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Colfax pastor traces Apostle Paul’s footsteps in Greece

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  Although it was more than 1900 years ago that the Apostle Paul made his first trip through Greece, the journey is still relevant today for Christians.

Pastor Robert Schoenknecht, and his wife, Mary, made the trip to Greece to follow Paul’s footsteps nearly two years ago.

Pastor Bob, as he is known locally, talked about the trip to Greece as a Show or Tell presentation at the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center April 4.

From the enthusiasm in Pastor Bob’s voice, it was easy to see that the journey will remain vivid in his memory for years to come.

The word “bema” means  “raised platform,” and throughout Greece, the Schoenknechts visited various bemas where Paul had preached.

Each bema is marked with the word in English and in Greek.

Pastor Bob has a variety of photographs of himself at bemas.

“There I am, standing on a bema in Berea, the same spot where Paul stood when he preached … although I’m not preaching, it was interesting to stand where (Paul) preached,” Pastor Bob noted at one point in his slide presentation.

Greek monasteries 

The cliffs in Greece where they built monasteries were another highlight of the trip.

“In the early days, if you wanted to get up to the monastery, they had a winch with a little platform and winched you up. The monasteries wanted to stay solitary, and the monks wanted to live someplace where they couldn’t be bothered. Now they have built roads behind some of the monasteries so you can drive right up to them and take a tour,” Pastor Bob said.

“I’m not sure I’d want to go there all the time with a winch,” he added.

Some of the monasteries must have been (and probably still are) especially difficult to reach because they are at the top of a free-standing column of rock with nothing else nearby.

The monasteries were built by carving away the native stone.

Greek ruins

Greece also is know for its ancient ruins, such as the Parthenon, of which only portions remain.

When the ancient Greeks wanted to build something else, they built it on top of what was already there, Pastor Bob said.

Consequently, whenever something is going to be built in Greece, such as a subway, an archaeological dig must be conducted first to make sure any artifacts that may be there are preserved, he said.

The archaeological component can add several years to a construction project, Pastor Bob noted.

Another interesting feature of the trip was the amphitheater in Athens.

“It is still used for events. They were doing a sound check for a rock concert while we were there,” Pastor Bob said.


Pastor Bob and Mrs. Schoenknecht enjoy going for an early morning run when they are traveling, and one photograph featured the couple in front of the Greek Parliament building.

The parliament building was the site of protests about the economic problems in Greece.

“We could look out from our hotel and see 300 or 400 demonstrators marching around the parliament building,” he said.

One member of the audience wondered if Pastor Bob and Mrs. Schoenknecht had felt threatened or unsafe because of the protests in Greece while they were there.

Pastor Bob said riot police were in evidence, but they were standing around drinking coffee and talking, and did not appear concerned about anything.


Another highlight of the trip to Greece involved a newspaper called the Metro Lutheran.

“In Minneapolis is a newspaper published called the Metro Lutheran that has information about all the Lutheran churches in the Twin Cities. A number of years ago it became a tradition for people to take the newspaper with them traveling and have their pictures taken with the newspaper and then the newspaper would publish those pictures,” Pastor Bob said.

While the Schoenknechts were in Greece, they had a number of pictures taken of themselves with the Metro Lutheran.

“We sent the pictures in, and then we kind of forgot about it. I looked at the first few copies when we came back, but I never saw any of our pictures. About two months ago, Mary was in the Cities at a conference. They happened to have (copies) of the Metro Lutheran. She picked up a copy, and there I was … holding up a copy of the Metro Lutheran. A year and a half later, our picture got into the newspaper,” he said.

One member of the audience wondered if the picture Pastor Bob had shown during his slide presentation of him holding the Metro Lutheran was the photograph eventually published in the newspaper.

The published photograph actually had three people in the picture holding up copies of the Metro Lutheran, Pastor Bob said.

One woman who is an employee at Colfax Health and Rehab said that she, too, had gone on a trip to Greece and that it was a fascinating and breathtakingly beautiful country.

Pastor Bob agreed wholeheartedly.

Reverend Schoenknecht serves as the pastor of the Colfax Rural Lutheran Parish, which consists of Holden Church, North Running Valley Church and Norton Church.