Our Big Fat Greek Summer

We have officially been back in the US for 3 days and we are slooowwwlyyy recovering from jet lag. As we take it easy at home, I have been trying to process how fast the last 6 weeks in Greece flew by!

I know its nutty to try to sum up 6 super full weeks in 1 blog post but I’m gonna go for it!

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As I look through the pictures I am about to share, it strikes me that it looks like we took a 6-week-vacation and I want to clear up how NOT TRUE that is. We worked our tails off this summer loving and caring for our American students as well as going on campus meeting Greek students. It was both our honor and joy to do our job! However, I find it inappropriate to share pictures of private moments with people whose stories aren’t mine to divulge, so instead, I mostly share pictures of my sweet family.

So even though you can’t see pictures of our ministry this summer, you can rejoice with us that our students and staff initiated LITERALLY THOUSANDS of spiritual conversations with Greek college students! We had the privilege of building friendships with Greek students. We met precious Orthodox and Protestant followers of Jesus who we got to connect with the ministry there. We also met hundreds of atheist who had strong opinions but respectfully dialogued with us about considering the possibility that Jesus loves them. Thank you for your prayers while we spent time in Athens this summer. In heaven we are certain you will meet Greeks that you prayed for! Here are some fun team pictures:

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On to a quick recap of our amazing summer in Greece…

Travel

Our travel from Kansas to Greece with four small kids was about what you would expect. Very little sleep, a few cranky moments, but overall the kids did great. We left the states at 6am and arrived in Athens 21 hours later but it was only 10am. That first day was struggle town and I nearly had a panic attack when we landed and I saw my kids trying to navigate the chaos of the city.  But sleep was a gift that night! And it all got better from there.IMG_1105IMG_0273

City Life

After a few days, the kids had mastered stopping at every intersection to look for cars and staying back when the metro was arriving full steam ahead. I also learned the greek number for 911 and it calmed by mama heart down. Ha. Praise Jesus I never had to dial it.IMG_0275keeping kids alive on the metro is no small task…IMG_0282

We lived in a neighborhood outside of Athens city center called Zografou. We loved having a quiet(ish) dead end street to live on off one of the major streets called Papagou. Right across the street was a bakery and we quickly made friends with the women who worked there. They were such treasures. They loved our kids and always helped us when we had questions like, “Where is the closest park with actual grass?” (really rare) or “Is this beach we are headed to actually open and operating?” (we had a bad experience early on)IMG_1112Our favorite stop for Gyros IMG_1202IMG_0292A pic off our kitchen balconyIMG_1181IMG_0288Cooking for students is my favorite no matter what country we are in. Some of our best days were spent with a full house and filling student’s bellies!

Learning a New Culture 

I loved watching my kids handle learning a new culture with grace and joy. We spent lots of walks through the city singing together quietly “Lord, I need you, Oh I need you. Every hour I need you. ..” while trying to find a certain restaurant or open market to buy food. The grandmas in Greece took a special liking to our family because it is EXTREMELY rare to be in your thirties and have four kids in the city. They would squeeze my kids cheeks while spouting off some old wives tale about being too pretty while pretending to spit on them. It didn’t phase the kids too much and only a few ladies actually pried Abi out of my arms to snuggle her and kiss her cheeks. I’m so full of gratitude that my kiddos got to learn about people who are different than them and handle situations differently. What a gift for them to be able to love others well even when their lives are very different.

IMG_0279Our students took language classes and Ruth joined in! IMG_1378Living life with our co-leaders was so fun! IMG_1376IMG_1133Chocolate waffles are life.

Surprise Visitors

A few weeks in to the summer, Grammy and Grandpa Fieleke surprised us and told us that they were coming to visit! WE WERE SO THRILLED. Having them come visit was definitely one of the highlights of our summer. It was so fun introducing them to American students and our Greek friends. And our kids were beyond excited to show them all the Greek foods and culture that they had fallen in love with. IMG_1639IMG_0481IMG_0496

Making Memories

Basically, any time we had a day off, we headed to the coast. The Aegean Sea was breathtaking and it was the place our kids were the happiest. It was shallow for such a long ways out that we never had to worry for their safety and the water was crystal clear. On days where Josh had a morning or afternoon free, we would take time to explore the city as a family. One thing that the Lord did in my heart this summer was remind me how precious it is to be present in the moment – in the US I am the queen of multitasking. But something about being overseas and being fully present with Josh and the kids stirred in me a fresh desire to slow down my life here in the states.

IMG_1220IMG_1309IMG_1322Sweet birthday girl Ruth! IMG_1368Many afternoons were spent in courtyards chasing pigeons. IMG_0314IMG_0328IMG_1528IMG_1479Ermou StreetIMG_0468IMG_1602My kids consumed a ridiculous amount of soda this summer…IMG_0278Mars Hill! IMG_0280Our first time finding grass! IMG_0281IMG_0283IMG_0284IMG_0285IMG_0286IMG_0289IMG_0290IMG_0291IMG_0295IMG_0296IMG_0299IMG_0301IMG_0303IMG_0307The day I forgot my baby carrier…I improvisedIMG_0308IMG_1677IMG_0309IMG_0310

Amazing Hydra

And as our summer mission ended, we sent our American students home on a plane and got the amazing opportunity to travel with our co-leaders for a quick family vacation. Once you are in Greece, travel, food, and lodging are very inexpensive. So for about the same price as a Branson vacation, we were able to take a ferry to the Greek Island of Hydra for 3 nights! Hydra is the most amazing place I’ve ever visited. The island has ZERO cars or bikes, so you can only travel by foot or donkey! It is majestic. Our time there was such a sweet gift from the Lord and we truly showed up in the states feeling refreshed.

IMG_0311IMG_0312Literally the best day of Micah’s life. IMG_0313IMG_0314His dreams coming true riding a donkey through the city…IMG_0315IMG_0316This girl waited all summer to buy a hat and she wore it every minute from this point forward.IMG_0317Heaven must be something like this..IMG_0318IMG_0319IMG_0320The view from the roof of our Air bnb.IMG_0321IMG_0322IMG_0323Dad life. IMG_0324IMG_0325IMG_0326IMG_0330IMG_0331IMG_0334He is officially a threenager.
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IMG_0352If visiting Hydra isn’t on your bucket list, now is a good time to add it. IMG_0353IMG_0354

Faithful Friends  

IMG_0356Our co-leaders Meredith and Colin and their baby girl Selah – we had so much fun with them this summer!
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I might tear up trying to put words to how precious these friends are to us. Meet Anahit and Giannis, Greek national staff with Cru (its called Agape in Europe). A few years back they were in the states raising support and stayed with us for a few nights. We have been friends ever since. It was such a honor to be with them. I am convinced they are Jesus’ favorite. They are faithful, oh so faithful, to serving Him. They long for every single Greek college student to know Jesus. And while they worked their butts off, they still made every effort to make us feel so special. They brought meals, loved our parents well, made our kids oh so happy, and always checked in to see what we needed. Our last night in Athens was July 4 so they showed up in stars and stripes with a meal for us and spent the night eating and having fun together. I told Jesus I long to be their next door neighbors in heaven and I think it will delight Jesus to see that prayer through.
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Home at last….

Traveling home was friggin exhausting.
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But we made it! And my AMAZING MAMA was waiting for us at the airport to surprise us when our flight landed in KC at midnight. She made adjusting back home so easy and fun. The woman even organized my kitchen to surprise me! Super JuJu!!!

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Well there it is. Our summer in Greece. I had to leave so many details out. Like the time Ruth got stabbed in the leg with a kalamaki skewer, and the time Josh shoved a pick-pocket…oh well…

If you are ever close by, come over for a real life cup of coffee and we will share all the silly stories! Thanks for stopping by and reading some about our summer. Thank you for praying for the people we got to meet and share the Gospel with this summer! We are grateful for you!

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