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I’m back!!! And ready to be back! I have covered thousands of miles, traveled overseas for the first time, met up with some wonderful folks, read a dozen or so books, enjoyed time with my wife and my family, and worked on myself – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It will still take some time to digest everything I have experienced over the twelve weeks I was out on sabbatical.

In one of the magazines offered by AirCanada, the airliner we flew on to Athens, there was an article that asked the question: Can we still visit ancient ruins without ruining them? From our initial hotel in Athens where we were within walking distance from the Parthenon to my visits throughout Turkey and Greece where the apostle Paul and the beloved disciple John traveled, there have been strict laws in place as to how much of an archaeological site can be dug up. Since the excavations are painstakingly slow and tedious and are taking place during the summer months of the year only, it takes quite a few years to expose ruins that lie twenty-two feet underground or more. And then there is the cataloguing, the reconstruction, and the finances.

We came across a site that was using drones to mark the area. We also visited a couple of sites that had year-round workers on or near the site but the majority of the sites had been excavated for more than fifty to over one hundred years and work continues at a snail’s pace. The magazine article stated that some 30 million people visit Greece each year, a large portion, no doubt, to explore the ruins. Turkey probably doesn’t receive as many visitors but the numbers continue to rise in Turkey as folks from Japan and Russia have found it to be welcoming.

Time and time again we were told that they best way to preserve the ruins was to keep them buried, and I suppose that is why they have limited the amount of land that can be excavated. But to see the ruins up close and touch them is a lot different than standing on top of a field, not realizing that underneath your feet was once a bustling city, complete with temples and marketplaces. In the article, the writer referred to a Hindu concept, darshan, roughly translated as the spiritual benefit gained from seeing an authentic thing. I understand the writer’s intent.

There is absolutely no way to gain this sensation from looking at a picture in a book or reading stories about the land. Through the sabbatical, I have been granted this opportunity to have this experience that not everyone gets to cherish. Thank you for such an opportunity and thank you in welcoming me back!

Gary