“Fleeing into the wilderness”… in Bulgaria

Bulgarian town scene-aDuring my recent trip, an intriguing verse came to mind about where I was in Bulgaria and it’s possible place in the future, especially related to the events prophesied to come before the return of Jesus. A few of you know this verse well but probably most will have little or no idea what it means. It’s Revelation 12:6 “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there one thousand, two hundred and sixty days.

You may ask, “How in the world could that verse have anything to do with southern Bulgaria where you were?”

Let’s see if I can simplify this to where most everyone can get the idea. According to Scripture and His Own words, Jesus will return to earth at some future time to establish His rule in our world. But, again according to Scripture, there are a number of things we’re told will happen in the time very near to this return of the Lord. And things get particularly specific about the last 3½ years, leading up to His return.

Some of you know all this like the back of your hand but the vast majority of folks don’t. So, speaking to that vast majority, I can tell you that Jesus called that last 3½ years before His return a time of “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world”. (Matthew 24:21) Not good news at all, it seems. But at least we’ve been informed about it and can prepare in the ways we can, as He leads.

And that verse which came to my mind in Bulgaria, Revelation 12:6, is actually talking about that last 3½ year period. The “1260 days”, spoken of in Revelation 12:6, when divided by 360 days (the length a year was considered to be in ancient times) comes out to 3½ years. So who is “the woman” who is “fleeing into the wilderness” during that final 3½ years before the return of Jesus?

can we stay- flatA large group of people who study these things feel that “the woman in the wilderness” is the Christian “body of Christ”, the believers and receivers of Him and His love who will be persecuted like never before during that last 3½ years. The Bible calls God’s people His Bride, both in the Old and New Testaments. (Isiah 62:5, Revelation 19:7) This woman fleeing into the wilderness represents what we could call the collective church and overall congregation of believers throughout the earth.

“Mark, why would the Christians be ‘fleeing into the wilderness’ during that last 3½ years?”

One major reason will be that, by that time, a world-wide economic system will be in place, according to Revelation 13, where each participating citizen will be required to have some kind of “mark in their hand or forehead.Mark of the Beast(Revelation 13:16 & 17) This is what I was talking about the with the Kurdish women on my trip that I wrote about in “Tea and Endtime with the Kurds.” In my visit with them, they were telling me that they could see how they would have to flee out to their villages in order to escape the bestial totalitarian Anti-God, Anti-Christ government and its Satanic leader. So even those Muslim women could see a time where “the woman fled into the wilderness” would be the best path for them in this time to come.

“But Mark, it says, that the womanhas a place prepared of God that they should feed her there 1260 days from the face of the serpent.’ God has some place prepared and ‘they’ shall feed her there?”

time to flee- flat-1That was what I was seeing and feeling in those towns in rural Bulgaria [Here’s a link to a blog post that tells more about the details of my recent trip to there.] They were already almost totally self-sustained and self-sufficient economically. From where I was, it was close to a three hour drive through the mountains to even get to a city of 100,000. In the final endtime, the Antichrist world government will aim to control every nation and every city they can.

But they won’t be omnipotent. The eleventh chapter of Daniel speaks of a number of wars the Antichrist and his forces will be having, even during the last 3½ years. I believe God will lead multitudes of Christians to flee into the wildernesses of their nations where they’ll be helped by the simple, Godly people who so often live in places like that. “They” shall “feed her there” during this last horrific time in the history of mankind before the return of the Lord when “the cities of the nations fell” (Revelation 16:19) and then His Millennial rule will begin. It’s like the verse “the people that were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness.” (Jeremiah 31:2)

Bulgarian town scene-2God always cares for His own. Even during this future time of great tribulation, when so many Christians will be uprooted from the comfortable surroundings they live in now. They still will be helped, through God’s pre-vision, by the simple, Godly rural peoples around the world to whom we will flee for help and shelter during that time.


The story and pictures from Bulgaria

me and vaska in church-2Of the three countries I have been in recently, the one where there’s been the most to do in the way of teaching and ministering has been in Bulgaria. So I think it would be interesting for many of you if I shared more of the main thing I was doing there and also include some of the photos from those times.

Bulgaria map 2As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I first heard from my friend Vaska when she wrote me over a year ago, after she began viewing my videos on the prophecies of Daniel. Last year I wrote about my contact with her in two articles, “Good News from Bulgaria” and “More Good News from Bulgaria”. She also was the one who sent me the story about the former Muslim priest who visited her church and told his about his experience which I wrote about in “Suicide Bomber Sees the Light”.

church crowd compositeSo when I arrived at the little church in the small town in southern Bulgaria where Vaska and her friends have their base, it was already a little familiar to me. The first night I felt led to just share my life story of how I went from being an atheist to becoming a Christian. It seems like the apostle Paul, in his journeys, often started his ministry in an area by just sharing the conversion he had experienced.

Of course a big thing with these new Bulgarian friends was the vast difference in culture, background and nationality between them and me. So one of the first things I did was to let them know that in the Lord’s eyes, He sees us as one in Him, brothers and sisters, equals through His working in our lives. That seemed to help that I wasn’t trying to come there as some exalted one from a foreign country. Jesus “made himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7) and it’s important that we do that as well.

The main little church I spoke in. My room was upstairs.

The main little church I spoke in. My room was upstairs.

And they really took good care of me while I was there, almost too much, ha! I was brought breakfast, lunch and dinner at the little room I stayed in above the church and most of the time it was way more than I could eat. A real specialty of Bulgaria is a salty white cheese and there was a lot of that, as well as olives, fried chicken, fresh vegetables and lots of fruit. The church was within site of the mountains of northern Greece and many of the locals in the church go to Greece in the summer to work in the harvests.

Vaska and Avram

Vaska and Avrim

Another thing that impressed me was how Vaska worked with the local pastors in the towns in the area. I met at least a half dozen of these men and it was clear that they all really were appreciative of her ministry to them and to their people. Vaska is a good guitar player and singer and she has been working with a very interesting, unusual young man, Avram. Actually, he ended up being the one to do the voice for the audio tract of the first Bulgaria video in the prophecies of Daniel series. In the beginning I was hesitant to have Avram be the voice as I felt he was just too young. But Vaska said his diction in Bulgarian plus his understanding of the material was really good so we ended up going with that.

I guess, in a sense, “running in the background”, I was amazed to see how the Lord’s Spirit was working in this place, the interaction between Vaska and the ones she ministers to, the mentoring and coaching of some of these ones as they discussed situations and people in the churches, and the time she spent with Avram to help him grow in grace and maturity.

I could see from my room a church, a mosque and a solar panel, all in daily use.

I could see from my room a church, a mosque and a solar panel, all in daily use.

It’s seemed to pay off in their communities as there was overall a tranquil atmosphere and cooperation in the places I saw there. Very many of these ones were originally Muslim before becoming Christians. Their towns are mixed between these two religions but there seemed to be little to no open hostility between the two groups that I heard about.

It reminded me of the verse, “The things that you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2:2) This is such an essential part of the vision of those of us who want to see the Lord’s work grow and His flocks to prosper, in Bulgaria or anywhere. There has to be training of those who are called to be shepherds and teachers themselves, to be able to take care of the multitudes that so often are coming to Him. Without “labor leaders”, you can end up with vast flocks of bleating sheep but no grass roots Christian leadership, trained to feed and guide the flocks into green pastures.

It was a wonderful time. If the Lord leads and provides, I do want to be back there again sometime before real long. I hope this has helped to fill out the view of what was going on there in Bulgaria and also that the pictures included here help as well. And thanks again for your prayers during this time; it went really well. It will be exciting to go back there, Lord willing, to see how things have grown and also to see what were the fruits and results of my visit there. God bless you.

God Needs You

Tell them I need them flatOne morning while I was in Bulgaria, I was in a room above the little church where they were hosting me. I’d been speaking  to around 70 people for the first two nights who’d braved the late winter snow to come and hear what the foreigner had to say. I’d shared my life story of how I came to believe in the God of Abraham and then in Jesus. Another night I’d shared some basic classes on the importance of Jesus, the subject of Salvation, the significance of the Holy Spirit, the need for the Bible in our lives.

church crowd 3But I somehow felt that the last night’s time with these folks lacked the full power that an opportunity like this requires. So the next morning I felt desperate that things go better. I’ve already written about this some in “Work? Or Prayer…in Bulgaria” There I mentioned how that I felt the Lord answered my desperate prayer by laying something on my heart which I wrote down after my prayer. Here’s an edited version of that and what has come to be one of the main things I’ve shared with these ones since then.

God Needs You

In Ezekiel there’s an obscure but extremely significant passage. God is speaking and He says, “I sought for a man among them to stand in the gap and make up the hedge, that I should not destroy the land. But I found him not.” (Ezekiel 22:30) The picture is of a broken wall. We can think of it as the city of our fellowship and heritage of the people of God. There was a gap through which the Enemy could attack and God needed a person to rally the forces of God to stand up for Him in the battles of the Lord. But the Scripture says, “He found him not.” God found no one to take up the mission of His will and service.

who shall I send flat-2In another place, God is speaking in Isaiah, “Who shall I send, who shall go for us?” Then Isaiah answers “Here am I Lord, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) That’s what is needed, but there are so very few. Jesus said the same thing. “When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion. For they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest that He will send laborers into His harvest.’” (Matthew 9:36-38)

And it’s certainly still the same today. God needs and wants fighters, not just believers. There is a raging war going on. Souls are dying without the Word of the Lord. In the endtime, we are destined to be winners in the battles. Where are the victors of God? Where are the heroes? Where are the “mighty men”, like David had, who knew there was a battle and that they were on the side of the God of light and love and truth?

come out flatThat’s what is needed. Not spectators, but players on the field of battle. God has a destiny prepared for those who will claim it in their lives. God has victorious battles to be won, souls to be set free, lights to be lifted up, and multitudes to turn to Him. But He doesn’t want to do it alone. He wants us to work with Him; He wants to work with flesh and blood us.

Who can He use in your community, in your family? Who does He chose? “The foolish things to confound the wise.” (I Corinthians 1:26). “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled and took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) That’s really all that’s needed. Not theology school, a university degree, the right skin color and the backing of a large denomination. What’s needed is that “they had been with Jesus”. And so, so many have been with Jesus and are with Jesus. But their lights remain “under a basket” (Matthew 5:15), rather than really on a candlestick. The church of our times has left the arena and now sits in the grandstands.

How can we rule with Him in the Millennium if we are not working, fighting and winning with Him right now? “Now is the day of salvation“. (II Corinthians 6:2) Today is the day that souls are fainting in the land, dying and giving up hope. Today is the day that God needs you to step out of your circle of normalcy and to go a little further. It says of Jesus, “He went a little further, and fell on His face.” (Matthew 26:39) That’s what each of us should be doing each day: going a little further and falling on our face in desperate prayer that we can be all that He wants us to be and needs us to be.

harvest is plenteous flatMay God help all of us to not be complacent, not satisfied with the normal hum-drum tediousness of our lives. May we obey what the Lord said, to “Lift up our eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest.” (John 4:35) The Lord needs laborers, the Lord needs soldiers, the Lord needs simple people like you and me to take the mantel of His mighty men of old in these desperate end times, to have the vision of fighters, winners, overcomers, harvesters, soul winners, sheep-feeders, comforters of the weak, whatever the call or need is, that His people will have the vision of the service He has called us to and which is so very needed in these desperate times.

It’s just a very basic principle of God for centuries, “If you draw out our soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light will rise in obscurity and your darkness will be as the noonday.” (Isiah 58:10) Even in your own life, if you “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things will be added to you”. (Matthew 6:33)

It all comes back to love, to love God and your neighbor. But that love is a compassionate, active, stirred up love, love that doesn’t get stopped by barriers, love that ends up being something that isn’t really often seen to the degree it needs to be. It was love that sent the shepherd boy David to the front lines to see and confront the enemies of God. “Is there not a cause?”, young David said. It was love that cause Philip to run to meet the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), “The love of Christ constrains us”, Paul said. (II Corinthians 5:14)

This is what I have come to share here with these precious ones. I felt the Lord would challenge them to go further in their lives, to look outward to the circle of friends and acquaintances they come in contact with daily, to witness and share the Love of God with the unsaved, those who’ve never heard the message of salvation, so many of whom will willingly come to Him, if someone will just reach them with His love.

Tea & Endtime with the Kurds

My friend and I were sitting in the office of a Kurdish business woman. We were over in her neck of the woods, not in the West. And my friend had told me that in his conversations with her at other times, quite often the subject had turned to the events of the endtime, predicted in prophecy. By the way, the picture here is one I found on line of Kurdish women, not of the ones we met.

“So, Mark, the Kurdish woman was an evangelical Christian?”

No, she wasn’t. In fact when we first got there, we had to wait for her as she was having prayer, something many Muslims do 5 times a day.

“Were she and her friends covered from head to toe in black and all you could see of her was where there was a slit for her eyes?”

No, actually they were all dressed completely casually and looked like everyday folks from northern Italy.

“Mark, that doesn’t make sense! How could she be someone that carries on a conversation about the endtime if she was a Muslim?!”

My friend who took me to her office said that all she knows about the prophetic endtime is what she’s learned about it from the Koran and what my friend has shared with her. Yes, there’s plenty about the future to come in the Koran that has some definite parallels to the same narrative we find in the Old and New Testament, and quite a few Muslims know about this.

I spoke about this in my video on Daniel chapter 7, how that Muslims know specifically about “the dejjal”, the name in the Koran for the Antichrist, spoken of as a demonic world leader who will arise in the final years before the return of Jesus. AC figure-2This is also explained in the Koran. That may be surprising news to some who read this. Here’s the text and illustrations to the Daniel 7 class if you’re interested in knowing more about this.

So while drinking tea with her and her friends, one of the things we talked about was “the mark of the beast”, predicted in Revelation 13:16 & 17 as being a part of the world economic system of the final days. We talked about how this type of thing was not really possible for 2000 years. But now in our times virtually every product has a bar code. And we shared with our friend how that it would be just as easy to implant some kind of chip in each individual so that he could be scanned for each economic transaction and kept up with electronically in an almost complete way. We told her that this was prophesied many centuries ago as a sign of the final years at the time of the “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21), before the return of Jesus.Mark of the Beast

This was not the first time my friend had talked with this Kurdish business woman and her friends about this. But it was a way to share with her the vision of the future from the Bible which she already knew a good deal about, from her study of the Koran. She said, as we discussed the overall endtime picture of possibly needing to draw back from the large cities if a world government took over, that she felt she could be safe in some of the smaller villages she knows where Kurds are the majority. And that’s a similar conclusion to what many in the West have come see as a way to survive if an Antichrist world rule comes in our lifetime. Some may need to “flee into the wilderness” (Revelation 12:14), as the Bible says some will.

Another of my friends later told me that this is one of the easiest ways to enter into conversations with Islamic people, by talking about the vision of the future to come and what the prophets and writers of the Old and New Testament were shown by the God of Abraham about that time. So it was a wonderful day, sharing faith and truth that I’ve learned with someone hungry and receptive to the same truth.

By the way, you might wonder why I’m not being more specific and detailed about the name of the woman, her city and things like that. The reason is that in some parts of the world, a “Christian” way of looking at God, Jesus and the Bible is pretty controversial and even outright dangerous.

In some countries you can be thrown out of them if you’re known to be sharing your faith in that way. In other countries, it can get much worse, not always from the governments but just from local people who “take the law into their own hands” or who are motivated by ancient animosities to see you as an enemy of their society. In those circumstances you learn quickly to be a good deal less specific when sharing news of what the Lord has done, both for your own sake but also for the sake of your friends.

But it’s a wonderful life. It’s a wonderful and thrilling to have a conversation with people like my friend and I spoke with today, ones who have such a genuine hunger for the things of the Lord and such believing hearts to grasp and retain what we shared with them.

So I’d encourage you to not be afraid to step out and share your faith and what you know with your friends who might have an Islamic background. You might find it a very interesting and rewarding conversation, just like we did, even if you have to wait till they finish praying.

Visiting Syria (part 2)

Reyhanli kids in classI mentioned in the first post on my visit to the city bordering Syria, how that the school we visited was a surprise. Clean, organized, a real testimony to the people who are running it. It just struck me as a sign of the resilience of these folks who have almost all suffered personally, often physically, or have had members of their families who’ve suffered. But they seem very determined to make an environment for their children so they can continue their education and to not be defeated by the horror and destruction going on in their country.

I took some photos of some of the drawings the kids had done which were posted in the hallways of their school. Often they were in English. One of them said:

Peace poster -1Peace is part of love.

Peace cannot be controlled but it can only be made.

Peace is there.

Peace is here.

Peace is all over the world.


And another one said:

Peace poster -2“P” Peace is calm and friendly.

“E” Everyone is joyful.

“A”  Always have a smile.

“C” Careful and nice, no hate is allowed.

“E”   Evil is not right

But what could we do in the time we had there? We visited several classrooms, including where they were learning English. There were 4 of us; 3 spoke Turkish and 2 also spoke Arabic. We told them that we loved them and that we were so amazed by their happy smiles and joyful spirits. It wasn’t an opportunity or appropriate right then to speak on religious topics to these kids in their classrooms. But they knew we were different and had come to show love and solidarity with them.

Some of the Syrian kids with school supplies we brought for them.

Some of the Syrian kids with school supplies we brought for them.

With the head teachers and administrators, we talked more. We asked what we could do to help. They asked if we meant financially, materially or psychologically. We said we didn’t come from a large aid organization but were primarily volunteers. We brought with us several hundred dollars worth of school supplies for the children there, as well as clothes and goods they could pass on to the most needy in their community. We also gave a cash gift.

But we said we felt our strongest help could be in the realm of the heart, to let them know that millions are praying for their people, that they’re not forgotten and that our hearts were broken for them and their people at this time. When we asked what we could do, one of them spoke up emphatically to tell us to stop the bombing of their villages and cities and to stop the killing. We said we would if we could but that was beyond our abilities.

At one point in our talk with the administrators, I somehow shared how I’d come to faith in God as the only solution that was able to help my life and that we all felt the ultimate solution to the crises that griped their nation was to somehow find the love of God and love for each other. These were things that they all agreed with, even though I got the impression that some of them had seen such horrible examples of vilely twisted religiosity in their country that they’d swung towards secular solutions and views as they rejected the twisted religious views they’d seen. Then again later we were able to speak with other members of the school staff and to take the conversation in the direction of faith and a loving God who can heal and deliver us from the worst of circumstances.

One thing we learned from the situation in Reyhanli and from other areas nearby is that there are a number of volunteers coming from various parts of Europe and even farther afield. Most of these are young people and it often has to do with things like teaching music, sports activities, trauma counseling, computer training, art and just finding ways to help young people to still be able to get on with their lives in spite of the collapse of their society at this time. The motivation of these volunteers ranges from simple humanitarian concern to spiritual/religious convictions of different types.Mts syrian kids 4-fixed

As classes were being dismissed, we were able to gather with a large group of young students in the activity area in front of the school. One of us had a guitar and we got going with some good songs, both in English and in Arabic. Some of the kids really got to rocking out with us. They knew some of our songs and gather round to sing loudly. At this time we also brought in the school supplies and materials that we’d brought with us to distribute. Later we talked more with some of the administrators and got more familiar with the situation, as well as finding out possible opportunities to come back and do more.

Singing with the school kids, hills of Syria in the background.

Singing with the school kids, hills of Syria in the background.

Afterwards it was still daylight and we considered visiting some other places. But we felt what had happened already was a real answer to prayer and had gone well. So we agreed that we should “quit while we were ahead.” Then one of us paraphrased that idea to fit our situation, that we should “quit while we still have a head”. We laughed, somewhat quietly.

At the end of the day, as we headed back to our city, there was a feeling of peace and joy that we’d been able to go there, do what we’d been able to do, and then to get safely back out of a relatively dangerous situation. It seems like it is very rare for folks there to get visitors like us to their city and their people. My friends here will continue to be contact with similar groups and initiatives along the border where people with love and Godly concern in their hearts are doing what they can to bring light, love and practical help to what is one of the worst humanitarian crises I’ve seen in my lifetime.

Work? Or Prayer…in Bulgaria

Kornitsa group photoI’m in Bulgaria right now, such an interesting place and I’m having amazing experiences. I’ve been working with friends during the day to get a Bulgarian version of the first video I did on my series of videos on the prophecies of Daniel. Then at night I’ve been speaking at small churches and cell groups in this area.

For example, Saturday night my hosts said we would be going to a “radical Muslim” town to speak in a church there. I didn’t know what to expect. Well, for one, the “church” turned out to be someone’s medium sized kitchen. But “the church was packed”, or in this case the kitchen was packed. The picture above shows about half the people there. But they were all hungry and sincere Christians within this Muslim district who’d come to hear what I had to share with them.

That morning I had felt I could work on finalizing a blog post. But it just wasn’t flowing. One big thing I’m finding here is that prayer is a vital essential in what I’m doing. On Friday we had worked much of the day on the recording of the Bulgarian audio for the video. But it was so much effort that at night, when it was time to teach and share testimonies with the 70 or so that came to the church, I could feel I was somewhat drained and had not taken enough time in prayer earlier to be fully strengthened in the Lord for the evening’s activity. I still went ahead but I could just feel that it was not as full and flowing as it could have been and should have been, if I’d take more time alone with the Lord and not tried to cram so much into the day in the way of work.

Tell them I need them flatSo Saturday morning I knew I really needed to come to the Lord in desperation for His strength and even to try to get something from Him that would be in some way a message or theme that would be what He’d want me to share with these ones. Also at that time I sent a prayer request out to some of you to please pray for me to have wisdom and strength for this opportunity here.

Then, after that time of desperate prayer, a somewhat surprising thing happened. I felt led to just go to my computer and I wrote up something that wasn’t really a prophecy, in the literal sense of the word. But it was something I felt the Lord definitely laid on my heart right then, as a result of my earnest prayer to be a better channel and witness for Him in this situation. I’ll try to write that up into a blog article soon but the main idea was that “God needs us”. This is the message I shared with the Christians in the Muslim town that I visited Saturday night.

Now this morning also, as I nearly plunged back into a routine that usually worked ok for me back at my home base, the Lord instead led me to not start work but to get back on the wall of prayer. In this situation, it seems that I may be “doing” less each day. But it’s important to really spend quality time alone with the Lord, pouring out my heart to Him that He will help me to “raise the floor” so to speak and to be higher in the Spirit so that what’s being done will be from a time that’s really been brought before Him first.

So…, work or prayer? Of course both are needed. But in my case in this situation, spending more time in prayer has evidently become an essential for me if I’m to be in His highest will here and to be effective and fruitful in this time. A real lesson for me, and I thought to pass it on to you.

And I should mention that the place I am working from now is the same one that I wrote you about a year ago in “Good News from Bulgaria” and “More Good News from Bulgaria”. You can click on those links to get some background to how I ended up visiting these friends here.

Visiting Syria (part 1)

Reyhanli city-2I should be clear that I didn’t visit the geographic nation of Syria. I was in a large town, just on the border, as seen in this picture. But there are over 3 million Syrian refugees living outside their country now. So in visiting a place where the majority of the city was Syrian refugees, it was visiting Syria in that sense.

I didn’t really know what to expect. I can tell you that I did some pretty tall praying even before leaving the States for this trip. And then the day we went to this border town, that was another time of very serious prayer and looking to the Lord for His confirmation and then protection and blessing.

“Mark, that was naive and frivolous of you! Many people love you, Mark. And you just risked you life on some kind of foolhardy Christian joy ride! For what, Mark?”

Jesus said, “I was sick and in prison and you didn’t visited Me.” And then He said that “they will ask, ‘When were You sick and in prison and we didn’t visit You?’ And He said, “In as much as you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to Me.” (Matthew 25:43-45) Or as He said in another place, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)

“Mark, get a grip! They aren’t your neighbor. They hate us and want to kill us, Mark!”

Friend, if you think that, truly you are the one that needs to get a grip. I went there because I had an unexpected “open door” (I Corinthians 16:9) from the Lord to go there. Besides that, this whole thing that’s been going for the last couple of years has just grossed me out and “gotten my goat”, to perhaps use strong language. So I wanted to get as close as I responsibly could, to see for myself how it is, to help all I could and to find what if anything I myself can do about it on the longer term.

Reyhanli mapI was able to make a one day visit to Reyhanli, a town/city of originally around 63,000 people which has swollen to around 150,000 with the influx of refugees. If things were different, I might have aimed to stay there a couple of weeks, to try to do more. But that truly wouldn’t be wise or safe. By the time you get that close to the situation and you’re a Westerner, you run a real risk of getting kidnapped. The baddies in Syria will offer a very large reward for ones outside Syria who can deliver up Westerners which they hold for ransom or to ultimately execute publicly.

We were able to visit a very well run school for refugee children, within sight of the nearby Syrian border. On our way to Reyhanli we saw refugee camps along the side of the road, people living under makeshift plastic sheets and begging (or worse) at traffic lights and in towns and cities. But the school we visited was surprisingly well organized, with cheerful, focused children who sang us songs and tried to converse with us in English.

About half the staff of the school spoke English. All the women wore traditional Muslim clothes but they were very friendly to us and showed us how the school worked. They said they get almost no visitors like us. We also had some time of rather deep and intense talks with some of the administrators. One of them had had his house bombed by “barrel bombs”, dropped by the government. Miraculously, no one was killed. But they took it as a sign it was time to leave.

A friend sings with the kids at the school, I’m in the background and the hills of Syria in the background.

A friend sings with the kids at the school, I’m in the background and the hills of Syria in the distance.

It seems like the funding comes from Syrians rather than any international or UN source. The school had been set up there for a few months and there are several others like it in the city. I’ve decided not to share the name of the school as the whole thing with this is a slight dilemma for me. I want to let you know how things are and what’s happening. And in the case of this school, it was a real surprise to see these folks having gotten things going there so well.

Reyhanli, May 11, 2013

Reyhanli, May 11, 2013

But on the other side, this is a very serious place. The city of Reyhanli had two car bombs go off there in 2013, killing over 50 and injuring around 150. You can read about “Reyhanli bombings” on Wikipedia for more info. It happened right off the main street through town and we drove by there several times. Also mortar rounds fired from across the border have landed in the city there at night. Our friends told us that they can see helicopter gunships and jet fighters which drop bombs on villagers just on the other side of the border. So I also truly need to think of the well-being of the ones we visited and the ones I’ve worked with here. For that reason I’m being less than fully explicit about some of this.

I should add that on Sunday, two days after our visit to Reyhanli, a bomb was found and diffused on a car there. This might be an encouragement to those of you who prayed for my trip. That’s how important prayers are. Here’s the link to the article about the bomb that was found. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-police-disarm-bomb-found-in-former-syrian-rebel-commanders-car.aspx?pageID=238&nID=79060&NewsCatID=341

It seems like there’s a lot to write about what we saw and experienced that day. So I think I’ll write another post with more of the details of what happened, what we learned, how we tried to help and how more help might be possible.

Here’s the second article I wrote about visiting Reyhanli, Visiting Syria (part 2).