Wineskins Archive

February 12, 2014

Life in Greece (Mar-Apr 2002)

Filed under: — @ 11:29 am and

by Jill Dowdy
March-April 2002

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our very being ” Acts 17:26-28. It was an obvious choice of scripture for my bible study group to send me off with. You see, my family was about to embark on a new life in Athens, Greece, not as missionaries, but as diplomats. We had done the training at the Foreign Service Institute and had been warned of the dangers that awaited us, a terrorist group called 17 November threaten all American and British diplomats, as well as wealthy Greek business men. We were told that F.B.I. agents were particularly targeted because of the high profile of the agency. My husband, an agent, was put through rigorous training, beyond his normal training to prepare for this. He was an agent when I married him, and I had long since learned how to give these things to the Lord. Plus, we were certain God had chosen this experience for us. So we took a leap of faith and packed up our house, our children, said our tearful goodbyes and were off.

We landed in Athens on May 30, 2000. It was both my husband’s and my first time on European soil. We were exhausted, but excited about our new life. We were taken to a hotel, then a few days later on to temporary housing. It was a beautiful hillside home with a view of the Mediterranean. We would be here about five weeks before our permanent home was ready. My husband went to work and I stayed home with our two young children and tried to establish some normalcy. The excitement of our arrival and the beauty of the sea began to wane. I was isolated in my hilltop home with no car and no way down the hill with two little ones. Plus, I was a foreigner. I spoke no Greek and was feeling too vulnerable to venture out on my own even if given the opportunity. In my time with the Lord I prayed for the strength to get me through the days. The time soon came when my husband was required to travel. He left for Skopje, Macedonia on our tenth day in Greece. He called to tell me he had arrived safely, but also to inform me that an assassination had taken place in Athens. A British diplomat had been shot on his way to the British Embassy. The road where this occurred was on the route my husband would travel to our embassy when we moved to our permanent home. I have to say that initially this tragedy was more than I could process, but over time the reality set in and I ask the Lord for understanding. He granted me peace and gave me the strength to carry on through my husband’s absence. The coming weeks brought new friends, late dinners, new experiences, but nothing that I was allowed to latch onto as a lifeline. I spent many hours sobbing over the loss of what was once my life. I prayed for help to be only in God’s will, and for very clear signs of direction along the way. He showed me a new reliance on Him as I had most of my once familiar activities stripped away. No television, no friends to chat with, no place to go or be. I called home only to feel more isolated by the lack of understanding of what I was going through. I survived these first days purely by His grace and the prayers and encouragement of some special Christian friends.

Soon it was time to move again. I thought I would it fix everything to be in our house, have some of our stuff, to finally be settled. Instead, I had to adjust to another new place. I had grown comfortable with our fortress by the sea. It held less pressure to get on with life. This house brought with it a permanence. A daunting expectation of actually creating a life here. Instead of peace, I found a finality of the ushering in period and faced harsh reality. My life is here. Start over. What are you going to do? How are you going to do it? I tried to make it work. I could not imagine God did not want for me to be busy, to be out there for Him. I tried embassy coffees, exercise classes, involvements at school only to feel even more alone in my experience. I was not only an alien in this country, but I did not fit into the expatriate world. The only thing that fit was my little Bible study group. God had brought me these women in a very special way on a day when I was feeling an unusually great need for a sign of his presence. They were a gift and remain one of the most precious gifts in this journey. They both worshipped in a different body of believers, came from very different backgrounds, and, aside from the Lord, we had very little in common. But we would all say that we had a divine appointment together. In the following months there were many things, even trivial things, that God delivered on with what I like to call “extreme faithfulness”. I know now He gave me this because He was about to allow me to be even more broken in this experience. Things in my world, my husband and my security concerns for him, children and their wonderful school, comfortable home, really all physical needs were met. It was time for the real work to begin.

It started pretty gradually. God slowly began to reveal truths to me about my life. In the beginning it was things I had already known that He was just reaffirming. Through Bible study and prayer, he was drawing me into Him ever so gently. Then some of the truths were deeper, more painful. God allowed things to be so specific that I could not deny them. And because of the physical stripping away that had earlier taken place, I had nothing to do but be in it, to rest in Him. These truths caused me to own up to a lot of seemingly benign behavior. God revealed lies I had held onto for many years. This was at times exhilarating in its freedom and at times devastating in its truth. Many days were much more painful than what I had experienced in my early months in Greece. There were times I went into darkness and depression. There were weekends I could not get out of bed. Satan really wanted to derail what God was doing in my life. I really had to learn Romans 8:1-2, “Therefore, there is no now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” I was left feeling physically and spiritually depleted, but out of this place of authentic need and absolute truth, He showed me a level of intimacy and love I had never known, but always longed for. He renewed me and through His eyes I could begin to see His special purpose unfold. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard.” I began to see the perfect melding of where I had been and where I was. Of who I am and how he sees me. This was his purpose all along, the perfect plan of God.

As I continue in this journey, I am continually thankful that I am a work in progress. The Lord never ceases to amaze me in His ability to teach me and stretch me beyond my natural self. In a foreign land, away from my American culture and my church culture, His supremacy has never been more evident. Through terrorism, through separation, through depression, and through renewal He truly reigns. For it is, in fact, in Him that we live and move and have our very being.

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