ATHENS, Greece -- The first LDS meetinghouse in Greece -- a building that Church members feel is more significant to them than the Temple of Athena Parthenas, which was built in Athens between 447-432 B.C. as the crowing achievement of ancient Greek classical art -- was dedicated May 30.
"This building is a gift of the law of sacrifice by members of the Church," said Elder Charles Didier of the Seventy and president of the Europe East Area, who spoke at the dedicatory services. "It is an investment of faith. As you continue to live righteously and pay your tithing, other meetinghouses will be built," he told the congregation. After his remarks, Elder Didier offered the dedicatory prayer.More than 200 people attended the services. An estimated 20 percent of the congregation were investigators of the Church.
In his address, Elder Didier expressed his appreciation for the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression found in Greece. He noted that Greece is recognized as the cradle of civilization, and the country where the first Christians were baptized.
"This building will be a place where we will learn how and what to worship -- after first mastering that in our personal lives and homes," he said. "This meetinghouse will be a beacon and an ensign to the people who come here -- signifying the gospel has been restored upon the earth."
Pres. Tagg B. Hundrup of the Greece Athens Mission, which includes seven countries on three continents, also addressed the members. He said: "This chapel will be an anchor for the Greek people -- as anchors are to many different ships that dock in the harbors of Grecian waters -- and will help the Church grow."
Pres. Hundrup then quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley who, in 1972 during a visit to Greece with then-President Harold B. Lee, dedicated the land that " `The restored gospel may be taught here with power and testimony.' "
The dedication of the first meetinghouse in Greece was also a time to remember the travels and testimony of the ancient Apostle Paul "who preached on Mars Hill and in the old market place some eight or nine kilometers from the new meetinghouse," continued Pres. Hundrup.
The Greece Athens Mission was created July 1, 1990, from a division of the Austria Vienna East Mission. Three branches -- Halandri, Ilisia and Pireaus -- meet in the new meetinghouse. A fourth branch, the Thessaloniki Branch, meets in Thessaloniki.
On the evening prior to the dedication, members and missionaries performed a concert in the new meetinghouse to an audience of about 200. Visitors were greeted by the president of the Ilisia Branch, Patrick Sankoh, and his wife, Hawa, and their three daughters, Kadijatu, Fatma and Marie. They joined the Church six years ago.
Members of the Church in Greece, though comparatively few in number, are examples of living faith.
Dimitrious Karaboulas, who was baptized a year ago while in England completing studies for a master's degree, said, "I will remember England, not for my degree, but for my conversion. This meetinghouse is better than any [other], because it is ours."
A week before the dedication, a Greek landscape gardner was hired to complete the landscaping. He was so pleased to be working on the property that he accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon and is now eager to learn more about what transpires inside the building.
Magdalena W. Atao arrived from the Philippines 12 years ago to work as a nanny. She accepted an invitation from the missionaries to attend Church but, at first, didn't feel she belonged. Then one day, while at Church, she met a former friend who encouraged her to study the Book of Mormon. She was baptized a year ago. "In this building, I feel the Spirit so strong. I love this Church with all my heart," she said.
John Andreadakis was born and reared in Greece, but left when he was a young man. Feeling a desire to return to his native land to share the gospel, he and his wife, Nancy, sold their home in Colorado Springs, Colo., and moved to Greece. He is now the president of the Pireaus Branch.
"We were prompted by the Spirit to return and be an example in teaching people about Jesus Christ," he said. "There is a lot of opposition here and people have not been exposed to other religions."
Dimitra Tzamaloukas was very ill and at the lowest point of her life, searching and praying for direction. "If you want me to live," she prayed, "show me the true Church."
Soon after, a missionary that she knew gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon. "I began to read and continued to pray. I felt the power of healing in my life and that Jesus really knew what I was going through." She was soon baptized and has since been a strength to her branch. -- Sister Carolee Harmon