Please forgive us for the late update! God has blessed us with so many experiences, responsibilities, and obstacles that we’re still learning now to manage them all.
Our Return to Albania
We spent another week with the Ritsis in their home in Tirana, Albania. There we got more exposure on the everyday life and work of Orthodox missionaries. We also got to meet three bishops, including Archbishop Anastasios, and many clergy and lay-people who work for the church. We hope to return in March and in June as members of short-term (10 day) mission teams!
Below, more photos of our time in Albania, including: a stop in Korçë, a day volunteering at the local soup kitchen, and making "prosphora" bread with Alexandria & baby Moses.
Finding a Home + Starting Greek School
Finding a home proved to be much more difficult than we initially expected. It was God’s way of humbling us and teaching us to rely more on Him and the compassion of others rather than our own will and strength. We arrived just after the apartment-hunting window, so it was extremely difficult to find something to suit our needs. After 6 weeks of moving from temporary place to place, we finally moved into our own apartment. Then we had the experience of furnishing it from top to bottom (it didn’t even have a stove or fridge!). In truth, each moment, however difficult, has been a blessing and learning experience for the both of us.
Our lessons started on 3 October and go every day from 8:30-12:15. We started in the A2 level, which means that we already knew some basic Greek to begin with. The goal is to pass final exam at B2 level in order to enter the masters programs. Our wonderful teacher, Theologia (which also means ‘theology’ in Greek) has been teaching for 20 years and her husband is a Professor in the Theology Department. There are 20 students in our class from all over the world, including an Orthodox deacon and a priest. With God’s help our Greek is progressing steadily and we get plenty of practice outside of class!
Church Life & St. Dimitrios Day
We’ve been blessed beyond measure with a church community of both Greeks and expatriates here in Thessaloniki. On Sundays and weekday services, we attend Panagia Ahiropiitos, a 1500 year-old church named after an icon of the Theotokos "made-without-hands". The rector of the parish is Fr. Spyridon, who speaks English well and has a big heart for the expat/young-adult community. He’s invited Josef to stand in the kliros (chanter's stand) to start learning Byzantine chant. For Saturday Vespers we attend St. Haralambos, a metochion (dependency) of Simonopetras Monastery on Mt. Athos. There we’ve been connected with a multitude of faithful Greek young adults, and Fr. Athanasios, who is the professor helping us to get into Masters programs at Aristotle University.
St. Dimitrios is the patron saint of Thessaloniki and we live just a block north of the magnificent basilica that houses his relics. Each year there is a week of festivities leading up to his feast-day (26 October). We had the great opportunity to attend the St. Dimitrios week services and see the procession of his relics through the city.