(written November 2005)
The miles rolled under the car with a monotonous regularity as the hours slowly ticked by. The scenery, as is so often the case in Turkey, was astonishing in its variety and beauty: forests, mountains, plains and heights.
My appreciation was somewhat dulled by the early morning, 4 o’clock start. The sight of snow, first on the high, rocky peaks and then, as we progressed further into the interior, the snow gradually moved down and closer to the road, was not welcome sight. Snow at a distance is great, but not close up! The further we drove, the higher the road went and the snow descended lower and lower until it was not too distant at all.
After nine and half hours of steady driving we arrived in the vicinity of the conference centre, down on the Mediterranean coast. Neither my travelling companion nor I had been there before and so we implemented the Turkish proverb ”sora sora Bağdat bulunur” (by asking many questions you will find Baghdad). This was in the day before the advent of devices in the car using satellite navigation, or smartphones which now also supply this function. So we slowly, asking as we went, worked our way along the coast until we finally arrived at our destination.
We had been warned beforehand that the hotel was nice, actually very nice, nicer than we would normally see the insides of. We had been assured that the selection of this hotel was the result of an extremely good off-season deal and we were not to feel uncomfortable – in spite of the surroundings, as it was actually affordable.
The hotel was indeed very nice, very nice indeed; the food abuundant, delicious and catering for most palates. The first language of the meetings was Turkish and the times of worship were all in Turkish. The worship, the atmosphere, the teaching and the fellowship was all outstanding, uplifting and encouraging.
There were workers both foreign and local from all over the country plus a number of foreigners who were involved in or interested in partnership in the Good News.
Without question, the hotel was, well fantastic. I guess I was impressed.
As I mentioned, the meetings were held in Turkish in spite of the fact that many foreigners had travelled from overseas to be part of the the consultation. This was an encouraging and heart-warming, esteeming of our Turkish brothers by giving prominence to Turkish.
The topic of the consultation was partnership between those outside the country and those inside – both local and foreign. The partnership could be in prayer, projects, personnel or funding.
As the days progressed I found myself becoming quite discouraged, bordering on depressed. Now you can argue that I should not have felt this way, and believers are not to experience this or feel this way, but it was the way I was feeling.
Partly, I suppose, it was due to the upset of my normal routine and the lack of mid-meal snacks to keep my blood-sugar somewhat balanced. When I go low blood-sugar I tend to feel depressed.
Partly, I think, it was from a feeling of competition. There were ministry displays in one room and it was here my travelling companion had set up his display for his Christian publishing house and I set up a display of the various Turkish language teaching VCDs we had produced. I guess I should explain that VCDs or Video CDs, were like a DVD but using the cheaper CDs rather than a DVD, having less capacity meant the video was of lower quality, but, at the time, this was the most widespread media for any programme to be distributed in Turkey.
It was in this room, shared with many others ministries within Turkey, that it struck me that it was as if we were all in competition for the interest and attention of the people at the consultation and by proxy, for the hearts and minds of the saints living in Turkey. It was as if each and every one of us were saying ”We have the answer for you,” or ”You need what I have to offer,” or ”I have the answer to your problem.” I am not saying that is what was happening, just that, that is how I felt at the time – as I said, “as if.”
Hence, I was feeling down. I was asking myself: “Is it all worth it?” Distribution has been the challenge for the VCD programmes that we have produced. If I join in with all the others saying ”Get my programmes, it is what you need,” I would feel like, for me, I would be part of the Great Competition rather than the Great Commission.
Then the elder from an Assembly in Istanbul, who was also at the consultation, came and asked me to join him in a meeting with a Turkish couple – I had absolutely no inkling as to why I should be included.
This couple recounted their pilgrimage from their beginning as traditional conservative folk through events culminating in the death of their son and what developed subsequently. Their story included some remarkable experiences, their efforts to try and cope with the death, to seeking answers, to reading the Bible, to travelling to a church and in the course of it all, finding faith and life and hope and fulfilment in our Lord Jesus Christ.
It was exciting, exhilarating, challenging and humbling listening to them share the path they have trod, the questions they asked, the experiences they had and how the Almighty God of all creation met and answered them.
The reason I was asked to sit in was because part of what the Lord had used in their lives was the book titled ‘Promises’ written by the elder, and part of what the Lord had used in their lives was a series of video teaching that we had produced with the elder based on the Tabernacle.
These two things were a part of their story, part of what the Lord had used to bring them to Himself, answering their questions and teaching them of the Way.
They shared that they were duplicating the VCD teaching series on the Tabernacle and giving it to people they were sharing with.
The question that had earlier occupied my mind, “Is it all worth it?” was resoundingly answered by the Grace and Goodness of our Heavenly Father, “Yes!”
He, our Father in Heaven – is using the Video programmes, He is using us, and He is distributing the programmes in ways that we have no knowledge of and no way to know.
I’ve had the joy of seeing the faces of these two saints, sharing their terribly sad story, and yet with soft smiles and a light in their eyes that seems to radiate from their faces.
The power of the Good News to turn great sorrow, great grief into a profound joy, an intense peace….