In April I headed down to Perth, a drive of nearly 5 hours, to board a flight bound for Dubai. It was the first leg of a new adventure, an experience I was very much looking forward to – a cruise around the Greek isles and the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul. Yet this journey started quite awhile before April 26, 2016, it began with a BCA coach tour organised by Christian Fellowship Tours (CFT). I met up with the BCA tour in Geraldton to share with them some of the encouragements and challenges of ministering in North West Australia; our Anglican diocese covers about 80% of Western Australia and visiting all the churches involves a drive of some 9000 kms.
Out of this meeting CFT suggested a fund raising tour based around the footsteps of Paul through Turkey and Greece. As our diocese is essentially a mission field centred on ministry in small, remote and isolated locations, it relies on support from Christians across Australia. So the tour offered a good opportunity, not just to potentially raise additional funds, but more significantly, to introduce those on the tour to the nature of ministry in the North West and hopefully encourage prayer for us.
Just on 50 people from around Australia became the tour group with whom I would share a memorable cruise. Before we set sail on the Aegean Odyssey we visited Athens and Corinth and standing on the hill overlooking the agora, listening to a well read Acts 1716-34 was an amazing moment. The ancient ruins casting their shadow of pagan religion on today’s world just reinforced v.30f: ‘but now God commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all people by raising him from the dead.’
We boarded the ship at the port of Piraeus for a 12 day sea voyage – hoping there would be no re-enactment of Paul’s shipwreck experience. The cruise included the island of Patmos along with stops to traverse the streets and sites of Philippi, Thessaloniki and Berea. Usually each day began with singing, a Bible talk and prayer. It was a terrific privilege to teach the Bible from passages related to Paul’s missionary journeys throughout the region.
When visiting Patmos we delved into Revelation 4-5, before a quick trip around the key spots related to John’s time on the island. Morning tea meant sipping Greek coffee, tasting a sweet local cake, while sitting in a little café perched on a cliff’s edge, overlooking the island’s sparkling blue bay and sandy beaches.
What were the highlights for me? Certainly the shared times with the Christian people on the tour, along with others we met on the ship. But when it seemed most likely you were walking where Paul walked it was an exciting feeling and enhanced your reading of Paul’s letters. For me that was particularly the case in both Corinth and Philippi.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 517)
I am thankful to God for this amazing opportunity and appreciative of CFT for their kind invitation. For those who shared the tour, I am grateful for the privilege of your fellowship and generosity.
If you are looking for an Aegean cruise with a difference, then following Paul’s footsteps with CFT is a terrific way to go!
Gary Nelson – Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of North West Australia