(written January 2005)
T. gazed out the window at a sunny Sunday morning, the opposite shore of the Bosphorus Strait glistening in the early morning light.
However, when it was time to leave for the morning meeting the clouds had descended and were now on the ground, a strong north wind was howling down the Strait and the snow, yes, snow, was driving horizontally past the window. We bundled up in gloves, hats, scarves, coats and umbrella. The umbrella was not something T. would have normally used, but she thought it would help keep some of the snow off her.
The crunch of snow – there must have been six or seven centimetres accumulation in that short time between our earlier appreciation of the Bosphorus and our departure, was an unfamiliar experience. The good thing was there was little to no traffic – all sensible people were warm and cosy inside.
By the time we arrived at the ferry terminal my glasses where covered over in wet snow. I couldn’t see. T., with her umbrella held like a shield in front of her, was only marginally drier. My front was covered in snow from head to toe; of course, I had no snow on my back. We went to the ferry terminal to find that although there was a ferry at the quayside, the ferries were not running. Why? Due to the weather.
These great big massive ships, with the capacity to 5500 – 700 passengers were safely tucked up to the quay, draped in snow. So we moved to the next quay where the little motorboats with a capacity of 100 – 250 passengers ply the same route – these were running. I thought it strange – the large ferries were not running because of the bad weather, but the little motor boats ply on… We bought our ticket and boarded for the short hop across the Strait. The boat was not crowded, again, sensible people were still tucked up in their beds, or observing the weather from the comfort of a soft chair, gazing out of the window with a hot cup of tea in their hands.
At the Assembly we found some people there, but the foul weather was going to have an impact and the number of those who would be able to make it in, would be diminished. At first I thought that was a shame as we had a guest speaker from Scotland sharing in the morning meeting.
The meeting would be starting late, so we had a nice warm cup of tea to take the chill, that we had collected on our journey, off.
Before the meeting, many of the saints gather for prayer in the meeting room. By the end of the prayer time, we were running about half an hour later than usual. As we got up to get ready for the meeting, we saw a group of people at the back of the room – they had been there about five minutes and had waited until the prayer time was done.
A short, stout man was standing about two meters in front of the other visitors. The prayer meeting had broken up and people were scattered all around the room. The stout man began talking, his deep baritone voice filled the room. The tone was direct, forceful, not friendly and as he talked the edge in his voice became more hostile.
My Turkish impeded my understanding of all of what he was saying, but I could tell it was unpleasant and the repeated statement that he was prepared to give his life and take life made it clear that he was making a most serious threat.
He spoke. He made his statement. He made his threat. He then gathered the others, his family it transpired, and departed.
It seems he feels he is owed money from the church and he is threatening people with death if he doesn’t get what he feels he deserves.
He struck me as one who was not cohabitating in the same reality as me, as one who had lost touch with common reality and is living in a reality of his own creation – or one who has been or is being influenced by demons. Either way you cut it, not a pleasant situation.
This fellow was once part of the fellowship; once broke bread with the saints, once taught from the Word, once carried responsibilities in the fellowship. Now he is threatening people and is reportedly part of an Islamic extremist sect.
The guest speaker who shared a bit later in the morning did not know what was going to transpire on the day – But God did. The word he gave was extremely appropriate to the events of the day and drew our focus back to real Reality and He who is our Lord and why we are here.
The snow too, was a blessing, as the witnesses to the event were fewer than would have been expected had there been no snow and had his statement been made during the actual meeting. The snow was also a barrier to any visitors who would be enquiring as to what we believe being present – such a scene could have been a stumbling block to them.
There is a Spiritual Battle going on. It is serious. People have received death threats from credible sources. The Church is being shaken. But God….
But God is sovereign. But God is not taken by surprise. But God is with us “until the end of this age”. God knew the man would come, and God knew his words would have an impact. He could have stopped the man from coming, but didn’t. He prepared the guest speaker, who was completely ignorant of the man, his history and the fact that he would come and make threatening demands. And so Sovereign God encouraged us with a word from a man who was outside the situation.