My husband Dave and I served in Heraklion, Crete, Greece, a biblical island, with Global Volunteers from Saturday, April 22, 2023 to Saturday, May 6th, 2023, and our experience was awe-inspiring with the snow-dusted White Mountains 🏔️ on an island that rose up more than 20 million years ago from the bottom of the Tethys Sea in a clash of the African and Asian tectonic plates which formed a chain of mountains surrounded by the aqua-colored Aegean Sea to the Northeast and Mediterranean Sea 🌊 to the south of Crete. Between the island of Crete and the Holy Land to the southeast is the island of Cypress; located southwest of the Island of Crete is the country of Lybia in Africa, and to the East is Turkey, a historic rival of over 2,000 years!
We learned so much in just a short two weeks about church, military, science and engineering, about geo-political issues of the island of Crete, and of the Minoans, the first civilization which began in Europe at the Palace of Knossos from 7,000 years ago on the island of Crete! After having experienced visiting the island of Crete, we stopped in at the Heraklion Archeological Museum, the Historical Museum of Crete, the Natural History Museum of Crete, and the Heraklion Heirloom Exhibit at the Basilica of St. Mark’s, and we included our findings in discussions of conversational English with Tenya’s students in the evenings from 5:30-9:00 p.m.
It’s compulsory for young people to pass English exams, in order to be admitted to a university. Volunteers aid students in becoming fluent in speaking English through question and answer sessions. Also, we played Uno two evenings at Tenya’s in between conversational English. Each evening, Tenya filled us with bakery goodies, and when we left, Tenya sent us home with homemade orange 🍊 marmalade, honey, homemade brandy, treats, and handcrafted book marks.
Additionally, we were taken on a tour of the burial museum at Agios Konstantinos, Church of St. Constantine and St. Helen, in Heraklion on our last day of service where we were educated about burial customs in Crete! Kitchen staff, Stavroula and Fr. Konstantine Pitsikaki were so warm, welcoming and, especially, generous as we peeled and cut onions 🧅 , carrots 🥕, potatoes 🥔 and tomatoes 🍅 and as we sorted bread in the kitchen where residents most in need stopped for meals.
While at Agios Konstantinos Church, we were offered coffee and goodies each morning that we served in the kitchen and in the church. We were sent away with gifts of red wine, candy, bottles of Greek olive oil, and we were offered meals daily, however we already ate in abundance breakfast at Anna’s Studio where we stayed for two weeks, and we were offered an abundance of food at Pitousi’s or Heaven restaurants daily for lunch and supper on the days that we ate with our teammates. We were truly blessed in abundance with all we needed and much more than we ever expected! We left Crete full of love, surrounded by the love of family, my husband, our teammates from Global Volunteers, by the staff at Agios Konstantinos Church, by Tenya and her students in the evenings, by the cab drivers who conversed with us and got us safely to and from our destinations.
We spent a three-day weekend prior to May Day going beach hopping along the northwestern coast to Chainia, Rethymno, and at Platanos. On May 1st, 2023, May Day, which most everyone takes off to celebrate in Greece, we golfed at the Crete Golf Course, and then we stopped at Creta Aquarium in Gournes, Crete located about 9 miles east of Heraklion. The Crete Golf Course has deep gorges as it is mountainous, so watch your step. Creta Aquarium is highly recommended for families to visit.
While in Crete, our shower was not as we had expected. It included a shower floor with a faucet and hand-held shower nosel which sprayed water all over the bathroom floor if we let it! But despite this, we had our needs met, and we were blessed in abundance! Some insights that came from this adventure-in-service mission trip through Global Volunteers: We are not called to live necessarily materialistically, with so much space and with so many products, but when we live to care for the environment, ourselves, and others, we will be truly blessed and more than we ever thought possible with healthy, nutritious food to eat, and surrounded by the love of family, friends and community!