Υειά Σας από την Θεσσαλονίκη!!!!!!
I'd be really impressed if you could understand what I just wrote. Ι bet you were all wondering why I didn't send an e-mail yesterday... it's because I was on a train heading for Thessaloniki!!! Yup, I'm back in my old area as the district leader. I haven't seen Zoeytsa yet, but I've called her and she's way excited. My new companion is Elder Rodriguez from Italy. He's really cool. He was a graffiti artist before his mission! haha I just found out that we're only going to have two weeks together up here before I head back down to Athens to pick up my kid! Yeah, I'm training this transfer!!! The church is having troubles getting American missionaries into Greece. They have trouble getting their visas. The same thing happened to the last group that came. This morning, however, we got a call saying that they would arrive on May 11th. Both Elder Rodriguez and I are training, so we'll take a train down to Athens, pick up the arriving missionaries at the airport, take them out for their first gyro with President, and then take them up to the top of Mars Hill to read from Acts 17. I got a little bit of an adreneline rush when I heard that they were coming. It's a lot of responsibility to train a new missionary. They're completely dependent on you and you are completely responsible for all Greek conversations. It'll be sweet though!!! I wonder what his name is. Sister Charles posted a picture of their group on her blog. You can see it at greeceathensmission.blogspot.com.
This last week we had a baptism in the north of Athens. It was probably the most powerful baptismal service I've ever been to. Me and three others sang "Be Still My Soul" in English a cappella, which brought the majority to tears. The man who was baptized is named Jim. I had the opportunity to teach him his first lesson when I just arrived in Athens. He's a Greek-American who just lost his daughter due to narcotics and remembered the Mormons from his boyscout group in Las Vegas when he lived there. He found President Charles, was taught by the missionaries and was baptized. He's a really great guy.
Times up--Love Eric
Note from Eric's mission president:
Dear Parents and Relatives,
I just wanted to allay your fears about the safety of our beloved missionaries, as I can imagine the riots and demonstrations as seen in the media must result in some anxiety.
Please rest assured that all the missionaries are not only safe, but we take steps to ensure their well-being by our insistence that they stay away from affected areas and be home before dark where appropriate.
Also, bear in mind, that the media will portray the worst of the riots because inevitably that makes news. In the real scheme of things the problems are confined to just a few areas and most of the demonstrations are relatively peaceful. Please continue to pray for all of us in this mission.
Thank you for entrusting your beautiful sons and daughters to us.
Greece Athens Mission
I just had the best weekend for a long time! I got to go to Meteora!!!!!! (see picture)(!) daaaaa It was so cool!!!! I can't even tell you how cool it was because e-mail just doesn't do it justice. Meteora, in case some of you didn't know, is comparable to rock city on Mt. Diablo, only a 1000 times larger. It's made up of several massive meteor shaped cliffs many topped with monasteries that have stood there for 1500 years. The word "meteor" actually comes from the cliffs because of there resemblance to one another. Meteora means "changed vision" (The Tranfiguration) for the main monastery found on the top of the largest cliff. It's spectacular to say the least. So we got to go there yesterday, that's why I didn't write. It was pretty lucky that we got to go. President said no at first, but then Sister Charles talked him into it; it's kind of a long drive, 2 1/2 hours. I don't think that missionaries will ever get to go again. While he really enjoyed Meteora, he absolutely despised the travel. I'll have to send you guys the pictures next week: my camera's out of batteries due to excessive use!!! Anyway, it took all day to go there and back. It took a really long time to get there. We had to take the back roads and travel through Greece's gorgeous countryside because the farmers had blocked the national highway with their tractors in protest. No matter, the trip was beautiful and we got there with plenty of time. The first time you see them, it's like a smack in the face. They're incredible. After we went up to enjoy the amazing view and tour the ancient monasteries, we drove down to the village of Kalambaki at the bottom and found a nice cobble-stoned plateia that hade a Greek taverna. We sat outside on the plateia nest to a fountain under the shade of grape vines. Sounds pretty good huh? It was. hahaha. I got souvlaki with a pita, Greek salad, fries, and ice cream. It was exceptional food, every ingredient was super fresh. From there we traveled back to Thessaloniki. Great day!
Today we went to the farm for service. This farm isn't just any farm. It has all the components of a farm and it's also a place where handicap children come and practice kinetic skills and ride the horses. The farmer, Takis (Tak-eeess, Greek) and his wife, Beatrice from Switzerland own the farm and were hit pretty hard by the economic crisis. It has him thinking about his life and God's will for him. He expressed to us how he wants to repent and we had a good long discussion with him. His wife was given a Book of Mormon a while a go in German. She remembered it and asked if we could bring Takis one in Greek. The first thing he said when he saw me the next time I came, he asked "Did you bring the book?" He thumbed through it and realized that he didn't recognize any of the names that it contained. He didn't realize that the Book of Mormon is a record of the inhabitants of the ancient Americas. That blew his mind. He found it extremely interesting. We told him about Joseph Smith and how we have apostles today. He said that it makes perfect sense and that I didn't have to prove it to him. "Who are we to try and make sense of God's dealings with man? Who's logic can define what God would and would not do? Spiritual matters must be felt and seen through spiritual eyes, not by reasoning and physical sight." We went back to the farm today and sat down with him. The first thing he says, without me prompting anything: "I read the book" I asked him how much of the book he read. "The whole thing"... say what? He hadn't read the whole thing but went through and read all of the chapter summaries to get an idea of what happens. He said that he knows that there is something there, but is having a hard time understanding and grasping it. I told him that's why we're here, to explain the purpose of the book and the lessons that we learn from it. From there we presented the Plan of Salvation. That struck a note in him. His father dies at the age of 15, burned alive in a car crash. He soaked in every word. We taught him that death is not the end to life, that families can be together forever. I asked him if we could pray at the end and he began expounding on what he'd like to pray about. He said that we didn't know how much this message helps him... " It really..." The words were stopped by his emotions. I offered the prayer and gave him 2 Nephi chapter 9 to read from the Book of Mormon which talks all about life after death. I think he'll really enjoy it. They both are ready. I look forward to seeing how things turn out these next couple weeks. We've been helping them with some pretty heavy duty work on their house because they have a class of Swiss seniors coming to stay as a retreat this next week. It reminds me of Ammon's story; the king listened to Ammon's message and accepted it because of Ammon's incredible service towards the king.
Well, we have another appointment coming up soon.