Keeping with the theme of my last post, I wanted to share some of my thoughts from our trip to Thessaloniki last week. We took a two day trip to Greece as a family to celebrate our 10th anniversary. True our anniversary was last month, but this was the first weekend when we could get away.
Greece is not to far from Sofia. Driving to the border only takes about two and a half hours. Then it is another two or so hours to Thessaloniki. It is similar in distance and time to a drive from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Madison, Wisconsin using only the back roads (with mountains and a passport check at the border).
As I sat on the beach while the girls splashed around in the sea, I imagined Paul traveling to this port city. He would have stayed for about a year and then left a small fledgling church all on its own. His actions today would probably have been considered a failure by many missions experts. After all, spending only one year in a city and then moving on leaving a congregation of fledgling believers behind would be seen as foolish and a colossal waste of time and resources. Besides, trusting the Holy Spirit sometimes seems like the crazy thing to do. Our own plans make more sense in our minds. We do know one thing. Paul did not consider his time there a failure (1 Thessalonians 2:1).
After his departure the church grew, and when Paul sent them his first letter he was able to thank God for them. They had become a model to all the believers in Macedonia (1 Thess. 1:7) His next letter continued the theme of rejoicing and growth in this church (2 Thess 1:3).
That is not the end of the story for the Thessalonian church though. As I sat on the beach I looked up into the mountains that surrounded the city. I thought of two young Thessalonians centuries later whose hearts burned to take the message of salvation through Jesus up into those mountains and beyond to Bulgaria. Their names were Cyril and Methodius. They developed an alphabet specifically to share the gospel with the Slavic peoples. (One of their first stops was Bulgaria.) The Cyrillic alphabet has changed a bit over the centuries, but to this day it is still used in numerous countries. Their influence has lasted for centuries and it stretches from the Bering Strait to the Balkan Mountains. The gospel transforms souls. This we know. It transforms cultures as well.
What will our future hold? We are not the first to come this way with the message of life. We will likely not be the last. Will our influence be as pervasive as Cyril's, or Methodius', or Paul's? Will the work we do thrive when we leave it behind as Paul did. Will the people we reach go out and reach others? We certainly pray so. We make our plans, and assemble our partnerships in the hopes of having a great impact here, but our true success and our lasting impact will come only when we follow the Holy Spirit's leading.