by Bill Smith | Pastor | Temple Baptist Church | West Bridgewater, MA
A special Boston Baptist College tradition is reading on location (ROL) at biblical sites in Israel, Egypt, Rome, and Turkey. This tradition continued when Boston Baptist College President Dave Melton led our BBC study group of 45 to some of the most influential peaks in Greece. However, a new tradition was born when we met missionary George Dimakos on our final night in Greece.
We began our trip viewing the Meteora monasteries built atop vertical cliffs overlooking the town of Kalambaka. From Kalambaka, we traveled through the Macedonian region. We traced the steps of Paul in Berea, Thessalonica, and then at the port of Neapolis where Paul first landed on European soil (Acts 16:11). Our steep climb up the Via Egnatia, a Roman road built in the second century B.C., gave us the same view Paul would have had as he left Neapolis and made his way to Philippi, our next destination. Our group read Acts 16 and Philippians among the ruins of biblical Philippi where Lydia, a young girl, and a jailer received the Gospel.
Next we arrived in Delphi, the ancient center of Greek paganism, set on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus. From these spectacular heights we saw the depths of pagan depravity and the sad results of hearts and minds void of the knowledge of God (Romans 1:21). Among these ruins an inscription was found in the early 20th century at the Temple of Apollo — an ancient letter now known as the Delphi Inscription. A reference to Gallio in the inscription provides the definitive date (51 AD) that coincides with Paul’s trial at Corinth (Acts 18:12-17). The Delphi Inscription has plagued skeptics, liberal theologians, and doubters of the historicity of the New Testament for decades. For our group, Delphi was a place of rejoicing as we viewed an unimpeachable piece of evidence.
Our group then traveled to the Isle of Patmos where John was exiled. We took the opportunity to do more reading on location in the place in which Revelation was composed. Another highlight was gathering on the island’s shoreline on the Lord’s Day. As we looked out over the Aegean Sea, we worshiped, sang, and read Revelation together.
From Patmos, we went to Corinth where Paul met Aquila and Pricilla, and wrote letters to the Thessalonians and later Romans, while ministering in that city. We stood beside the Bema seat (Acts 18:12) and marveled at the Erastus inscription: “Erastus the chamberlain of the city” (Romans 16:23). Our group climbed to the fortress Akrokorinth, once home to the pagan Temple to Aphrodite. Seeing what Paul faced gave new meaning to the words and tone in his letters to the Corinthians.
God saved the best for last when we ended our trip in Athens. The Acropolis stands high above the city, and although only partially restored, we could imagine what it looked like when Paul first entered Athens as “his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry” (Acts 17:16). We stood on Mars Hill and read where Paul gave his defense of the Gospel to the Athenians (Acts 17:19-34). Today, Athens’ 3.75 million souls need the same Gospel Paul preached.
In Athens, our group met BBF missionary George Dimakos. His exuberant personality and love for Christ overwhelmed us as he introduced us to a dozen Iranian refugees who have become believers. His ministry is difficult. It can take years to reach one Greek citizen with the Gospel. But something unique happened about ten years ago as the flood of immigration hit Europe. George and his church responded to the crisis of immigrants with a commitment to demonstrate the love of Christ and share the Gospel. The church has successfully reached refugees from Iran with the Gospel. Many Iranian refugees, who made their way to Greece through Turkey in search of a better life, have now found freedom in Christ.
Our final night in Greece provided the greatest spiritual impact of the trip. While we fellowshipped with Iranian believers who shared testimonies, songs, and their devotion to Christ, we witnessed the fruit of what the Apostle Paul began in Europe nearly 2,000 years earlier. As we ate together, a new face emerged in the refugee crisis as well as the ongoing U.S.-Iran standoff. Although a political solution seems out of reach, the Gospel provides hope. A quiet revival is taking place among Iranian refugees and God is using BBF missionary George Dimakos and his ministry. One student commented, “Of all the incredible sights we’ve seen in Greece, this night was the highpoint of our trip.”
Note: Our trip resulted in two students surrendering their lives to return to Greece.