Footsteps of Paul Travel Journal


Kalimera – Good morning in Greek. We began our morning with breakfast on the rooftop terrace of our hotel with a beautiful view of the Parthenon. It is located on top of the acropolis (the high point of a city where a fortress was built.) Many cities in Greece have an acropolis. As the sun rose over the hill adjacent to it, the rays of the sun shed light on what was once the temple of Athena during the 5th century BC. I was reminded of what John wrote at the beginning of his gospel; John 1:5 “The lights shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” The false gods of this world have no life in them, they are full of darkness. God, the creator of the universe is the author of light and life.

We then boarded our bus to Corinth. The ruins of the ancient city of Corinth are pretty spectacular. We walked around the agora (marketplace) where Paul would have had many conversations with people about Jesus, all in the looming presence of the massive temple of Apollo. Remember that in Corinth as well as Athens, there were small communities of Jews, with the majority of the population being worshippers of pagan gods. Paul lived in Corinth for a year and a half proclaiming the gospel.

And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” Acts 18:4-11

In the agora of Corinth, we had a worship service with Holy Communion. Picture the scene … we gathered around a china berry tree, shading us from the sun, and began singing Holy Holy Holy, followed by readings from 1 Corinthians 1:18, 26-31 and 2 Corinthians 2:12-17. I encourage you to take a moment to read the passages and reflect on them. With hearts overflowing with gratitude, we concluded our worship singing I Love You, Lord. Stay in the scene for a moment and picture numerous groups gathered around the area worshipping and singing in their native tongue. One group was from South America and another from China. Hearing them sing in their native language was a little taste of heaven.

We then traveled back to Athens to tour the Parthenon. Most ancient Greek cities had a walled fortress on the acropolis where soldiers would keep watch for invading armies. In Athens, it was not a military fortress that was built on the acropolis, but a massive temple to the goddess Athena, goddess of war and wisdom. What a picture of how so many in Athens worshipped Athena and the important place she payed in their lives. It is an amazing site to see, however it is such a reminder that the false gods of this world are lifeless and their man made statues and temples only crumble over time.

As we walked down the hill from the Parthenon, we came to Mars Hill where Paul gave his famous speech in Acts 17:16-24. You’ve got to read this passage! Paul boldly proclaimed the reality that there is only one God who is not only the author and giver of life, but our Redeemer as well. As I stood on top of Mars Hill, the wind was blowing so strong that I had to lean into it otherwise it could have easily pushed me over. The Lord reminded me that the wind of the Holy Spirit is stronger and mightier than the force of the wind I experienced standing where Paul stood. I prayed Come Holy Spirit, Come, bring your mighty power in my life with the boldness of Paul giving witness and testimony to Jesus. It is the power of the mighty God who moves in our midst everyday opening hearts and minds that are closed to the saving grace of Jesus. The following prayer is from a morning devotional that I recently read. “Lord, awaken me more fully to the invisible and eternal spiritual realities of the kingdom of God. May I be alive to Your presence and responsive to the wind of Your Holy Spirit.”

Many of us finished the evening with dinner at an outside cafe overlooking the beautifully lit Parthenon. What a way to end the trip. And, yes, we got to experience one more Greek tradition, which I have to say, was a lot for fun! Can you guess what it is? After dinner, some or us got to smash our plates on the ground (yes, I asked our waiter for permission and he was more than happy to oblige us!) Our adventure draws to an end and tomorrow we fly back home. As we often say at St. Andrew’s “Come and see and go and tell.” Not only have we seen many of the ancient towns where Paul so faithfully and tirelessly proclaimed the gospel, our hearts have been changed. Now may we go and tell others not just about what we have seen, but about the greatness and saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! What an adventure we have had! Grace and peace!


Each day that we wake up and board the bus, we find that we are in for a new adventure. This morning proved to be no different. We spent the previous night in Meteoria, a small town located in the Pindos mountains. Meteoria means suspended in air. When you see the pictures you will see what I mean. The locals call it the stone forest. Hanging on to our seats as Demetri, our driver, drove us up the switchbacks, we climbed 1,300 feet. Not only is the stone forest spectacular as it rises above the ground, there are 25 monasteries perched on various peaks. You cannot help but stand in awe at the wonder of these magnificent structures built on the edge of the cliffs. Demetri pulled to the side of the narrow road so that we could get out and walk to the edge of one of the cliffs. Can you picture 35 people trying to see how far they could get to the edge for the perfect photo shoot? We made sure we did a head count once we got back on the bus!

However, while we were still outside, we gathered together to take in the beauty of God’s creation. As we sang Holy Holy Holy, I could not help but truly stand in awe of God who created such unique beauty. We read from Psalm 8 which begins and ends with “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Words can’t even describe what we saw. You will have to come and see for yourself self one day. After this reading, we sang the doxology, a truly holy moment!

The monastery we toured was called the Monastery of the Holy Trinity. One could not help but wonder how such a structure could be built on the edge of a cliff. The monastery was completed in the 1476. For those James Bond lovers, you will recognize this from a scene in For Your Eyes Only. After a spectacular morning of God’s creation we began our drive down to Athens. Quite a drive. In between naps, lunch and more naps, the bus continued to be filled with conversations and a lot of laughter. I cannot tell you whose laugh is the most distinct, but when he laughs you can not help but laugh … even if you do not know what they are laughing at. We ended our day with dinner at the rooftop restaurant at our hotel overlooking the Parthenon. A spectacular site in the evening. Have I told you that we have a great group on this trip? Well, we do!


We woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the Aegean Sea, and set out on the Via Egnetia, the path that Paul would have walked from Philippi to Thessalonica. What took us two hours by bus, would have taken Paul at least five days to walk. Paul shared the gospel as he walked along the way. He had eyes to see the people who were around him, ears to hear them, and boldness to speak. Think about the impact that Paul had on the spread of Christianity. The vast number of people who heard the good news of Jesus, lives changed, who went on to tell others. Think about the impact that you and I can have on those in our communities today as we pray and look for opportunities to develop friendships with those who do not know Jesus.

Thessaloniki, which is known to us as Thessalonica, is the second largest city in Greece with a population of 1.6 million. As you drive around the center of the city, you can see remains of the ancient wall dating back to the 4th century BC. Paul spoke three consecutive sabbaths in the synagogue. In the middle of the city we saw the agora (marketplace) where Jews who did not like the message that Paul was preaching, created a riot and Paul and Silas had to flee at night and set out to Berea. In Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, you can get a picture of the challenges, rather, sufferings that he faced, as well as his heart for the people.

“For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

After Thessalonica, we drove down to Berea, following the path that Paul took. There, he and Silas preached in the synagogue until men came from Thessalonica, found then and drove them out of the city. As you can tell, one of the words that characterized Paul’s life was endurance. The Lord strengthened him daily and the Holy Spirit encouraged him to continue his journey and calling. May the Lord strengthen and encourage us with endurance as we continue to run the race.

Our final stop, which was a last minute addition, and for some, a great treat, was Father Pefki’s icon workshop. Father Pefki is a Greek Orthodox Priest who hand paints beautiful icons reflective of the Byzantine period. The craftsmanship that goes into each piece is exquisite. He is currently working on a project for the Pope. I don’t know if I have mentioned this, but as you can probably tell, our days are full! We typically leave the hotel around 8 a.m. and get to our hotel around 7:45 p.m. Off to a quick dinner and hopefully, some sleep.


I do not know if I have shared with you how we start each morning. Each day, as we gather for the morning tour, we begin our time with morning prayer. It is a guided liturgy from Ffald y Brenin, a house of prayer that Kimberly and I visited in Wales.

This morning we arrived back in Athens where we caught a short flight to Thessaloniki. As we flew over the beautifully blue Aegean Sea, you could see many of the magnificent Greek islands. The islands are all outlined with rich azure or cerulean (pick your color choice) water. Our bus for the land tour met us at the airport where we met our driver Demetri and our guide Zina. I can already tell the remainder of our tour will be impactful with the historical knowledge that Zina brings.

We drove to the ancient ruins of Philippi. On Paul’s second missionary journey, he visited Philippi where he brought the gospel to many Jews and Gentiles. Paul was always on the lookout for opportunities to tell others about Jesus. On one sabbath day, Paul went outside the city gate to the riverside that was known as a place of prayer. There he met many women including Lydia, a wealthy businesswoman who sold purple goods. She worshipped God, but she did not know about Jesus. Paul shared the gospel with her, she came to believe as well as all who were in her household and were baptized.

As Paul went about each day, he looked for opportunities to tell others about Jesus. I keep coming back to a quote I put in our day two journal from theologian N.T. Wright: “Modern Christians use the word ‘witness’ to mean ‘tell someone else about your faith.’ The way [scripture] seems to be using it is, ‘tell someone else that Jesus is the world’s true Lord.’” Paul understood his part in God’s larger story and we come more alive when we find our part as well. We all have different vocations and callings, but as followers of Jesus, the greater message of our lives is that we get to tell others that Jesus is the world’s true Lord.

Back to Philippi … as we toured the remains of the ancient city, we stopped at the Roman theater which could hold 5,000 people. The community would gather there to watch dramatic plays. But, what was most sobering was that the theatre was also the place where Christians were thrown to the lions while the seats were filled with spectators cheering the massacres on. As looked around the theater at the top there were beautiful poppies (red in color). I could not help but think about all the blood that was shed in the theater by people who had become followers of Jesus. When Paul wrote about trials and persecution that Christians would experience, he did not just witness it first hand, he experienced it time and time again.

In Acts 16:16-24, we read about Paul healing a slave girl who had a spirit of divination, whose owners were profiting from her fortune telling. Once she was healed, they were no longer able to make any profit from her. Her owners dragged Paul and Silas into the marketplace where others joined in beating them with rods and had them chained and thrown into jail. At midnight, they were praying and singing songs to God … can you imagine doing that after you had been beaten and unjustly thrown into prison? Talk about the power of the Holy Spirit presence in their lives! At that moment, there was an earthquake and the doors of the prison were opened and their chains were unfastened. I wonder, what would you have done in that situation? I would have run out of the jail and not looked back. Not Paul and Silas. With such a deep sensitivity of the leading of the Holy Spirit, they stayed in the jail and preached the gospel to the jailer and later to his family and they came to faith in Jesus and were baptized.

Lord, give me a greater sensitivity to the leading of your Holy Spirit in my life. As if we have not already seen some amazing sites, we got to walk along a small portion of the original Via Egnatia, a 2nd century Roman road which was the main road through Macedonia. This was the road Paul traveled on to get to Philippi, Berea and Thessalonica. Full from the day, we arrived at our hotel on the Aegean coast just as the sun was setting marveling at how great our God is.


This morning we arrived on the island of Crete. After a short walking tour, we we found a beautiful spot next to a Greek Orthodox Church where we had a brief worship service. As we gathered and began worshipping, a number of people walking around came up to join in. And as we do at St. Andrew’s each Sunday, we prayed the anniversary blessing over Gary and Cathy Lamb (50 years), John and Debbie Short (50 years) and Bryan and Anita Mason (25 years). We reflected on Paul’s visit to Crete where he left Titus to continue the work of spreading the gospel.

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you…” Titus 1:1-5

Paul loved Titus who was who was a disciple of his. I wonder, who had been a spiritual father of mother for you? Who have you invited to come with you as you follow Jesus? If no one comes to mind, I would encourage you to take a few moments in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to put someone on your heart that you can reach out to and walk with them and encourage them as they follow Jesus.

Sailing around the islands that we have visited so far, I am struck by the amount of territory that Paul covered on his missionary journeys. As we reflected on the book of Ephesians the day before and his letter to Titus today, it is so clear that Paul had a true shepherd’s heart for the churches that the helped start and for the care and development of these new Christians as they wrestled with all the cultural challenges that they faced. It is really no different from the world we live in today.

After we boarded the ship, we set sail to Santorini. While this was not an island that Paul visited, it is a favored island to visit because of its sheer beauty. And what beauty it is! High upon a volcanic mountain, then town of Oia is the most beautiful town on the island. It is built on the edge of the cliffs reaching down to the Aegean Sea. It is known for its white washed houses and churches. The churches have rich blue dome roofs, and as the sun sets, the churches become radiant.

Each night we sailed, we had our window open so we could hear the sea. As I laid in bed last night, I was struck at just how strong the wind in on the Mediterranean Sea was and how rough the waters were. We are on a large ship and could feel the difficulty of sailing into the wind as the captain navigated our ship through the rough whitecap waves. I could not help but think about Paul who sailed the Mediterranean numerous times in a much smaller vessel. The wind howling, the evening sky filled with stars helping them navigate as they sailed at night, wondering what they might encounter as they reached land. Through it all, Paul was filled with joy, hope and peace because he was led by the Holy Spirit to tell others about the saving grace of Jesus. O that the Lord will give us the same passion today, that we get to be witnesses of the glorious grace of Christ. May our prayer continue to be: Come Holy Spirit come! Give us eyes to see those who do not know Jesus, words to speak that would bring life, and lives that bring the very presence of Jesus to those we engage with everyday.


Having sailed all night, this morning we arrived on the continent of Asia where we docked at the town of Kusadasi, which means bird island. From Kusadasi we boarded our bus and went to town of Ephesus. In Paul’s day, Ephesus was a sea port city of a quarter of a million people. It was strategically located as the center of trade for Asia and Europe. I found it fascinating was that back in Paul’s day, Ephesus was right on the coast. However, today it is four miles from the sea as silt from the mountains filling nearby rivers has increased the land mass. Centuries ago, the ancient city of Ephesus was covered by multiple earthquakes. Only 20% of the city has been excavated thus far. What has been uncovered is breathtaking architecture and a masterfully laid out city rivaling any major city today. Ephesus was such an influential city that Caesars and emperors from the Roman Empire and Asia Minor would frequently travel there. It’s was also where the temple to Artemis was located. The temple was three times the size of the Parthenon in Athens. All that is left is one freestanding column. What a picture that the idols that we worship do not last. Only the one true God is eternal.

When Paul arrived in Ephesus, more than ninety percent of the people were idol worshippers who gave their worship to Artemis, the goddess of fertility. Paul brought a message of hope and new life through the Lord Jesus Christ. One can only imagine how difficult it was for Paul to be a witness for Jesus in culture like Ephesus. His trials in that city were many, yet he faithfully worked and testified about the saving grace of Jesus tirelessly day after day. Think about this for a moment … what is it that causes one to live their lives day after day looking for opportunities to tell others about the love of God? It is that one knows how much they are loved by God or as Paul so eloquently put it in Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Because Paul’s heart was so gripped by the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, he could not help but live his life telling others about Jesus. I cannot help but think about our own lives today. Though we all have different vocations and callings, how am I—how are you
—responding to the love of God shown through Jesus?

As with any tour seeing biblical sites, our days are filled with one stop after another. Once we boarded the boat, we set off to the island of Patmos, where John was in prison and wrote Revelation. Talk about a sobering moment. One could sense the presence of God on the island. While John, in his late 80’s was held on captive on the island of Patmos, he was able to walk about the island. History tells us that each day John and his scribe would go into a cave on the island where John would receive the words from Jesus that were written down compiling the book of Revelation. It was a holy moment entering into the cave where John, the disciple whom Jesus loved would sit and hear the resurrected and glorified Jesus speak to him. Can you imagine the deep intimate relationship they shared together. When one asked how do you know if that was really the cave that John went into as he wrote Revelation, our guide replied, It is the only cave on Patmos. Holy moments are gifts from the Lord!


Sometimes in the adventure of life we ask the question “Why?” A question that we can ponder over and over. Why? As our journey began yesterday, we all asked a lot of ”Why’s” Did we get answers? Not really, but that is not the point. The point is to bring where we are to God, submitting to his gracious care and leading over our lives come what may.

I began this morning with the prayer from Lectio365 “Creator God, who formed humanity from dust, breathe in me again. Revive me and sanctify me by the power of your Spirit. Set my heart on fire with the good news of your gospel.” Our second day of travel began after 2 hours of sleep for many at our short hotel stay on Long Island. We made our way without too many hiccups to JFK Airport to catch our late afternoon ten hour flight to Athens. On our smooth flight to Athens, one blessing was that there have been many empty seats which allowed many in our group to spread out and rest. Blessings from the Lord are many. They are there you know—blessings, I mean—every day if we open our eyes to see, though small that they may be at times. I am continually reminded that the Spirit of the Lord is with us, a blessing beyond what we can imagine. Surely Paul was reminded of this day after day on his missionary journeys.

The passage below from John’s gospel put it all in perspective for me this morning. John 15:26-27, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” In this passage, John mentions that the Spirit bears witness about the Father. He reveals the Father to us so that we can know him more intimately. John also writes that we too will bear witness with our lives about the Father and the Son.

We are Spirit-empowered disciples. I love that statement, I did not make it up, someone else did. Think about what that means for your life. Think about what that means on the wild adventure that life sometimes takes you on. We are Spirit-empowered disciples! Theologian N.T. Wright says, “Modern Christians use the word ‘witness’ to mean ‘tell someone else about your faith.’ The way [Scripture] seems to be using it is, ‘tell someone else that Jesus is the world’s true Lord.’” This is what Paul’s life came to be about, from the moment he met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. This is what I pray for our group one this journey that we are on and I invite you to pray this for the current journey that the Lord has you on. Who can you tell that Jesus is the world’s true Lord?


Little did Kimberly know when she first met me how much I love adventure, whether it is canoeing down Devil’s River in Texas or hiking in the Grand Tetons or traveling to Israel, Africa or Europe. Today we began another grand adventure—the footsteps of Paul in Greece and Turkey. 

Sometimes adventure is not what one might expect. We should be close to landing in Athens at the time I am writing this, however … sometimes adventure is not what one might expect. After eight hours in the Little Rock airport (one can only make so many laps around the one wing terminal) waiting on our delayed plane, which then had mechanical difficulties, missing our original flight to Amsterdam, then being rebooked on a later flight only to run off the plane in Atlanta, we sprinted to terminal E (picture thirty people running through the airport) to reach our connecting flight five minutes before it was scheduled to depart.  Wait for it … wait for it … two people from our plane from Little Rock were allowed on but not our group of thirty. The adventure had begun! Now after four and a half hours in the Atlanta airport, we are headed to New York where we will land at 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, where we hope to catch a flight later that day to Athens in time to meet our boat Friday morning. 

Trying times, stretching patience, and for some, becoming somewhat disillusioned of a trip of a lifetime, I have come to learn that adventures are not always what we plan. It is no coincidence that, as the group gathered in Little Rock to pray before we boarded our flight, I read from Acts 13:1-4. 

“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”

This was the beginning of Paul’s first missionary. As many know, Paul’s journeys were filled with all kinds of trials and hardships. Sometimes adventures are not what we expect, and that was certainly the case for Paul. I am reminded that the most important part of Paul’s  missionary journeys, his adventures if you will, was that the Holy Spirt was with him. He was never alone, and all of the unexpected twists and turns were not unforeseen by God. God was using all of the challenges to reveal more of himself to Paul and to use him as a mighty witness to show the love and grace of Jesus to a world in need. I believe the same is true for us in 2024.

So, as our adventure unfolds we pray, “Come Holy Spirit, come!” Remind us that you are with us, that nothing is wasted, that trying times produce endurance and strengthened faith and yes, learning to love one another when we are tired and stretched. And through it all, may the Lord shine the radiance of his glory to those we meet along the way.

Join us as our adventure unfolds. Come and learn with us as we walk with Paul and learn from Paul to be the fragrant aroma of Christ in the world today. What an adventure this will be for all!