An Orthodox Journal of Cross-Cultural Theology, Dialogue and Mission



By Elena Gogou

Situated near the ancient town of Philippi, by the port of Kavala in Northern Greece, is the Shrine of St. Lydia. It is a beautiful place, amidst corn and sunflower fields, at the foot of a hill, with a gurgling stream running through it. St. Lydia is said to be the first European to be baptized by St. Paul, and she is said to have baptized a good many locals herself in the tiny river.

Driving home in the early afternoon I stopped to savour the peace and beauty of the place. I often stop by when I am in need of spiritual grounding, to sit in the church or by the running stream, wash off my troubles and go on my way. This time there was a coach outside the gate, its driver sitting by, idly browsing his cell phone. I walked in and followed the path around the ruins. The trees had already began shedding their leaves, and the lawn was strewn with all the hues of yellow.

I heard singing, or rather, a group of people chanting. A lovely, somehow familiar sound, although I could not place its origin or exact identity. I thought there was a service being held in the church, but no. The music was coming from the stream. I went nearer. A group of happy Asians were sitting and standing by the water, singing and splashing about. It was an atmosphere of joyous devotion that is rarely seen these days. I wanted to record the scene, and took out my cell phone, but the group somehow dispersed. The magical moment had passed.

I walked down to the water, gazed at the fish and the floating yellow leaves, in quiet.

Coming out of the site, I noticed that the coach door was open. I asked the driver “where are these people from?” “Vietnam”, he said. “And they came all the way from Vietnam to Lydia?” I asked in amazement. “Indeed they did”, the Greek tour guide stepped in. “This is what mission does”.

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