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An unplanned encounter . . . or was it?

It could only have been our good fortune, right?

I mean no one could have made that plan, could they?

I overheard someone say, 'what a coincidence--can you believe it?'

But first, a little context.  

I am in Greece with a 40+ person group, traveling in the footsteps of my hero the apostle Paul.  Wow! Just to see the waters he navigated and then walk on the Via Ignatia on which he trod in the town of Philippi is amazing.  To engage with the beautiful Greek people such as Paul did is heady stuff. And to be the Bible teacher reading from the accounts starting in Acts chapter 16, when he first set foot on European soil, is simply divine.

We stayed in Thessaloniki on the Aegean Sea which reminded me so much of San Clemente, except the water lapped against a seawall rather than a pier or T Street beach. But yes, it had a gentle breeze and 70-degree temperature like the Spanish Village by the Sea that I will always consider home.

We left idyllic Thessaloniki on our way to lovely Berea, the road reminiscent again of California... but this time, her highway 99 that runs through small towns and lush agriculture - so green, so fertile, yet we could still glimpse the sea, and also majestic Mount Olympus across the water. Magnificent.

Alas, Berea awaited as the next town the Apostle Paul visited in Acts 17.11.  Luke described the Bereans as noble, because after Paul preached, they went to their homes and searched the Scriptures to be certain he was teaching truth.  Now, from our perspective – looking at the 13 letters Paul wrote to New Testament churches, giving us not just history of the spread of the gospel but Christian doctrine itself—it seems audacious these people questioned Paul’s veracity, but they did.  And because of their commitment to truth, Luke described them as noble.  

[->>I vote we bring back the word ‘noble’, that we too are a people who search the Scriptures for truth, not taking our beliefs from the popular culture, but from the Word of God! This is a voting year, let us vote for truth. Amen.]

Our teaching backdrop in Berea was an altar to the apostle Paul, marking the spot where tradition tells us he might have taught.  Juxtaposed with the reverence of the lush garden-scape was a large minaret – a reminder that worshippers in the city are split between Christians, Muslims and also Jews.  As Ezer walked us past a synagogue, he reminded us of the Jewish presence in Berea for more than 2000 years, and well before God led Paul there to teach the gospel in the synagogue.  

But then – a strange thing happened.  As we walked, a little man walked out of a building and ran right into 6 ft., 6 in. Ezer. While I was in the back of our group, I could see the two men embrace, and thought 'what in the world?' It turns out, they had met on one of Ezer's previous Paul tours, so the man, Pastor Nikos, invited us into his little church. From the moment I stepped on the premises, I knew this was not accidental or coincidental. Pastor Nikos told us of the work he is doing for the Lord in Berea, passion and love for God just spilling out of him. I know because I was standing right next to him! He sang to us, (in Greek, of course), and I had the privilege of praying for him and his sweet church.

To say that 'chance' meeting was a highlight would be an understatement; it had been planned by our loving God well advance of our group walking down the old road. Our hearts united with his heart, so much so that we took up an offering to give to his work in Berea and the nearby area. That is the Church at its finest.

While we had gone to the town on the hillside, Berea in search of where Paul had stood and preached, where noble people of God sought to know and live by truth... we met a modern day Paul, Pastor Dimoliaras Nikos, committed to the spread of the gospel, the saving of souls and total restoration of human beings.

God is so good to those who follow him, and this was just one more example.

The simple song by that name, God is so good,

Christine - from Europe, Footsteps of Paul Tour

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