All joking aside, the past few days have been incredible. I wasn't able to write for the time we were in Turkey as the internet was as undependable as the running water and air conditioning. LOL. Turkey is a beautiful city! We stayed in Istanbul for 4 nights. It is a city that lies partly in Asia and partly in Europe, so it was neat to go back and forth between 2 continents over the course of a day. We visited the Haggia Sophia - THE Christian church for many years. It was later converted to a mosque, and then to a museum. That is a major trend around here. 99% of Turks are Muslim. The other 1% are Orthodox or Jews. Yet - the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church still resides there, and we were able to visit his church. I learned a great deal about Islam as we also walked through the Blue Mosque and were awoken at sunrise by calls to prayer.
I felt like a president or Oprah when we flew into and out of Ephesus on the same day. LOL. But visiting there was very special. Everything is so well preserved - the library to the theatre to the frescos and mosaics in the homes. At one point I was looking down at my feet on the marble road as I walked, and with the mix of voices all around me and the sound of excavation in the distance I felt myself transported back to the 1st century - I could picture the Ephesus Paul saw. We sat in the theatre and read Acts 19. SO cool.
We drove over the border from Turkey to Greece and will be traveling all over Greece till we settle down for a few days in Athens. Today we went to Philippi. We saw where Paul's cell may have been when the jailer asked him what he must do to be saved. I walked on a portion of the Via Ignatia where Paul carried the Good News. Later, I cooled off my feet in the river where Lydia was baptized after, "the Lord opened her heart to Paul's message" (Acts 16:14). As we sat there, we sang, "As the Deer". Jesus is LIVING WATER. He is what our hearts long and ache for. He is it. Everything.
This is experience is incredible. If you asked me what I did today - I would answer, Acts 16 - we have been to all the locations in that chapter in the last 24 hours. It is wild. Truly crazy. I am so blessed to be here. I am praying for all you back home. I miss you. Been feeling kind of homesick. It is rough being around people so often and for so long, especially when we are all drenched in sweat and sometimes kinda moody. But it has been amazing to see walls break down, and our group draw together as we experience these things in a community. I am so thankful for our professors. And for worship in community. They are both amazing.
If you think of it, please pray for our professor's wife (she is on the trip) as her father passed away yesterday, and for my sweet friend Abby who is currently asleep beside me with a migraine. As I watch these women who are hurting, yet still joyful, and think of Paul praising God while in prison, I am asking God to help me be joyful as well - always giving thanks. I also feel that I need to reach out more. The first thing Lydia did after being baptized was to invite Paul and Company into her home. And seeing the love and hospitality of our Greek friends, I want to become more loving and joyful - more like my Lord everyday. I pray that for all of you as well as myself. God bless. Love from Thesoloniki.