#CA13

#Lent14: Rebuilding The Ancient Ruins

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.  Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!  Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble.  Then your light will shine out from darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.  The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like and ever-flowing spring.  Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.  Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.”

Isaiah 58:9b-12 (NLT)

This is the Word of the Lord.

One of the amazing things that we get to do in our travels is visit ancient cities.  We have had the privilege of walking the streets of Ephesus, Olympos, Phaselis, Side, and Aspendos.  We’ve stood in the middle of 2,000 year old market places.  We’ve walked alongside water distribution systems and stood on the dock in ancient harbors.  We’ve wondered about the conversations that took place in the middle of bathhouses and libraries.

In these cities that we’ve walked through, we’ve found the ruins of many churches.  1,500 year old structures in ruin.  And, we’ve prayed.

See, Turkey has been called “The Other Holy Land”.  24 out of the 27 New Testament books were either written to or from Turkey.  Paul’s Missionary Journeys criss-crossed the land that we know call Turkey.  It was the seat of power of the church for nearly 1,000 years.

And, yet, today the church in Turkey is only a fraction of a percent of the population.  .2% to be precise.

So, we pray.  We pray that this land that was where the word “Christian” was first used will again become a land where Jesus is lifted high and God’s name is glorified.

We pray for the believers who are there to have courage to boldly proclaim the Kingdom.  

As you look through the following photos that we have taken on our previous trips, pray.  Pray for the Kingdom to come.  Pray for rebuilders of the ruins to rise up.  Pray for His name to be made great!

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Inside the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Library of Celsus (right) and The Lecture Hall of Tyrannus (left)"

Library of Celsus (right) and Lecture Hall of Tyrannus (left)

The Tomb Of St John

The Tomb of St. John, Selçuk, Turkey

Agora of Smyrna, Izmir, Turkey

Agora of Smyrna, Izmir, Turkey

The Harbor at Antalya, Turkey

The Harbor at Antalya, Turkey

5th Century Church in Olympos, Turkey

5th Century Church in Olympos, Turkey

Walking Down the Street in Phaselis, Turkey

Walking Down the Street in Phaselis, Turkey

Agora of Perge

Agora of Perge

Ampitheatre of Aspendos

Ampitheatre of Aspendos

The Martyrium at Side

The Martyrium at Side

(If you’d like more information on these sites and all of the Biblical sites within Turkey, then check out Dr. Mark Wilson’s book “Biblical Turkey.”)

#CA13 — Rescued by Prayer

It was a Friday.  It had come at the end of a really long week.  That week had fallen at the end of a really long month.  We were in our fourth week in our second country of #CA13.  Life was hard and not getting easier.

Mid-afternoon on that Friday, we found ourselves having a serious family discussion.  We had reached a boiling point.  Things had gotten really tough.  There were a myriad of issues from illness, to behavior, to frustration with the language and culture shock.  At one point in the day, we even discussed changing our tickets and getting out of there.

Then Saturday dawned.

We have a wonderful 90-year-old lady from our home church who is on our prayer team.  She rarely attends church on Friday night since she teaches Sunday School on Sunday.  But, this particular day, she went on Friday.  At some point during the service, she said that she came to church because she felt like the church needed to pray for us immediately.  So, the church prayed.

We had grown close to a couple of veteran workers who “happened” to be in the same city with us for the first half of #CA13, and then had come to this second country for different reasons than hanging out with us.  Nevertheless, we got to hang out with them.  What a great couple!  That, Saturday afternoon, we were able to spend a few hours with them before they headed back to the states.  They gave us a ton of encouragement, parenting, guidance, wisdom, and (most importantly) stopped to pray for us.

When we got up on Sunday morning, things had definitely shifted.  We were feeling better.  In our home fellowship, God gave me a word saying that we were doing the right thing, in the right place, with the right people.  Early in our time of praying about going into this line of work, God told us that we would know who we were to be with, how long to be there, what to be doing, etc.  So, this was confirmation.

During the week that followed, our pastor provided us with some great insight on how to react/respond/handle some anxiety issues our kids had been experiencing as well.  He had a sense that this behavior was acting as a bell-weather for us to elements in the supernatural.  He suggested that when we were experiencing these issues, we stop and pray for the 360° view in both the physical and spiritual realms.  This advice was crucial for us over the remaining time in the “Land of Fire”.

Never underestimate the importance of the “feeling” to stop and pray for someone.  You could be the person who shifts the atmosphere for that someone.  Your prayers could be the ones that change the world and strengthen people.

The other day, we sat in the living of that 90-year-old lady.  As we shared the importance of her prayers, and how they were truly atmosphere-shifting.  She looked at us and said, “I’m learning the importance of telling people when I’m praying for them, and what I’m praying.”

I relate that as a way of encouraging you to pray for the people whom God brings to your mind–whenever they are brought to your mind.  But, don’t stop with just praying.  Take the time to let them know that you’re praying for them, and, specifically, what you are praying.

Your prayers are important.  They are powerful.  They are life-giving.  Please, in your prayer-time, remember us.  Yet, also, remember those–all across the planet–with whom we have the privilege of partnering.

For more on how to partner with us in prayer, you can jump over to the “Parter With Us” section of our website by clicking here.

Caleb praying over a friend in Central Asia

Caleb praying over a friend in Central Asia

#CA13 — Seeing God in The Culture

Nets on the Dock in Kaleiçi, Antalya, Turkey

Nets on the Dock in Kaleiçi, Antalya, Turkey

One weekend after church, we took a walkabout in Kaleiçi. As we walked throughout the harbor, I snapped the above photo. It reminded me of a story that bookends the Gospels and is a key story in the progression of our ending up on the field full-time.
The story is of when Jesus called Peter, James and John. In the early part of the Gospel narrative these guys have been out fishing. This was their livelihood. Undoubtedly, they were pretty good at it.

Jesus comes and asks if they can take him in their boat out a little bit from the shore. They agree to do so. Jesus delivers a message. Then he tells them, “Go deep and let your nets down.”

They let Jesus know that they fished all night and didn’t catch anything. I imagine they also told him about how you don’t fish in the daytime. Probably about how they were tired from fishing all night and had agreed to take him out to deliver his message from a better acoustical vantage point in hopes that they would get a little cash out of him. That would certainly help make up for the failed fishing the night before.

But, in the end, they agree to go fishing. In deep water. Where fish aren’t. Because the Rabbi said to.

And they catch fish. Loads of them.

As they return to shore Jesus says, “Follow me. You can catch way more than fish.” They left everything to follow.

For three years.

And, then.

Tragedy.

Peter looks at his two buddies–business partners once again–and says, “I’m going fishing.”

Now, this isn’t a “Hey, it’s Saturday, let’s see if the fish are biting” kind of “Let’s go fishing.” This is a “Hey, the guy we’ve followed around the past three years isn’t hanging out with us anymore, and I have a wife to feed” kind of “Let’s go fishing.”

So, they go. And the first night out they stink. They’re horrible. They head back to shore and see a man standing there.

“Catch anything?”

“No!” They cry. (I imagine a little muttering under their breath here too.)

“Go deeper, throw the nets to the other side, and see what happens.”

Now, these guys aren’t catching on that this has happened once before. So, out they go. Down go the nets and wham 153 fish later they’re headed back to shore.

Still clueless.

Until, Peter finally recognizes the Master. And, he jumps in the water and swims back. And says again, “Yea. I’ll follow you.”

And they left the nets, and the boats, and the fish, and followed.

The Port at Kaleici, Antalya, Turkey

The Port at Kaleiçi, Antalya, Turkey

We’re Back!

It's been a long time. I'm not sure what happened other than we transitioned into our second country, got ridiculous busy, overwhelmed, and then out of the habit. Nevertheless, here we are again.

Since our last post (oh so long ago), we wrapped up our time overseas for #CA13. We are now back stateside and have been for about 4.5 weeks.

Um, yeah, we're way behind.

So, to catch you up.

We spent 90 days in a closed nation in Central Asia. We were working to help raise up indigineous worship leaders/song writers. As well as just trying to be a support to our hosts and anyone else we came across.

It was a tough place. We really struggled the first few weeks as we tried to navigate the influence of the former Soviet empire. The spiritual heaviness of that empire still has a firm grip on this (and other nations). It was a struggle for us to try and understand it as well as learn to thrive in it. Fortunately, God raised up people stateside and within the country to stand with us in prayer. Through nothing short of a miracle, God rescued us from our despair and we stayed. At one point, we even prayed about extending our time there.

Even though it was hard, we love the country. We love the people. We have new friends, fond memories, and a strong desire to go back.

At the end of July, we said goodbye, boarded a plane, spent the night in İstanbul (where great friends shared time and food with us), and then we flew back to the states.

After a week of sleep (aka Jetlag recovery), we jumped back into life here. We had a wonderful time with the folks over at Haven Heights Baptist Church in Fort Smith. We have visited family. Steph and I spent a few days in the mountains of Arkansas.

And, that pretty much catches you up.

Our goal is to get active again on the blog. We hope to post some stories and memories of our time overseas. We want to paint a better picture than these 1000ish words can–as well as share some actual pictures.

We do want to say a big thank you to all of you who prayed for us over the past few months as well as to you who gave financially to make the trip possible. God did amazing things in us and through us. It's so great to have you as partners in this journey!!

That said, we're back. Thanks for your patience, and stay tuned.

Em and Caleb on the flight home

Em and Caleb on the flight home

 

 

#CA13 — Transition

Turkish flag on Atatürk Caddesi in Antalya, Turkey.

Greetings from the Land of Fire!!

We are now in our fourth month of #CA13 (Central Asia 2013). We spent the first three months of our time in Antalya, Turkey for a school geared to prepping people for living in the nations. While we don't feel led (at this point) to make a permanent move into a singular foreign nation, we did find this season very helpful in gaining a good understanding for and the tools (worldview, cultural understandings, etc.) needed for life in the field. As we travel through the nations and meet with people this school gives us some context for those conversations.

I can best summarize this season as a time of community. We were surrounded by a fantastic team from around the world. People who have a heart to see God's name made known in the nations. Three main themes stood out for me:

  • Be Incarnational – John 1:14 – Jesus, the Son of God, put on the flesh and blood of a foreign culture and dwelt among them.
  • Be Interruptible – Throughout the Gospels we find Jesus being interrupted. It was in these times of interruption that people were healed, lives were changed, and the dead was raised.
  • Be Intentional – When you are there, be all there. Put the phone away. Let the distractions dissipate. Be all there.

Flame Towers and Martyr's Mosque

We arrived in the nation we are currently in last week, and have found it to be an amazing place. It is bright and sunny with a constant breeze. The people we have met so far are extremely hospitable and welcoming.

We are working with an ex-pat family here. The wife leads a school for ex-pat children while the husband helps to raise up the indigenous church to create worship using the cultural elements of poetry, music, and dance.

We will be here through the end of July. At that time, we will return to the states and prepare for a fall tour to visit family, friends, churches, schools, and small groups. If you would like us to visit, then please let us know so we can figure out our schedule/route/etc.

While we are here we will be working with worship leaders from around Central Asia. We will also be serving the workers in any and every way possible. Our heart is truly to bless and strengthen them for the work ahead.

The kids enjoying a McDonald's Ice Cream cone

Upcoming

On 4 May, Stephanie and I will be participating in a seminar for worship leaders from around the nation. Worship is so critical in the work that we do, and the work going on in the nations. Worship is the best warfare against the enemy. It focuses people away from the darkness that surrounds them, and points them to the light.

We will be teaching a seminar on vocal technique and breath control. This is a felt need in this area as most of the musicians working in the church are not professionally trained.

Fountain Square

Prayer Needs

We would love you to be praying for us in this season. One of the largest prayer needs revolves around an overarching spirit of the land. There is a spirit that sits in the former soviet empire that literally sucks the life out of people. Depression is a huge issue. Please pray that we will stay connected through prayer, worship, and fellowship to the Source of Life.

Children performing at a Children's Day program in Antalya, Turkey.

Additionally, pray that we will be a blessing to all those with whom we come into contact. Pray that we keep our eyes open to see what the Father is doing in this nation, so that we may join Him in His work.

Thank You!

Finally, thank you so much for being with us on this journey! We are honored that we get to do the work that we do, and that you are a part of it!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. — Romans 15:13

Emily and Caleb with their friend in the neighborhood Bazaar in Antalya, Turkey

 

#CA13 — An Amazing Weekend

What a weekend!

On Friday, we visited three historic sights in this region. First, we visited a location called Yanataş (or Chimera). This is a sight where legend has it that the Chimera (a monster in Greek mythology) was buried beneath the rock. It is now a location where fire burns perpetually from natural gas trapped beneath the surface. At one time there were Greek temples at this sight, and later a Byzantine church.

After Yanataş, we visited the ruins of two ancient cities. First, the city of Olympus and second the city of Phaselis. These were amazingly preserved ruins from the Roman Empire (and before).

Remains of a Greek Temple

Remains of a Greek Temple

One of the flames of the Chimera

One of the flames of the Chimera

Caleb running in the ruins of a 1500 year old church.

Caleb running in the ruins of a 1500 year old church.

Roman Sarcophagus at Olympus

Roman Sarcophagus at Olympus

Caleb at the aqueduct of Phaselis

Caleb at the aqueduct of Phaselis

On Saturday, we, and eight others from our team here, visited six villages where we prayer walked. We saw goat herders, heard an İmam chant the call to prayer, accepted an invitation to lunch at a villagers home, attended a wedding party, drank many cups of çay, and prayed over a lot of people, homes and shops. It was a spectacular day!

A villager

A villager

Stephanie and Emily at lunch

Stephanie and Emily at lunch

A goat herd in one of the villages

A goat herd in one of the villages

A village Mosque

A village Mosque

Beginning Easter Monday, and continuing for several days, we will be posting additional stories and photos from our time in the villages.

Following those posts, we will post additional photos and stories from our historic sight visits. We will be visiting some additional sights at the end of this week, so we want to include those as well.

A big thank you to our supporters for making it possible for us to do this work! Every villager we met was impacted due as much to your generosity and prayers as it was our being there. We couldn't–and wouldn't–do this without you!!

Lent 2013: “God, Do It Again!”

As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We're honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.

A reading from the Psalms.

It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, when God returned Zion's exiles. We laughed, we sang, we couldn't believe our good fortune. We were the talk of the nations—”God was wonderful to them!” God was wonderful to us; we are one happy people.

And now, God, do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives. So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest. So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

— Psalm 126:1-6 (MSG)

God was good to us.

God is good to us.

God will be good to us.

As I write this, it is late evening. The last call to prayer of the day should ring out from the nearby Mosque by the time I'm finishing writing and editing this post. I sit in our team hotel surrounded by my family. Our fantastic teammates are in their rooms scattered throughout the hotel.

We are so honored to be here with these folks. They hail from three countries: the US, Canada, and Australia. They are diverse. They range in ages from fourteen months to seventy. Married couples, families, and singles.

As we worship each morning, I often will look around the room and just be amazed at what God has brought together in this team.

And, in those times of worship and prayer, we pray as the Psalmist did:

“God, do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives. So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest. So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.”

We walk through the streets of this city and see the faces of countless people. People who have quite possibly never heard the name, İsa (Jesus). People who only know God as He is presented in the Qur'an–distant and moody.

Yet, this is the same port from which Paul and Barnabas set sail for Antioch in Acts 14:25. Once upon a time, this was a land that understood who İsa was. It was a land where God was relational.

And, so, we pray: “God, do it again.”

And around this hotel people who answered the call to head into the harvest prepare for bed on a Tuesday evening.

Yet, we are but a few here temporarily. Many others across this nation go to bed tonight in homes they rent or own. In major cities and small villages. They sleep.

Wondering.

Praying.

Hoping.

That tomorrow the people of this rich and beautiful land “will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.”

They pray for breakthrough to come.

So, tonight (today for you reading this) we pray for their strength. We pray for their encouragement. We pray that they will not grow weary in well doing.

And, we pray–as İsa asked us–that “The Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into His harvest.”

Praying for one of the laborers in the harvest.

Praying for one of the laborers in the harvest.

 

The First Six Weeks of #CA13

This past Friday, we passed a bit of a milestone in #CA13. We have been overseas now for six weeks, and are halfway through our time in our current location. Six weeks from today, we will transitioning to another location about 1,000 miles further east.

Our time has been fruitful. We have learned a ton from the conversations of which we have been a part. Conversations on subjects like community development, mobilization and worldview. We have also been honored to meet some amazing workers as well a leaders of the work both in this nation, other Central Asian nations, and Central Asia as a whole.

We have heard several amazing stories of how God is at work in this area. He is truly on the move. Yet, as Jesus told His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. (Luke 10:2 NIV)” And, that is indeed the situation in this region of the world. In this region, there are over 400 million people with little to no access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are hundreds of millions of people who have NEVER heard the name Jesus.

We have met a man who grew up in a formerly Soviet-controlled Central Asian nation. He was a Muslim, but becuase of the Soviet impact, he was more atheist than Muslim. Through a chain of events that are nothing short of miraculous, he came to know Jesus and became a follower. And, he has brought scores of people to Jesus in the past several years.

We met a beautiful grandmother who moved to this nation with her husband about fifteen years ago. Even though he passed away about a year-and-a-half into their time here, she has stayed. She has faithfully planted and watered the seeds. She is an Anna (Luke 2:36-38) in the land. Quietly praying and worshipping for hours every day. Interceding for this nation that she has adopted as home.

We have met a family who left the nets, the boats, and the fish and followed Jesus to this nation to be here to pray over the marriages of the workers here.

We have met a young local who is seeking–but hasn't yet committed to–relationship with Jesus. God is working in his heart though, and the day will come.

We would love you to partner with us–and them–on this journey. If you would consider doing so, then click on the Partner With Us tab above. If you already partner with us, then let us take this opportunity to again say thank you! It is your giving, prayers, and moral support that makes what we do possible.

If you follow us on Twitter (@ledbytheword) or Facebook, then you have seen some of the images from our current location. If not, then here are a few.

Caleb enjoying the flight into Central Asia

Caleb enjoying the flight into Central Asia

İskelesi Camii

İskelesi Camii

Breakfast

Breakfast

Yenikapi Sokak

Yenikapi Sokak

View from our neighborhood

View from our neighborhood

Stephanie and Michael at Düden Falls

Stephanie and Michael at Düden Falls

Stephanie leading worship

Stephanie leading worship

Caleb serving at the church

Caleb serving at the church

Emily and her friend Yusuf

Emily and her friend Yusuf

An overview of our first six weeks.

An overview of our first six weeks.