoke. They broke out some sort of funky drink in a bottle and I never did understand the card game, but they kept insisting my buddy and I had lost each hand, and hell, I didn't want to come off as the usual stuck up American, so between them they got like $400 in cash from me, and around the same as much from Darin. Now, this was in 1992, which if you look up average Russian yearly salaries you will note that that year was a lowball year and around the height of their financial instability - the average Russian monthly salary in 1992 was $22, or $264 a year. So $800 split 6 ways would have worked out to be a half year's salary for each of them, except that these guys looked poorer than most Russians. And we lost American cash, which was like gold there at the time. I think of that event often and I hope those guys made good on that decent windfall. For about a millisecond total I wondered if I should feel bad about gambling away cash that had been given to me by pious little old baptist ladies living on social security who thought it was great that the pastor's son was going to go win Russia for Jesus, but I couldn't muster the guilt, as I knew that that gambling loss was some of the best spent cash that went through my hands that summer, because it granted me the ability to perhaps one day tell my grandchildren that I lost more money than it took to buy a car in Russia to Mongolian sweater salesmen on the Siberian Express who got me drunk when I was on a happy clappy missions trip, and in return all I got was a sweater that shrunk to 1/5th its size when I got back home to the states and idiotically decided to wash it, plus a story to tell. But damn if that story wasn't worth $400 in 1992. I had already seen a fair amount of the world by that trip (I turned 18 when in Russia that summer). But no trip before or since changed my life like that one. So I hope somebody slips some of the kids you met some ouzo, and they have some chance to encounter real humanity.

John said...

That's one helluva story--no, make that two. The closest I can come is several back-and-forths on the decrepit old Balkan Express between Sofia and Istanbul. But dull boy that I am, each time I arrived sober, with all my money intact. And yes, hopefully some of these kids will make a break for it while there--though if they get wasted on ouzo, they may never drink again.

s-p said...

Good post and (as usual) good comments. I spent an evening with a man who has been an evangelical missionary in Greece for 50 years and his son now runs the "evangelical seminary" in Greece that he founded. He wrote a book about what's wrong with Greek Orthodoxy and he and I and the Protestant friend who introduced us spent an evening discussing his book. My Protestant friend ended up seeing through the holes in his arguments (too detailed to go into here) and decided I was a real Christian in spite of being Orthodox. I did however grant him that I'd rather see a devout protestant than a nominal Orthodox Christian, so if he was "evangelizing" and not prosyletizing, Godspeed.

John said...

s-p,
That reminds me of a story I've told many times. In 2004, I returned home from Turkey and Greece. I did a presentation for a couple of Wednesday nights at our Church of Christ congregation, tailoring the pictures to the biblical-related sites I'd visited (Ephesus, Patmos, Athens.) The last few slides were of the Aereopagus, with views out over Athens, with one church dome after another dotting the skyline. I opened it up for questions, and one of the men asked, "Are there any Christians in Greece?" I was taken aback, even for this audience I knew too well. I knew what he was asking, but I wasn't going to play that game. I replied that Greece was 90% Orthodox Christian, and pointed to the church domes in the last slide." He replied, "No, no, no. I mean are there any New Testament Chris-ti-ans in Greece?" I just looked at himm and finally said that I couldn't answer the question the way it was asked. A woman piped up in the audience and said that she knew there were Christians in Greece because the Sunset School of Preaching in Lubbock had a preacher-training school in Athens, so there had to be some Christians there. It was at that time that I realized that I had hired-on with the wrong outfit.

s-p said...

John, Yep, I've had those Bible classes at various levels too. I remember the cover of a local mega-church's monthly magazine with a family standing in front of a Russian cathedral and the cover caption was "Help us send missionaries to Godless Russia". Sigh....

Bill M said...

I've had friends over the years that were YWAM or something similar. One family spent decades in various Latin America locales. Another couple met on Doulos, one of the mercy ships. For me, it was Spearhead, a six-week "mission" into the heart of Mexico City in the summer of 1986. Our job was to learn just enough of the language to bring Jeeeezus to those ignorant Catholics who worshipped the Virgin idol. I remember being scandalized by the blatant superstitions, and by the opulent waste of gold and resources in the cathedrals.

I don't think we had any crazies in our group, like you had, Och. We were just young, and idealistic, and oh-so-fervent. One time, my team was preparing for a "show" (songs, skits, sermon) at the little Presbyterian church. We had moved the pulpit, and all other platform furniture off to the side, and were practising a skit when one of the elders came in. He was upset at how we were treating their holy place with such disrespect. Our team leader argued back that "there is no such thing as a holy place." So that's one way we gringos set them straight, anyway.

My room-mate from the trip went on to become a big name California mega-church Dude. It's my life's only tenuous brush with fame and celebrity.

That is... until I exchanged emails that one time with s-p... :)

Unknown said...

You never know what will happen. At my parish (which is easily 70% convert) we have 2 former protestant missionaries who discovered the Orthodox Church while on mission overseas. One of them has become a priest and the other was just tonsured a reader (with me) this past weekend.

As you say... travel broadens people. We should pray God blesses their trip and that their eyes be opened to the fullness of the incarnation.

Earning a Prophet's Wage said...

Ha!

What a treat to stumble by here...

I just randomly searched "Sunset Church of Christ" and found the Orthodox! Only God would do that, I think...

I have a lot of heritage tied up in Sunset CoC. My dad, one grandpa, and two uncles went through that school over the years. Also, Ted Stewart, who ran the bookstore for many many years, was married to my mom's cousin. I have always admired Jim McGuiggan as a favored preacher, and still do really... But I sit loose with the CoC anymore.

I am no church historian. I went to Bible school too, but I did not study too much that came after the 1st Century. I have some dim awarenesses. But, as is vogue in many CoC circles anymore, I have that unity bug in me.

BTW, I should say that I tend to really admire Methodists. I even tried to get into one of their semenaries a few years ago. But as I look around at the state of the church in soooooo many splinterings, to the point of cowboy church, indian church, biker church, trucker church - and now even more than that... those who say "give me Jesus, but keep your church"... I began to decide that I would not support anymore splintering no matter how attractive some group might seem.

I did however consider working my way up line, as it were. To heal a breach from the past, even if only as one man, rather than to jump another ship.

I considered Baptist, because the RM people (Campbell/Stone) joined with them once. But Stone and Campbell had been Prsbyterian, and that was an option too. Beyond that, I did not know. But once when I was rambling about these thoughts, someone suggested Catholic, since we all came from there.

I knew it was not that simple really, but there are questions of Church History that I wold have to research to answer, and did not get that far. But I was aware that long before Luther and all the splinterings, the East and West had divided in a way that seemed to result in Catholic and Orthodox.

I had known an Orthodox priest briefly once when I was a very young man in Denver. It was an eyeopenning experience, but I was not living anything like a Christian life, nor persuing one at that time. But here all these years later, I was friends with a man deeply involved in his Catholic perish and I admired him greatly. So I accompanied him to Ash Wed services one time.

A couple of years later, I went through RCIA and was confirmed. I worshiped Catholic for most of that year, but since then I have married back into the CoC. So, functionally, I am still CoC, but I can commune in the Catholic church. A breach healed, as far as I can. And I am happy to commune there.

I think I could have chosen Orthodox under the same principle, if my shallow understanding of church history is on target. Now suddenly, I think I am in the company of those who are readily available with those answers.

Basically, I seek to join hands with all who sincerely want to live for Jesus. I recognize all kinds of flaws and shortcomings, even in just seeking that, much less striving for it. But I am willing to hold out my hand in fellowship on those grounds.

Anyway, I wonder what I am missing from the Orthodox too. Just wondering....

blessings on you fellows...

John said...

Earnings,
Glad you stopped by. I'm not sure really where to go with some of your comments-ha! As to "healing the breach" by being a RC married to CoC....well, good luck with that. I say that as an Orthodox Christian married to a CoC. I will say that CoCers make good candidates for Orthodoxy, once they realize that unity can neither be created nor "restored."