Hawks and doves (Part 2) Istanbul, Turkey

I’d been living in Indonesia for 4 wonderful years, but I was certain it was time for me to move on from there.

The Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul was formerly the holiest church of the Orthodox faith, built in 537. The Hagia Sophia went from being a church to a mosque in 1453 when Constantinople was conquered and became Istanbul.

The Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul was formerly the holiest church of the Orthodox faith, built in 537. The Hagia Sophia went from being a church to a mosque in 1453 when Constantinople was conquered and became Istanbul.

I wanted to continue a life of full time service for God and my fellow man and didn’t really want to move back to the West. After much desperate prayer, the Lord had led me to contact some friends who’d been living in Turkey for many years.

In July of 2007, I was able to visit them for 2 weeks, to gauge the situation and to see if the Lord would lead further to make a move to that part of the world. You come to where you know in your heart whether a thing is the Lord’s Will or not. But you test it and go slow as making a major move like that is very serious.

A man I met that day. He was from the Middle East and sold rugs in the large central market I visited with my friends.

A man I met that day. He was from the Middle East and sold rugs in the large central market I visited with my friends.

Of course the Turkish culture is not at all like Indonesia and it’s not like the places I’d lived in eastern and central Europe in the years before. But it is a very beautiful and very historic city. Napoleon was quoted as saying something like, “If all the world was one nation, Istanbul would be its capital.”

My friends took me around to parts of the city, to get a better feeling for the place and to get to know the people, the most important thing. We went to a very famous covered market, like almost everything there, many hundreds of years old. There were spices, carpets, electronics, all kinds of foodstuffs and the whole place was just very much the essence of Istanbul.

My friends were introducing me to folks they knew and we were going from one booth to another. In one place they introduced me to a man and I asked him where he was from. He said he was from Iraq.

Suddenly something pretty strange happened and in a sense it was embarrassing. I suddenly started crying, almost uncontrollable, in public in front of a bunch of Islamic Turkish men and my friends.

I took the man’s hand, tears in my eyes, and told him, “I’m so sorry for what my country has done to your country. And I know millions of Americans feel the same way I do.” When meeting this man, the first Iraqi I’d ever met, suddenly it was like I saw behind him the hundreds of thousands of  Iraqis who had died in the war America had brought to that land. I felt so stricken at that moment, it was so sudden and so spontaneous that I was almost surprised myself at what was happening. But I felt afterwards that perhaps it was just the Holy Spirit within me, helping me to do what just one person could do and say to another person to try to atone for the horror that had happened to his people. He humbly accepted my apology and said he held no grudge against Americans, thanking me for saying what I’d said.

We walked on and finished our afternoon. As it turned out, I didn’t end up moving to Turkey but instead, back to the Russian speaking part of the world I’d lived in before. But it was something I have never forgotten as it was so surprising and unplanned.

I certainly don’t mean to write this against the individuals of the armed forces who were part of the war in Iraq. But, whoever the individuals are who are responsible for that event, it shames and saddens me deeply that my country brought such suffering on a distant nation for what turned out to be false information and purely political/economic factors.

King David said, “I am for peace. But when I speak, they are for war.” (Psalm 120:7) Jesus is famously quoted as saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers” ( Matthew 5:9) and there are innumerable verses in the New Testament that point toward the people of God as being the meek, the healers, the peacemakers, the reconcilers, not the proud, the war-wagers  and haters of others. Only in the coming Kingdom of God on earth will the Prince of Peace rule and bring peace on earth. Meanwhile, for those of His people who are alive here and now, we are still called and commanded to love our neighbor, not kill, invade and dominate them. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18)

4 thoughts on “Hawks and doves (Part 2) Istanbul, Turkey

  1. I am sure, Jesus was crying with you, He moved you so much, because He is so moved about the many atrocities that happen through wars. I am dreaming about a world of total peace. Today we can do our little part. Tomorrow He will take over, TJ! GBY!

    • It always seems like so little any of us can do. But then if we are with Him and in Him, He can multiply our little bit, just like He multiplied the bread and fishes. But it’s a fight of faith and the darkness just rages in order to persuade us to quit and give up.

  2. Mark, I am so glad you were able to touch one person’s life the way this went down.
    I too have had similar experiences. Once while in the USA I took my grown daughters and 3 grand daughters who were visiting to a Fourth-of-July festival. There in the midst of the fireworks my family and I sat there under the stars on a blanket. We bought snacks and little plastic colored lights for the children. The weather was incredible and under the clear blue sky night while everyone was in awe during the celebration, tears began to stream down my face. I kept seeing the faces of the Iraq people in the midst of a battlefield, men, women, children and grand parents. It was so overwhelming and such an intense emotional moment I felt beside myself. I had to quickly wipe the tears from my eyes so no one could see me crying. It felt like a dream, yet in reality this only happened in a few short minutes or even seconds. I never forgot it. To this day I pray for the people of the Middle East and try to extend love whenever I see people from this region, who have suffered needlessly at the hands of a powerful nation.

    • Interesting experience. And it does seem similar to mine. It says in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” For those of us who want Him to remain first in our hearts, we may sometimes feel the heartbreak that He feels at the injustice in the world, the suffering inflicted on the innocent by the powerful, the lies that are gulped down by billions of people, and just the great gulf between the way things are now and the way God wants them to be. Thanks for your comment.

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