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Bearing testimony where Paul preached

Members, missionaries and investigators in the Greece Athens Mission gathered Sept. 19 to bear their testimonies on Mars Hill, the same hill where the Apostle Paul preached during his second missionary journey nearly 2,000 years ago.

This year marks the eighth annual testimony meeting on the rugged hillside. The date marks the 25th anniversary since the dedication of the land of Greece for the preaching of the gospel by Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, who, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, visited the land with President Harold B. Lee in 1972.The testimony meeting was held in the late summer morning hours as the first rays of a warm Grecian sun streamed through the portals of the ancient Parthenon, high on the Acropolis overlooking Mars Hill to the west.

Far below the steep eastern face of Mars Hill, the ancient Agora or market, as well as the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos of 100 B.C., and the 400 B.C. Temple of Hephaisteion stood as remnants of an ancient civilization.

"Following so close to the 150-year anniversary of the arrival of the pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley," said Elder Wayne M. Hancock, a member of the Seventy and second counselor in the Europe East Area presidency, "we feel that this silver anniversary at Mars Hill is particularly meaningful for us in Eastern Europe." Elder Hancock was accompanied by his wife, Connie.

Missionaries serving in Greece from Africa, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden, Wales and the United States joined with Greece Athens Mission Pres. Tagg B. Hundrup and his wife, Maria, in sharing their testimonies of the Restoration in their native languages.

In his comments, Elder Hancock quoted President Lee's remarks in 1972 by saying: " `Your record will be written one of these days in a history of the mission that we will one day set up here in Greece, and you will be pioneers to the extent that you can aid us under the inspiration of Almighty God.' "

Of particular significance, continued Elder Hancock, is that President Hinckley's dedicatory prayer blessed that the " `hearts of the leaders of this nation would be softened.' "

Pres. Hundrup confirmed that hearts are softening and that "there has been a marked upturn in our relationships with many key leaders in ministries and municipalities."

The Greece Athens Mission was formed in 1990. But the history of missionary work in Greece dates to the late 1800s.

Phillipus Manandious was the first Greek convert to the Church, baptized in Turkey by Elder Frederick Stauffer of the Turkish Mission in October 1889. Rigas Profantis and five other Greek converts were baptized in Athens in 1905 by Turkish Mission Pres. Joseph Wilford Booth, who served nearly three decades as a missionary in the Near East.

Missionary work was curtailed in the Eastern Mediterranean due to the Balkan War and both World Wars. The Church sent famine relief in 1947 following the ravages of World War II.

Through the years, U.S. servicemen and Greek members serving in Greece, Crete and Cyprus have helped establish and sustain the Church until full-time missionaries were called in 1986. In 1990, 20 missionaries were serving in Greece. Today, there are 58.

"This is the land of the Apostle Paul," Pres. Hundrup concluded. "Missionaries are greatly privileged to serve here. As we bore testimonies on Mars Hill, we remembered with gratitude the mission of Paul, the Restoration, modern prophets and the great dedicatory prayer of President Hinckley."