4 June 2023| Nicosia, Cyprus [Marica Mirilov]
Cyprus has attracted diverse visitors throughout the ages and has been coveted by its numerous invaders. However, there is one historic visit and a journey through Cyprus dated to the year 48AD that set Cyprus on a path of Christianity for the past two millenniums.
Retracing Paul and Barnabas journey through Cyprus, from 18 to 27 May 2023, was an initiative of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Cyprus as a part of the Christ for Europe project, under the leadership of Branislav Mirilov. The journey of around 180 kilometres (110 miles) united about 60 enthusiastic walkers of all age groups, walks of life, and at different levels of fitness.
The Biblical text describes a native of Cyprus in the following way: “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37 NIV). Barnabas was joined by a young nephew, John Mark, and the apostle Paul on what became known as his first missionary journey. The biblical text in Acts 13:4-13 specifies Salamis as the entry port and Paphos – the Roman capital of the island – as the exit port.
The history of the first century Cyprus gives two possible routes joining the two port cities. The first route cut to the northwest to Chystri, over the Kyrenia Ridge to the north coast. It then followed the coast to Soli, then Arsinoe, and then south to Paphos. The second possible route, known as Augustan road, headed to Citium (present-day Larnaca) on the south coast, then westwards to Amathous (near Limassol), then to Kourion leading to Paphos. Since it is unknown which walking route the apostles took the group retracing their journey chose the latter.Paul and Barnabas’ journey ended in Paphos where dramatic events took place; encounter with demon-possessed Elymas, the sorcerer, and conversion of the Roman proconsul. The walkers and all present at the concluding service on Saturday, 27 May 2023, had a chance to visit the archaeological site where those events took place.
“Even the hardest of the journeys is made more enjoyable when working as a team, and this journey was not an exception.” Mirilov said. He praised the dedication of main walk organizers Emani Bulanauca and Manasseh Morem and Kim Papaioannou the presenter of life sketches of apostles Barnabas and Paul.
Special guests of this spiritual and physical endeavour were church administrators Karen and Mike Porter, who lived and worked in Cyprus from 2001 to 2006. Both turned 70 this year, but they bravely took the challenge of an 8-day walk and flinched not even once.
Mike Porter describes their experience. “The best part of walking in the footsteps of Paul and Barnabas has been sharing the same good news they preached so long ago and making many new friends from countries far and near!” he said.
They both agreed that ”as in the days of Paul, Cyprus continuously needs to hear the good news of Jesus the Messiah and His plans for providing eternal life for all – Cyprus and the rest of the world.”
Positive feedback encouraged the organizers not to make this a one-off walk, but an annual event open to the wider community. “As people put their comfortable trainers on, let them think how it was for Paul and Barnabas to walk in their sandals on dusty Cyprus roads,” the organizers said. “Walking and talking about life issues in beautiful nature helps people to connect to each other and to God in a more real way.
They added that “all over Cyprus, there are archaeological remains of the paganism and idolatry early Christians faced. Today, the challenge is packed in the form of secularism and materialism. It is good to walk a spiritual walk with Christ.”
Featured image: Paphos walking group pictured by Paul’s pillar. [Photos: Lucian Braguta, Paul Lockham and Karen Holford].