Dear family of God who care for us,
As I write this, we are in the second day of 2016 and Istanbul is covered in snow. If you haven’t seen Roslyn’s uploaded pictures on Facebook, check them out. It reminds us of living in urban Chicago. Of course at our age, ice on the sidewalk is more of a hassle, and in Istanbul, just like in Chicago, the snow is only beautiful when it is new. I think I like it better than Roslyn. Of course, I don’t have to keep a schedule. I can take my time walking on the slick sidewalks.
Roslyn is beginning to get her footing with the new classroom style expected here. There have been some surprises and course corrections in order to meet the management’s preferences, but she is an experienced teacher and she is coming through.
Unfortunately, she still must teach weekends and nights so that she can’t worship at the International Church with me. The house of prayer here has been closed for a long holiday break, as many who do the watches are traveling extensively. Roslyn would benefit from regular spiritual fellowship as well as worship time with others, so please remember that in your prayers.
We were actually able to go worship together at the Christmas Eve service at the international church—Roslyn begged a night off from work and got her students to sign a release form for her from the class– and she was able to meet some of the folk at the church who knew me already. Roslyn enjoyed singing songs in Turkish language for Christmas. The people also took up a collected gift for their work which assists Syrian refugees in Istanbul. When Ros’s schedule evens out some more, perhaps Roslyn might be able to get together for a cup of tea with one of the women who comes to our neighborhood once a week for a hospital check-up.
Some ruminations on how Jesus is viewed -even within Islam
The song ‘Mary did you know?’ has been playing in my head for days. For over a year now the Incarnation and the resurrection have seemed to be the most important things to hold on to in this time. I know this is true for others as well as me. This is one of those times when a theme begins to resonant in my soul only to have the refrain picked up from many sources around me. The Pastor of the international church here has begun to preach through the gospel of John and the text for the Christmas eve service was Philippians 2—the Incarnation of Jesus and His desire for us to have His mind and resurrected Life in us.
Christmas in Istanbul was a learning experience. Decorations in many of the stores and greetings from local acquaintances—who are hopefully becoming new friends– are balanced with the knowledge that the Islamic Turks know a completely different Jesus.
Last week we had a free day on Christmas Day, and so we decided to go visit a young Turk we met on our first day in the country and to take him a Christmas/New Year gift—we gave him a NT, in dual Turkish and English. Please think about him with us– we mentioned S. to you previously.
We also did some tourist things on our list that day. One was to go to the Blue Mosque—called locally the Sultan Ahmet Jami–one of the more famous mosques in the nation. First, we went into an introductory lecture given about the Mosque and on Islam. It was done by the head Imam of the Mosque.
As a part of that lecture, the Head Imam was careful to point out how much honor Islam gives to the Prophet Jesus. They do honor Jesus and most are comfortable recognizing Christmas as a celebration of his birth. The Imam went on to tell a story that illustrates Jesus’ role in Islam. The Koran reports that a miracle occurred at his birth. He spoke clearly as a newborn babe and gave honor to Allah and to Mohamed who was to follow. We don’t have to be offended by this view of Jesus; after all, demoting Jesus to a wise human and prophet has always been the most common way by everyone ‘to deal with him’ when they don’t recognize fully his nature. But we do need to always keep in mind that this ‘honor’ rejects the most important aspect of Jesus’ identity and work on this earth. The Islamic ‘honor’ of Jesus is not a starting point for agreement. Instead it is the most fundamental stumbling block, because to correct this understanding of Jesus is to implicitly call Mohamed a liar.
And so in Istanbul, it is not a surprise that the Holy Spirit is calling his people to lift up Jesus as Lord of Lords. We are declaring to ourselves and to the spiritual powers in heaven Who truly rules. We are celebrating Emmanuel! God with us. A God who was compassionate enough to become a man and humble himself to die on the cross, but who also had the power and authority to rise from the dead.
Sometimes I find myself sad that the cities of Asia Minor (actually the ancient cities of Turkey) have such deep roots in the spirit, but are now so far from the truth. When I see the good heart of the people and connect with their hopes and dreams for their families, I can’t find myself angry with the people. Most of them want to do good and live a quiet life.
I am not naive about the conflicts just below the surface. Ethnic conflict is rising up everywhere. Political rivalries and old ethnic wounds threaten to overturn peace and prosperity. But this is true even in the USA. In the face of this onslaught all mere humans are helpless. That is the reason I am sad for this city.
In the middle of this situation, we remember how Jesus cried over Jerusalem. He is still ready to gather us together like chicks under a hens wings. He is the only one with the power and authority to overcome these forces tearing humans apart. But we must recognize Him for who He is. It is only as the Son of God that His protection is sufficient. Those of us who know Him as God already must live and work under that cover.
Francis Frangipane wrote a book that talked about the mind being the primary battlefield in spiritual matters. So it is here. I tend to carry conflicts inside my heart, not something I recommend, and it takes a heavy toll at times like this. Sometimes I even get confused about what is really me and what is the battle around me. The best part of being a Christian is that at times like this the Holy Spirit pushes back.
Please Pray for Physical Matters—both for us and for others who are here
Please to continue to think of us and lift us up to the Lord. This transition has been harder for us than the one in Cambodia. It is not the physical environment, and contrary to what you have heard in some press reports, Istanbul is peaceful and the people friendly. Still there have been some surprises financially and we have an unexpected long gap in insurance coverage. The short term travel insurance has ended and we will not have Turkish insurance until the end of February or early March when our resident permits may be approved. Pray that the Lord heals any health issues—Roslyn already has what she hopes is a minor issue– since any condition that shows up at a clinic during these waiting months will never be covered by the Turkish insurance.
Of course practical issues are not the only reason for emotional stress. This is a time when the world as a whole and the Middle east in particular is in turmoil spiritually and physically. We are on the edge of the refugee crisis—over 1.5 million Syrians are now inside Turkey. When it was not as cold, there were Syrian refuges begging on our street. We know people here in Istanbul and some who have traveled to the south and east part of Turkey to work with the refugees who are in temporary shelters.
Roslyn and I are wrapping up our second month in Istanbul and have begun our third month. Now that we are somewhat settling into a rhythm, we are going to begin language study with a tutor next week—I will have 3 two hour sessions per week, Roslyn will try to have 2. The company which employed her did not come through on language lessons. Our private tutor could be quite an expense for us, but she is a believer we met through the church and she can help us with spiritual language also.
Knowing a little conversational Turkish will open up some more doors for both of us. I have been trying to study on my own and it’s been frustrating thinking I have a vocabulary memorized only to lose it completely when I try to use it at a store or on the street. Spending time with a ‘language helper’ in conversation should help a lot.
Maurice’s focus this winter
I have been invited to the weekly prayer meeting at the Church and I will begin attending when I get the language lessons worked out. That, plus one other prayer time I was asked to participate in at the beginning of the worship services, is the beginning of finding the place the Lord has for me here during this year. I will most likely wait until spring to schedule some travel. I need to get some more Turkish survival language before I go off on my own, whether to Turkish speaking Northern Republic of Cyprus or around inside Turkey itself.
To Sum Up the prayer requests:
- pray for Maurice as he begins more direct prayer ministry with others here
- pray for our health, especially in this long gap of no insurance coverage
- pray for our language lessons starting multiple times a week
- pray for Roslyn to adapt to a constantly changing schedule of classes
- pray for sure footing as we walk the icy streets and take public transport in traffic rush
- pray for those assisting the refugees, including those we know here
- pray for Roslyn to get spiritual fellowship too
- pray for our financial needs to be met, to cover unforeseen and extra expenses here
- pray for her students to hear her witness beneath some of her words about herself during English classes
- pray for our friend S. who received our precious Christmas gift and that day even called Roslyn “his mom” May it be that spiritual lineage may result.
A BIG thank you to each one of you who has prayed for us. And a BIG thank you to those who have sent donations as support for us. We pray God’s abundant blessings and reward to you as you participate. God will not forget. Thank you for not forgetting to share with us either.
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Maurice and Roslyn