Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Breaking My Heart, Reflections on Athens

There was one resounding theme that I came away with from Urbana this past year. It was in the conference’s repeated refrain, “break my heart for what breaks Yours (God’s)”. I still have that song (thought) in my head on most days, and it is has been a consistent prayer for my life since January.
I just got back from being in Greece for about 16 days (not sure the exact count). The first part of my trip was spent at the World Harvest Mission-Wide Conference in Eretria. I had the privilege of participating in the Leadership meetings during this time. I was blessed to sit and hear thoughts, ideas, and experiences from, in particular, three WHM families and I know I learned a lot during this time. At 32, I do not know much about leadership, however, I got a taste and glimpse of good, Christ-like leadership from those around me. I am thankful to God for what he taught me.

The second half of the conference was a time for the entire Mission to join together under the theme of, “Broader, Wider, Deeper.” We spent time hearing from a seasoned church-planter during devotionals, had an amazing time worshipping as a body, conducted breakout session on relevant missions topics, and spent many hours in prayer for our teams, fields, and the Nations.

After this conference, Christianne and I decided to take some time to see Athens since we were already in Greece. I thought my time with God was over, insomuch as we had just finished a huge missions conference….I was (thankfully) wrong.

We arrived in Athens and immediately the city captivated me. The noise level was the first thing I noticed. It was sooo loud, and I thought Philly was loud (but perhaps that’s just obnoxious Eagles fans..haha). There were people everywhere, walking the streets, hanging out, selling stuff, tourists, etc. My family went to the Acropolis area (the Plaka) the first day and had a wonderful Greek experience. The food is awesome…the people love babies (Judah)…and the culture is rich beyond description. We made our way back to the hotel that first day around 5pm and this is when God hit me over the head like a ton of bricks. Not being familiar with the city, we walked through the heart of an immigrant neighborhood, just blocks from our hotel. Undoubtedly, it was a neighborhood that we would have been told to avoid if we had asked…but we didn’t…and we were the only white people weaving our way through the massive crowd on the streets. God protected us though and there was no real danger. Right before we got out of the neighborhood, I witnessed several people on a corner shooting up what I supposed to be heroin. Literally, about a dozen people. Dazed and falling over…needles hanging out of every conceivable vein…moaning…passing out…Now, I have witnessed a lot in my life, living in Afghanistan and all…but I had experienced nothing like this. And to my amazement, only ONE block away was 2-3 cops just sitting there. My guess is that they were simply there to make sure this neighborhood didn’t get way out of control. In my experience, the whole city changed when the sun began to go down. At this time immigrants laid out there blankets on the streets trying to sell goods from their home countries. When a cop would drive by, they quickly picked up the blankets in fear of being arrested. It was an eye-opening experience.

I could go on and on about what I saw and experienced but I don’t want to lose you. That night when we got back to the hotel room I was consumed with the images in my head, and for the rest of my trip I could not shake them. At some point halfway through our “vacation”, I got the message from God. He was answering my prayers from the past 5 months or so. He was “breaking my heart for what breaks His”. This was no longer a vacation, or maybe it was, but I can honestly say this was the first vacation that I noticed the hurt around me, and not only notice it, but be consumed by it. Of course, I normally have taken the posture of enjoying myself on vacations and focusing on my pleasure. This was to my knowledge the first time God moved my heart to look beyond that to what He sees. And my wager is that I will never be the same. Judah, Christianne, and I prayed every night for the immigrant community in Athens. We prayed for God to touch their lives, and for them to know it was Him. We prayed for a church to start in this neighborhood. We prayed for freedom and life from addiction and death.

So you may ask, did you have a good time? I would say that we did, but in many ways the devastation around us made us sensitive to the suffering in Athens. So maybe that is the wrong question. I can say that the thing I enjoyed the most coming out of my Athens vacation is that I am no longer blind to the suffering and need around me, even on vacations. And I am happy that God is continuing to form my heart to His…

Lord, (continue) to break my heart for what breaks Yours.


talitha b. said...

Great post, Grant. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I love that God opened your eyes to the need in the city while you were on holiday. You might want to watch out--you may end up being WHM's first church planter in Greece--you heard what they said about new fields opening up from previous conferences, right??

DrsMyhre said...

Grant we had a really similar experience, took our kids into a shady area looking for baklava, sat on a square and watched someone shooting up and keeling over, police all around, shadowed for a couple of blocks by a pickpocket. And because of the conference I also prayed for Athens and kept hearing that song "God is HERE, in this city".