Two of my co-workers are on a committee that creates a yearly inter-denominational conference for Greek Christian women. When they invited me to join them by saying, “It’s at a resort by the beach, and the cost of €100 includes two nights in a 4-star hotel plus six buffet gourmet meals,” it was very easy to say yes.
Dina drove me to Euboea, a massive island near Athens, and we got to the resort hours before the 200+ women who were attending the three-day conference. Due to poor planning on the part of the resort, about half of us had to spend the first night at a nearby sister-hotel. Dina dropped me off there while she worked, and I had virtually AN ENTIRE HOTEL to myself for five hours. It was AMAZING.
Later that first night, the buses full of women arrived. I was delighted and surprised to find that Kendra (the girl who let me sleep in her apartment after Orthodox Easter) came! She and I quickly bonded over being the only two English speakers (there were other Americans, but they had all been in Greece for several years are were fluent in Greek). I was so glad to have Kendra there, because the first night was kind of rough.
It’s super weird to participate in a thing that Is Not For You. I mean, everyone was pretty kind to us and definitely no one was mean…but the conference was made for Greek people. Everything was in Greek, and although there was translation for the main speakers, people kept forgetting that we couldn’t understand the little details – like that dinner time had changed or where to pick up our event packets. I never want to feel entitled in those situations, but there’s always this feeling of “maybe I just shouldn’t have come.” Those feelings are a million times easier to cope with when you have someone else to complain to and laugh with.
The second day was much better! Kendra introduced me to Marilia, a Greek girl who speaks English fluently and is super fun. The three of us stayed together for the rest of the conference, which was really nice. (I did make connections with many other people, but Kendra and Marilia became fast friends.) We ate too much food together and ran to change into swimsuits the second our sessions were dismissed. The pool was DIVINE and we would alternate between sunbathing, lounging in the pool, and wading in the sea. I felt like I was in Stereotypical Greece.
I did get really mad during the main sermon/speech. The theme was joy, and the talk just seemed really surface-y and basic. Toward the end she started talking about how for ten years she had a problem with picking her nose, but one day she prayed and God helped her to stop. I pulled out a piece of paper and furiously wrote about how idiotic everything was. Later that night, I asked Marilia about it, and she started cracking up. “She was addicted to nasal sprays, not picking her nose!” she explained. I felt a lot less confused, but also sad because wow, do you lose a lot in translation (especially when your translator is an old woman who admitted she had a hard time hearing what was being said).
There was a lot more that happened during the weekend, but I’ll mention just one more thing here. During our Balcony Time (which is when Kendra, Marilia and I stayed up until 1:00 talking on their balcony), we talked and talked and talked about sex and self-esteem and sin, and I got to share all my favorite ideas about how sins are good but incomplete things, and how duh, we all cling to unhealthy things that make us feel good, because we don’t trust that there’s a better way (or that we deserve a better way). I talked about how I firmly believe people won’t be helped if we take away their unhealthy things/sins, but instead we need to give them better things (love, understanding, respect, trust) and let them change on the inside-out until they don’t need to rely on those unhealthy things/sins. THIS IS MY JAM, I will always talk about trusting God’s patience and love and grace if people give me half a second.
So imagine my utter delight when, the next day at lunch, Marilia said that she had been wanting to start a Q&A session for the girls in her church’s youth group about all the things they are too embarrassed to normally talk about, and would I be interested in leading that with her? BOY, WOULD I, I basically shouted into her face.
I feel so lucky! One of my passions is getting the Church to talk about sex and sexuality in an understanding, healthy way, and I had literally NO dreams of doing that in Greece. It didn’t even cross my mind as an option. But here is an opportunity dropped in my lap! I LOVE HOW MANY PASSIONS I GET TO LIVE OUT HERE IN ATHENS.
Again and again, confirmations that I am meant to be here, that I am valuable here, that all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.