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Photo of the Week — 5 December 2016

This week’s photo is from the sunrise on Friday. We had a couple of days of rain and cold. Serious rain. Flooding rains. Temperatures dropped considerably as well. But, Friday dawned with freshness and newness.

We’ve often shown you photos looking out of our front windows toward the sea, but this is our view looking north from our patio. Such an amazingly beautiful area where we live.

 

Photo of the Week – 24 November 2016

Last week we had to make a trip up to Izmir to the US Consulate to renew some of our family’s passports. This journey involved a dolmus (a minibus), a train, and a few kilometers of walking. Thankfully, a dear friend of ours was also in Izmir for the day, and meet us at the train station walked through the process with us and drove us home when it was all said and done.

After our appointment with the Consular Agent, we met back up with our friend at a coffee shop. As we left the coffee shop to head back to his car, we passed a building that looked like a church. There was a wall with a gate around the building, but the gate was open. We noticed a security guard standing there, and asked if we might be able to go in and take a look around. We were told we could.

We learned that we had stumbled upon the Cathedral of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. This beautiful cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Izmir. It was an amazingly beautiful building and an oasis of peace in the midst of a loud and busy city.

On a day of meeting with ambassadors of a government, entering this chuch reminded me of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. It reminded me of how we are ambassadors of the King of Kings. How the church is called to be outposts of the Kingdom in the midst of foreign territory. How we are to proclaim the Gospel (Good News) of the Kingdom in every place and time.

Cathedral of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Izmir, Turkey

Cathedral of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Izmir, Turkey

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (ESV)

 

Our Residency Cards

Photo of the Week – 11 April

In Lent of 2011, when we began to dream and scheme about what God was asking us to do for the Kingdom, He gave us a single scripture verse:

“Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out.” – Numbers 9:21b

The idea for us being that God was simply asking us to follow Him wherever He would lead, and stay for however long He asked us to stay. The passage continues:

“Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the LORD’s command they encamped, and at the LORD’s command they set out.” – Numbers 9:22-23a

Up until this point, the “Cloud” has stayed for short periods of time over specific places (or people):

  • Azerbaijan for three months
  • Belize for one week
  • Estonia for ten days
  • Memphis for one week
  • Mexico for ten days
  • Turkey for two months, three months, three months, and one week (in that order)

So, when we began to plan for this trip, we were expecting a similar type of trip. Yet, as we dug further into the planning, and then arrived back in Turkey, we knew that the cloud was going to be here much longer.

Our heart is for the workers across Central Asia. In many of these countries, Turkish (or a related language) is spoken or understood. Airfare from Turkey to these nations is quite reasonable, and airfare for roundtrip tickets from here to the USA is about half the price as paying for roundtrip tickets from the USA to Turkey. Living in the land, speaking the language, and understanding the struggles and stresses of cross-cultural life are important to things for us to be accepted by other workers. And, until we’re accepted and trusted, our desire to serve them will not be as welcomed.

So, our photo of the week illustrates our commitment to setting up the camp for a longer period of time. After several weeks of gathering documents, having them translated and notarized, buying insurance, meeting with residency officials, and a visit from the immigration police, we are officially residents of this amazing country!

Our Residency Cards

Our Residency Cards

 

Photo of the Week – 28 March

This week, we introduce a new weekly feature on the blog–the photo of the week. We will be taking one picture from the previous week, and using it to tell a bit of our story.

We didn't take very many photos this week, but the one we selected for this week is one in a series of photos that Stephanie took of Caleb and Elizabeth goofing around after dinner. This little girl LOVES her big brother!

Caleb and Elizabeth goofing around after dinner.

Caleb and Elizabeth goofing around after dinner.

In Turkish culture, younger siblings don't call their older siblings by their names. Instead, they call their older sisters Abla and their older bothers Ağabey (pronounced abi). Incidentally, we use these same terms for fellow believers as well.

 

 

Kuş14 – Photo Journal 4 (Food)

One of questions that we're most frequently asked in the States is: “What do you eat when you travel?” Over the course of this trip, we've taken quite a few photos of food. So, we thought for this edition of the Kuş14 Photo Journal it would be fun to talk about food.

Since (on this trip) we have our own kitchen, we don't eat out very often. This means that every Tuesday we head to the local street market (Salı Pazar) and stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. We average 16.4 kilos (36.1 pounds) of fruits and vegetables each week at a cost of about $14.50!

Our Kitchen

Our Kitchen

A typical Salı Pazar haul

A typical Salı Pazar haul

All these fruits and vegetables are supplemented by a steady supply of rice, lentils (green and red), olives (Michael and the kids have eaten over 7 kilos (15 pounds) worth), and bread.

Kırmızı Mercimek

Kırmızı Mercim

Steph has learned to make all our favorite Turkish dishes: Mercımek Çorba (Red Lentil Soup), Gözleme (thin flat bread (Lavaş) stuffed with potatoes and cheese and grilled), İmam Bayıldı (“Fainting” Imam — eggplant covered with tomato), Ezo Gelin (a red lentil soup with bulgur and mint), Fakes (a Greek green lentil soup), Kuru Fasulye (white beans boiled in a tomato base and served over rice), and Pilav (rice cooked with small pasta).

İmam Bayıldı

İmam Bayıldı

Every meal that we eat at home is served with a side of red pepper, tomato, and cucumber. Caleb would eat his weight in tomato and cucumber if we'd let him, and Emily loves the peppers.

Side dish

Side dish

We've also discovered an unique fruit called Dağ Çilek. The literal translation is Mountain Strawberry. They taste a bit like a super soft peach, but have a spiky texture that pokes your mouth as you eat them.

Dağ Çilek

Dağ Çilek

We eat out on most Sunday's. There is a great restaurant near the hotel where the church meets called Saray (pronounced Suh-rye and means Palace). They have great Pide (think boat shaped pizza without red sauce), and Adana Kebap (lamb). They also serve a great Turkish dessert called Künefe. It's cheese rolled in wheat and then baked and covered with honey water and ground pistachio.

Künefe

Künefe

Finally, Caleb discovered the Köfte Ekmek. Köfte is a flattened and grilled meatball that is one of my favorite dishes in Turkey.

Caleb and his Köfte

Caleb and his Köfte

 

 

Kuş14 – Photo Journal 1

On Sunday, 13 October, we flew out of Oklahoma City headed for Kuşadası. We had an hour-and-a-half delay in Oklahoma City due to the recent Air Traffic Control issues in Chicago. This basically ate up our entire layover in Chicago. So, we ran like we were being chased by bulls through O'Hare and made it to our connecting flight to Munich in the nick-of-time. We arrived in İzmir about 21 hours after leaving Oklahoma City unscathed and with all our luggage. Both of which were nothing less than miracles.

We spent the past few days getting used to our new neighborhood and establishing a new normal. We have a fantastic Villa about a 3 minute walk from the water in an area of town called Kandılar Denizi.

We've explored our neighborhood both on foot and on the Dolmuş (which is a form of public transportation). One day, Emily and I rode the Dolmuş that stops outside of our Villa. Our goal was to ride it throughout it's entire route making notes as to where it stopped and how far (timewise) that was from our Villa. We got kicked off twice–once at the end of the line and the second time because the guy didn't understand what we were trying to accomplish.

We attended church on Sunday at New Covenant (the church that is Pastored by the family which we are here to serve). Had a great time there. Afterwards, we walked through the neighborhood where we stayed when we were in this city 2 years ago, and ate lunch at a great place called Saray (same menu as they had when we ate there back then).

We ended our Sunday with a walk along the Kandılar Denizi. It was about 70° with a breeze coming off the sea. But, there was a remarkable sunset.

 

 

Be careful!

As I’ve laid awake jet-lagged at 4:00am for the last two hours tonight, I’ve been reflecting on how much I was told to be careful as I left the comforts of America for Turkey (which, by the way, holds its own but different sets of comfort for us). “Be careful.” What does that even mean? The two words are care and full. What does a life full of care look like?

My favorite book says to love your neighbor (cross-cultural context) as yourself. My Big Brother has told me that our Dad has such a close eye on us that he even knows how many hairs are on our heads. In fact, Dad is so watchful of all things, He even knows when a sparrow, which is sold at a rate of five for $0.02, falls. Because my Dad loves, values, and cares for me so much, I don’t have to worry about myself. Dad would much rather me have my eyes on Him—seeing what He’s seeing, doing what He’s doing, saying what He’s saying—than worrying about what I’m going to eat, drink, or wear. He’s going to feed, water, and dress me. He actually loves doing that kind of stuff so much so that He makes sure all the flowers in the field are dressed with the most beautiful petals and leaves too. That’s just who He is.

So knowing all this, I really don’t need to be full of care for myself. However, I still agree with those who tell me to be careful if that means living a life full of care. My Book is teaching me to use my food to give the hungry a meal, to use my water to give the thirsty a drink, to use my home to invite in the stranger, to use my clothes to dress the naked, to use my time to care for the sick and to visit the imprisoned. This seems to be the right and appropriate focus of care.

So yes, I will try to be careful. It’s a more difficult road to take, a more narrow road, but it’s the road I want to travel on. The easy way out would be to live care-free, not caring about the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, and the prisoners. That’s the easy way out because I can be care-free in my own strength. It doesn’t take work. I hate to admit it, but the easy way out comes pretty naturally for me.

But I can’t bring good news to the poor and healing to the broken and freedom for the captives and light for the prisoners living in darkness in my own strength. To live that way, I need to remain in Jesus with Jesus remaining in me. I need to live with His anointing and His spirit on me. And that’s possible because of how much He loves me, and how much He loves all those He has sent me to love and care for with His grace, His compassion, and His love.

Dreaming and imagining with God tonight of living life carefully!

 

#Lent14 — A Photo Meditation On Psalm 121

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 Psalms.

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?  No, my strength comes from GOD, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.  Not on your life!  Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.

GOD’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you—shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moonstroke.

GOD guards you from every evil, he guards your very life.  He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always.

Psalm 121 (MSG)

This is the Word of The Lord.

I love this Psalm.  It’s such a beautiful reminder of the goodness and protection of our God.  He stands guard over us—waiting and watching for the enemy to attempt an attack.  He shields us from the sun in the heat of the day and from the cold of night.  He guards us from evil and watches over us in our comings and goings.

In lieu of using a bunch of words to explain and paint pictures of this Psalm, I decided to share with you a few pictures that we’ve taken in our travels that serve to illustrate it.  As you look at each picture let it inspire a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His diligent protection of you.  We’d love to have you share some of those prayers in the comments below.

The hills around Huapoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

The hills around Huapoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

From the hills above Yalova, Turkey.  Overlooking the Marmaras Sea and Istanbul.

Overlooking the Marmaras Sea and Istanbul from the hills above Yalova, Turkey

From "Gypsy Hill" overlooking Kuşadası, Turkey.

From Gypsy Hill overlooking Kuşadası, Turkey.

The mountains around Antalya, Turkey

The mountains around Antalya, Turkey

Sheep Pasture in Antalya Province, Turkey.

Sheep Pasture in Antalya Province, Turkey.

Phaselis, Turkey

Phaselis, Turkey

Volcán de Agua, Antigua, Guatemala

Volcán de Agua, Antigua, Guatemala

#Lent14 — A Challenge to Bless

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 Book of Genesis.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all families of earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him.

Genesis 12:1-4 (ESV)

This is the Word of The Lord.

This is a tough passage for me to write about.  There are so many directions that I want to go, yet knowing that if I go all of them then this blog post would turn into a small book.

I could talk about how Abram is called to go to another country.  How that relates to the call that we have to leave family and home in order to take the message of the gospel of the Kingdom to far-flung corners of the world.  How it is everyone’s responsibility to answer the call to go.

Perhaps, I could draw parallels between Abram taking Lot along with him.  How it was the culturally appropriate thing to do, but really served to weigh Abram down in the process.  When God calls us to go, it often requires us to do things that are out of our cultural comfort zones.  Even though something might be culturally appropriate in our home culture, it might be a weight for us to take with us into another.

I could talk about how in these few verses we are presented with the whole gospel–we are blessed to be a blessing.  The whole of our existing is to be pouring the blessing we have received back out onto those whom we meet.

Yet, what I want to talk about is the idea of blessing.

Blessings are statements that give life and serve to call out of people those gifts and callings that God has given you.  Blessings position the recipient to live out the bottom half–“…to be a blessing”–of the whole gospel.

One of our favorite things that we find in the culture of Central Asia are blessings.  They are deeply imbedded in use language and culture.

For instance, in Turkey (and there are forms of these in other Central Asian cultures) as you are walking along the road and you see someone working, you say, “Kolay Gelsin” which means, “May your work come easy.”

Or, when your served food or drink the server will say “Afiyet Olsun”–equivalent to Bon Appetit–and your reply is “Elinize Sağlık” which means, “Health to your hands.”

When you arrive at someone’s home or place of business they will say, “Hoş Gelmisiniz”–“The blessing has arrived.”  You reply, “Hoş Böldük”–“The blessing is already here.”

It’s a beautiful part of the culture.  It’s one of the places where we see the Kingdom of God in the people and culture.  See, imbedded within each person on the planet are pieces–DNA–of the Kingdom.  All humankind is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  We are the Imago Dei.   As God’s image-bearers, whether we follow God or not, we have pieces of that Kingdom DNA inherent within us.  So, when we go to a new place or meet new people, one of the first things we do is seek out those pieces of the Kingdom that already exist.  These then become the foundations from which the Gospel of the Kingdom can be proclaimed.

The culture of blessing is something that I believe we are lacking in the western church.  We have all but regulated the phrase “Bless you” to a sneeze response instead of a calling out of God’s graces in a person.  It’s time we change that.

I challenge you over this week to bless people.  Bless them to know the Father.  Bless them to know the path to which they are called.  Bless them to have ears to hear His voice.  Bless them to be the person that they are created to be.  Bless them in their coming and going.

When you put your kids to bed, bless them.  Husbands, bless your wives.  Wives, bless your husbands.  Bless your co-workers.  Bless your enemies.  Bless the barista at Starbucks.

Get into a habit of blessing.  Make it a part of your being–after all, you are the Imago Dei (God’s mirror image).  It is in your DNA.  I bless you to be a blesser!

Go deeper than “God bless you.”  Ask God to tell you what He wants to say to that person through you.  And, then, say it.  Speak life over them.  Call them into their God-given destiny–into the person that God created them to be.

Over each of you, I pray the blessing (my paraphrase) that the Levites prayed over the people of Israel and that has been prayed over people for thousands of years (Numbers 6:24-26):

May the LORD bless–impart life to you so that you can walk out your God-given destiny–you.

May the LORD keep–hold you in the palm of His hand surrounding you on all sides: above, below, to the left, to the right, in front and in back–you.

May the LORD turn His face–look at you in the eyes as if you are the only one on the planet–to shine on you.

May the LORD be gracious–kind, full of mercy, abounding in love, and grace (prevenient, justifying, sanctifying) giving–to you.

May the LORD give you peace–not an absence of conflict, but Shalom (nothing missing, nothing broken).

Praying at First Presbyterian in El Paso, Texas.

Praying at First Presbyterian in El Paso, Texas.

#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.”)