June 1, 2023

Walkers Retrace Paul and Barnabas’s Journey Through Cyprus

Group of Adventist leaders, church members participate in the 8-day initiative.

Marica Mirilov, for Trans-European Division, and Adventist Review
Karen and Mike Porter (center), who served in Cyprus from 2001 to 2006, participated in retracing Barnabas and Paul’s journey through that nation. [Photo: courtesy of Marica Mirilov]

Cyprus has attracted diverse visitors throughout the ages and has been coveted by its numerous invaders. However, there was one historic journey through Cyprus in the year 48 AD that set Cyprus on a path of Christianity for the past two millennia.

Retracing Paul and Barnabas’s journey through Cyprus, May 18-27, was an initiative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cyprus as a part of the Christ for Europe project. It was organized under the leadership of Branislav Mirilov. The journey of around 180 kilometers (110 miles) united about 60 enthusiastic walkers of all age groups, walks of life, and different levels of fitness.

The Bible describes a certain 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.

History of 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 the Augustan Road, headed to Citium (present-day Larnaca) on the south coast, then westward to Amathus (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’s journey ended in Paphos where dramatic events took place: the encounter with demon-possessed Elymas, the sorcerer, and the conversion of the Roman proconsul. The walkers and all present at the concluding service on Saturday, May 27, 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 Emani Bulanauca and Manasseh Moren, the main walk organizers, and Kim Papaioannou, the presenter of life sketches of Barnabas and Paul.

Special guests of this spiritual and physical endeavor were church administrators Karen and Mike Porter, who lived and served in Cyprus from 2001 to 2006. Both turned 70 this year, but they took the challenge of an 8-day walk and flinched not even once.

Mike Porter described 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 organizers to make this walk an annual event open to the wider community. “As people put their comfortable trainers on, let them think [on] how it was for Paul and Barnabas to walk in their sandals on dusty Cyprus roads,” 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.”