The following is a bit of a narration of my time in Turkey…as much as can be put into words and a few pictures.
Istanbul. My team of five other Youth With A Mission students, our leader, and I spent our first days of the outreach in Istanbul where we worked with the Istanbul House of Prayer and also spread the gospel through casual conversations with the locals. The city is full of life and warmth and clay colored houses. The skyline of this former capitol of a Christian empire is now mostly peppered with the shapes of crescent moons and tall spires. We cried out to God for a renewing of life and truth through intercession and worship. Surprisingly, the people of Turkey are largely secular and open to western culture, making evangelism very doable.
Continent hopping & airport bombing. Sadly, due loss in the family, I made an quick emergency trip from Turkey to the US late in June, leaving my team in Istanbul for a few days. I was supposed to return through Ataturk Airport and was leaving for my flight when the news hit. There was an attack. Frenzied dialing. Adrenaline. The television flashing footage of a place I had been twice in the past week—but this time with shattered windows and chaos. So, understandably, I ended up taking an alternate route the following day and met my team in our next location in Turkey-a more quiet city in the south west.
Next location. We spent the rest of our outreach by the Aegean Sea. During this time we read the entire Bible aloud as a team over the city as an act of proclaiming His truth and fighting against the enemy along with other types of ministry. We were able to work with a long term team based there. Ministry with a small house church, some anti-human trafficking work, a youth group for young locals, and more. Kids ministry with a Kurdish as well as a Gypsy community. Lots of laughs and fun and practical love. Street evangelism was even more fruitful, although it had to be rather discrete for security reasons. The Turkish people are so warm and affectionate and easy to talk to. So much prayer for the area and even a chance to visit the ancient ruins of Ephesus and intercede for the small Muslim town that it has now become. In all of these we were able to pray and give and love. My heart was so full. I have so many more stories to tell that can only be justified in face to face conversation.
Our Syrian friends. Our team had planned and hoped for many opportunities to work within a nearby camp for Syrian refugees, but we had trouble gaining permission and access as our original contact fell through. Our team leader did not give up the fight, however, and we were able to go into the camp purely through a miracle (that’s a book of a story in and of itself) once before we left. What do you say? What do you do? When face to face with everyday people who’s lives have been ripped into shreds. I sat with them. I moved from one tent to the other. And we had tea. Through a brick wall of a language barrier, I tried to communicate that they were loved and valuable. They showed me pictures of their life back in Syria. I held their little baby girl. And I sat feeling helpless wishing that I could somehow fix it all if even just for this one family. But in that moment, I was called to simply sit and to love. To give a little. But mostly just to bring the presence of God and all His comfort and healing. To bring the God who sees. The God who’s heart breaks at the pain of these people.
Coup d’etat. Just when we thought it was all sunshine and kebabs and ‘there is no way anything else dramatic will happen’ we were hit with the an announcement from a media that the former government had been overthrown, martial law was in place, that no one was allowed to leave their houses. Then we heard of the violence. At first we had no idea how big or how close these were. The night and early morning hours that followed were spent by the television hanging on every headline. Helicopters and tanks. Confusion. Emergency exit plans were prepared. We prayed. We waited. Who should win? The corrupt former government or the violators of democracy? We were safe as the fighting was small and centralized within the cities of Istanbul and Ankara. The team flew through Istanbul two days later without trouble, but sadly this is far from over for the people of Turkey.
Just landed. These windows may or may not be some of the ones destroyed in the bombing (same terminal but it is hard to tell).
Day of ministry in Istanbul.
Made some amazing new friends who happened to be deaf. It was completely a God thing as I know American Sign Language and one of the guys was able to understand and translate to Turkish Sign Language for the others. So cool. Three hours in Starbucks laughing and signing about the EU, the tragedy of war, why Jesus died on the cross, the differences between Islam and Christianity, our shared sadness at the lack of peace in the middle east, and how to get to heaven.
Hanging out with some of our Gypsy friends.
Taken while leaving the Syrian refugee camp.
Games with Kurdish kids.
Sometimes just talking with and showing someone they are valuable is how we share the gospel. We met these girls in a small town and were able to talk and play for a while. [Left to right: myself, four beautiful new friends, Jo Smith, another beautiful friend, Binna Kim, and Karis Ranta.]
Our entire team crammed into one taxi.
Taken after a night of evangelism.
Intercession over the ancient ruins and new communities of Ephesus.
One of our secret times of worship on a remote beach.
The streets of Istanbul featuring the Turkish flag flying in the background. Two days after coup attempt.
Right now. I am in Manila, the capitol of the Philippines. I will be here until mid September doing ministry! Stay tuned for my next update on the work my team and I are doing here.
- Safety for our team as we travel great distances and frequently.
- Protection against spiritual attack.
- Small amount of support monthly to cover my staff expenses (rent and ministry fees) while I work both abroad in Perth, Australia.
As always, thanks to all who have made it possible for me to be here.
Grace & Peace
To contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about Youth With A Mission Perth: http://www.ywamperth.org.au/