I’m back in Istanbul again; it’s really an interesting place. I don’t come here as a tourist and the things I have come here for have been going very well. No need to get into details right now but in the next months there will be some exciting and encouraging news, Lord willing.
Being here has reminded me of what it says about Paul when he visited Athens. “Now while Paul waited for [his friends] at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” (Acts 17:16) Of course in our times folks are not “given to idolatry” in the same fashion people were 2,000 years ago. On the other hand, both in Gothenburg, Sweden where I was before this, and now here in Istanbul, it’s a weight on my heart how it seems so many people are just moving along with “the course of this world” (Ephsians 2:2) and so many are in spiritual darkness.
I got into a conversation with the manager of a restaurant I ate at. A young guy, like so many Turks with a very mixed background. Partly Iraqi Jewish, part Turkmen, part Bulgarian. He told me he really wants to move to Canada as he’s a movie maker and he finds the current situation here to be repressive and foreboding, as you may have read about in the news. I ended up sharing the story of my life with him, how I had a dramatic change from atheism to faith in the God of Abraham and His Son. He said he was into Sufism and the 13th century Persian mystic, Rumi, a popular direction that many young people in this part of the world have turned towards in recent times.
And I just wish I could reach more, to do more to come in contact with the very many people here who are searching and reaching out to find something beyond what is so heavy upon this part of the world now. I talked to a woman who is connected to a Christian book store here in Istanbul. You might be surprised to know there are over 40 churches in the city, not just ancient buildings but active congregations as well as Bible societies and similar things. She told me it was amazing how it was that people came to the small Bible bookshop.
Some ask how they got in there and what it was. They said they felt like something pushed them into the Bible bookshop and they wanted to know what it was about. So very few here have ever had any contact with a Christian and know next to nothing about Christianity.
The popular understanding is that Christians worship three gods, a strange mix up of what is called Trinitarianism. Other people have come into the Bible book shop and asked why they don’t turn the page on the large Bible that is open in the front display window of the shop. People on the street stop to read the text and now the bookshop has to keep turning the page daily since folks have asked them to do that.
This is just another example of how it is across the Islamic world. Strange as it may seem for some of us who’ve been so conditioned against people from this part of the world, there really are many who are “hungering and thirsting after righteousness.” (Matthew 5:6) But sadly, it may turn out to be as the prophet Amos wrote long ago, “Behold the days come says the Lord that I will send a famine in the land. Not a famine of bread of a thirst for water but of hearing the world of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, from the north, even to the east. They shall run to and fro to hear the word of the Lord and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.” (Amos 8:11-13) There are a handful here and there who are trying to do what they can to reach the hungry and seeking here but “what are they among so many?”
I’ve been here a few times in the past. I wrote about this in “Tea and the Endtime with the Kurds”, “Visiting Syria” and earlier this year in “Four months abroad”. And I personally am doing what I can to reach this part of the world and this country. But what I see that is really needed here is just basically witnessing Christians, ones who can share their faith with people here in a wise and loving way.
In many ways, it comes back to what the Lord said long ago and I feel it really fits here in this country and part of the world now. “But when He saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion upon them. For the fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. Then said He to His disciples, the harvest is plenteous but the laborers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the Harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38) Please pray for that, for laborers in this harvest. And please pray that I will be able to be in contact with some of them as well. Thanks so much.