Crete exudes the pride of an ancient civilization, which comes across as an absence of the frenetic and a satisfaction with the present. We arrived a week ago for our semi-annual Serge leadership meetings. Generally the Executive Leadership Team and all the Area Directors meet in January and September for various tasks in the annual planning cycle, doing the SWOT analyses, refining strategies, moving projects forward, discussing the metrics our teams have collected, addressing problems . . . and most importantly, praying intently for each other and those we serve and delving into God’s word together. In January we shiver in Pennsylvania, but in September we usually find a sunny spot with low-season rates that is more central to all participants. This time it was a dusty rocky southern Mediterranean island with over 5000 years of recorded history.
We arrived a day early so we could rest from the all-night flying, and do a bit of exploring. The excellent archeological museum in Heraklion was only a few blocks from our hotel, so we spent a half-day poring over the reconstructed pottery fragments, reading about the legends of King Minos and the Minotaur, admiring the civilization that laid the foundation for European culture. These were the contemporaries of Moses and David, and the clay urns for wine storage probably reflect those that Jesus used to turn water to wine. We found figurines of women giving birth that demonstrate some of the same positions and techniques we use today. The careful craftsmanship, the artistic rendering of marine-life themes, the delicate beauty, the awareness of the eternal realm, the quirky insights into sports like vaulting over charging bulls or wrestling. . . all helped paint a picture of ancient life. From there we took a bus to Knossos, site of the ancient palace. After touring the ruins we followed a dirt road on foot into the surrounding hills for the view, then walked the 5 km back to Heraklion passing through olive groves, past grape arbors and gardens. All of which we enjoyed in meal after meal with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, olive oil, thick yoghurt, honey . . the Greek diet is pretty great.
Most of the rest of the week we were in a basement conference room focused on data and discussions, or praying. We did get out in the early mornings to jog on the long pier that shields the harbor. Twice we jumped into the salty waters of the Mediterranean. And sometimes during a break we’d wend through the crooked narrow cobbled streets to find gelato or great coffee.
Thankful for the men and women who hold on in faith to see the hard places in this world transformed by a breathing in of God’s grace, a breathing out of His love. Thankful for the friendships that grow meeting by meeting with our wiser and godlier colleagues walking this road a few steps ahead of us. Thankful for spaces in life to step away watch the sun rise, to sit on the rooftop and feel the breeze. Not sure if we’ll ever reach Crete again, but hoping that we carry away some of the sense of identity that comes from knowing one’s roots, the relaxation that comes from not having to prove one’s worth over and over, the peace that is found in a culture centered on family and food.