I remember the nine hour flight. I remember landing in Athens in the middle of the night. I remember being told to try to sleep but not being able to. It was time to begin the journey. After years of preparation, I was finally on a life changing pilgrimage in Greece.
As a 17-year-old about to begin my senior year of high school, my mind was not fully prepared to understand the truly life-changing journey I was on. I had participated in countless youth retreats, mission trips, spiritual renewal weekends, and so on. But it took removing myself from all that I was familiar with, leaving everything that was comfortable, for me to find God.
Our team named the journey “Paul-grimage: Following in the Footsteps of Paul”. We visited Ancient Corinth, where Paul is believed to have preached to the Corinthians. We visited the Acropolis and the ever famous Parthenon. At the base of the Acropolis, we stood on Mars Hill, the exact location Paul preached to the Athenians in Acts 17. We spent a night at sea while crossing the Mediterranean on our way to Crete. There we visited Knossos and hiked the Samaria Gorge.
We read scripture and studied the Bible but the pilgrimage was so much more than that. Every participant had the desire to come together to further their relationship with Christ through worship, learning, and asking questions. It is on pilgrimage that we are able to open our hearts, share our stories, our doubts, and lean on our friends. Charlton Lyons, one of the chaperones on the pilgrimage in Greece noted that “we are the instruments of God’s compassion” when we do this. We are the light of Christ.
13 years after traveling to Greece with Shawn and Wonder Voyage, I am now working on planning another pilgrimage. This will be the fourth pilgrimage that I have had the pleasure of leading, and the third time I have been on this journey with Wonder Voyage. I am grateful for the friendship I have with Shawn and the Wonder Voyage staff and I am grateful for all of their efforts to make trips truly life changing. We leave in search of God and to find answers to our questions yet we return as apostles of Christ. We may still have questions and may still have doubts but we will have experienced God.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
Matthew is from Memphis and attended the University of Tennessee where he studied religion and art. He has years of experience working with youth from around the country. He seeks to create a fun and safe environment where youth can grow closer to Christ and develop and faith that stays with them as they continue on their spiritual journey. He created Happening, a by-the-youth, for-the-youth retreat that takes place twice a year.
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