Operation Josua is a bible distribution campaign aimed at getting a New Testament in Modern Greek to every household in every villiage in Greece. The goal is 1 million bibles. This summer, over the course of 6 days with the help of 150 people, we hand-delivered 44,000 bibles to households in the Peloponese. We were both well received as well as totally rejected. Our team was invited into many homes and treated to coffee, icecream, gifts of oregano, olives and olive oil, and many other expressions of kindness and gratitude. We were deeply greatful for these exeperiences, especially in the face of the rejection our team faced. Many people had bibles thrown back at them, or just thrown out into the street as if it were trash. The team that I personally lead (we were divided into 14 teams) was kicked out of two villages by the villages' priests.
The first village, the priest was peaceful, but didn't want to dialogue, only to speak and be heard. We had just about finished handing out bibles in this village by the time the priest told us to leave anyway. And, we had some great connections and conversations with people as they were obviously curious about what we were doing.
The second village, we may have covered half of it by the time the priest approached me. The way we operated was to have the bibles in bags in the trunk of the car, a driver and 3 or so "runners/deliverers" depending on the size of the car. Well, I had all three of the people with me out delivering bibles and I was sitting in the car figuring out how to cover the village and touching base with the other half of our team in another vehicle. As I was sitting there, I noticed some people gathering on the other side of the street from where I was parked. It wasn't long before the priest emerged and approached my car with one of the bibles. He hits the bible with the back of his hand and demands "Ti einai auto?" or "What is this?" I began to speak with him but he, like the other priest, didn't want to listen. I tried to show him and explain that the bibles have the official Greek Orthodox seal and are legitimate and approved by and for the Orthodox. He didn't care to listen. He became more aggressive in his speach and tone as more people came out of their houses to see what was going on. Finally, he began hitting the top of my car repeatedly yelling "Leave!" So, I gathered my team and we were on our way out of the village. The priest came in his car and rolled down his window. I pointed to the van behind me and told him he was a Greek and could speak to him better. So Nick, the driver of the van, began speaking with him so he could better understand what we were doing and to assure him that we were not a threat in any way. The priest was visibly angry and inconsolable. Then, Tom comes in the picture. He was the last member of our team to make it back to the vehicles so we could leave. Tom is a Greek-American who leads and is involved in several ministries in New York and who was also the speaker for our group in the evenings. Tom approached the priest very calmly, and showing respect. He spoke gently to the priest, but in the end, could not console the man. Actually, things heated up as a police officer in civilian clothes joined in flailing his arms and yelling. We all had a sense that this could escalte to violence. And it didn't all make sense. The officer demanded we leave the village threatening to arrest us. However, we couldn't leave because he had blocked the road with his car. It was very confusing an a bit chaotic. But, something pretty incredible happened. From the beginning, as the priest was telling me to leave, it started to rain a little. As things intensified, so did the rain. By the time we left the village we could hardly see through the windsheild because of the downpouring rain. So, in the end, the officer and the priest in their seperate cars filled with others, sped off to the next village to warn them about us. Our team was pretty shaken up by the event. I couldn't get Matthew 23:13 out of my head, "Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." How heavy is the weight of spiritual responsibility and leadership?! I experienced for the first time the emotions of "shaking the dust off" my feet.