Turkey, Greece, & Rome

2009 Pauline Mission Tour

Monday, 5/18/2009
We flew through the night to arrive in Istanbul on Monday the 18th at 2:30 p.m. Rather than going to the hotel, we went straight to the Sultan’s palace for a three hour tour. Everyone was exhausted but ran on adrenaline and loved it. It actually worked to our advantage to overcome jet lag by keeping everyone on their feet. After a 4-star dinner we strolled through the streets of Istanbul before settling down for a full eight hours of rest.



Tuesday, 5/19/2009
Our first full day began with a tour of the great hippodrome (originally seating 100,000), the Blue Mosque, and of course the Hagia Sophia. We were mesmerized by the architectural power, the historical significance, and the religious wealth. This church, as it stands, is 1600 years old and the site of some of the most important church councils which precede Protestants by a millennium. Many of the frescos and mosaics are 500–1000 years old, depicting biblical scenes and ancient saints. It feels as though we were looking through a vortex in time and stepping back in history. It makes one feel so small, yet so connected to a very large and rich tradition. After flying to Izmir (ancient Smyrna) at 7 p.m., eating at 10 p.m. and walking along the Aegean, we went to sleep at midnight in a plush hotel room and very happy.


Wednesday, 5/20/2009
After a wonderful night’s sleep, we walked three blocks to the church of Smyrna and read the letter of Revelation 2. This was our first visit to the seven churches. We boarded the bus for an hour and a half drive to Sardis. When we arrived we were all alone and it was extraordinary, the entire group was like children with a newly discovered playground. Cameras ran amuck. But when we read the letter within the 5th century Orthodox church shell which sits in the shadow of the entrance to this great temple of Artemis, we stood in stunned silence at the relevance of God’s living word. On to Philadelphia. It meant more to me now than ever before because Don Fankhauser’s church took their vision from this letter: An Open Door. We drove another two hours to Laodicea where I know sit. Mark Scott is teaching from the book of Colossians against the backdrop of this archaeological site. A storm is rolling in with thunder and a call to prayer provides an enchanting accompaniment to the powerful proclamation of the nature of Christ.


Thursday, 5/21/2009
We begin the day at the Hot Springs of Pammukale followed by a three hour drive to Ephesus. We are driving from Colossae, Hieropolis, and Laodicea so the tour is assigned to read those two Epistles (Colossians and Ephesians). We continue to have difficulty herding all the wandering sheep. Linda is back with the group after losing her passport in Istanbul and staying overnight to visit the embassy for a replacement. And Jara is bright eyed after her hospital visit following a terrible tumble when exiting the hot springs at our hotel. I feel like an inept shepherd but all seem to be very happy with the trip. We began our time in Ephesus with a tour of St. John church. Several stood on his tomb and Jeannine Chaney read the letter from the pulpit. Many were surprised that the baptistery was for immersion. Our tour of Ephesus was late in the day resulting in far fewer tourists. We spent five hours and got wonderful pictures. We even snapped the Curetes Street EMPTY!! It was one step away from magical. Mark and Mark gave a word of exhortation from the stage of that theater. The acoustics were perfect and the word of the Lord pierced our hearts. From there we went to Mary’s supposed house and just, for a moment, imagined that the tradition was true.


Friday, 5/22/2009
Most of our day has been spent driving (eight hours) punctuated with a tour of Thyatira, Pergamum, Asclepius, and a very nice tour of a carpet factory where four people purchased five pieces. We heard three major lectures: Tansu on Islam, Mark Moore on Traditions vs. Scripture, and Mark Scott on living where Satan has his throne. I’ve spent an additional three hours on the bus in informal teaching. As a bonus, Linda told her story and passed around bread from her new family in Istanbul, accompanied by the fresh cherries Tansu bought for us at a roadside stand. We will conclude the day with a walk along the Aegean after a 9 p.m. dinner. Our hotel is in the pine woods on the bank of the Dareanelles.


Saturday, 5/23/2009
Today we said goodbye to Tansu but only after she gave us a tour of Troy and drove us to the border, crossing to the Darenelles by ferry. We transferred buses at the border and followed the old via Egnatia on the Kavala, the lovely port city where Paul first landed. We had a magnificent five-star hotel and after dinner we went to the beach to have Mark Scott exhort us about the gospel coming to Europe. As he spoke the sun set across his face as the waves serenaded his sermon: "Be a sponge”—as "fate” would have it, a sponge had washed up on shore.


Sunday, 5/24/2009
We began our day with a short 20 minute drive from Kavala to Philippi where we toured the ruins of this Roman colony. We reveled at the three churches we saw: two sixth-century Basilicas, and the highlight of an octagonal church of 313 a.d., the very year of the edict of Milan legalizing Christianity. It was as if the underground church was growing and rumbling until it could be released by legalization like a volcanic eruption. Even this, however, was overshadowed by our own Eucharist and the prayer of the women on the island at the place where Lydia was baptized. The day was still young. We had a drive through Emphipolis and Apollonia and a tour of Thessalonica. At 9:30 p.m. we felt a minor earthquake in our hotel.



Monday, 5/25/2009
Today was FULL! We left Thessalonica at 7:45 and drove hard. Our first stop was the birth place of Alexander the great—Pella. There we saw the most magnificent mosaics I’ve ever seen in their original location, as well as the largest ancient house I’ve ever seen. We then drove to Vergina, the ancient capital of Macedonia where great leaders were buried and where the tomb of Philip of Macedon was discovered in tact! It was a well-kept secret and when the group realized where they were they gasped with delight. Our third stop was the monasteries on the cliffs of Meteora—Astounding. Many of us purchased icons manufactured in an authentic way. Our hotel was close, lovely, and much needed.


Tuesday, 5/26/2009
This was a driving day to move us from Meteora to Athens with a stop along the way at Delphi. I was taken by the size of this site and the wealth it contained. I knew little of the history and purpose of this religious and economic center. Nestled in the mountains of Greece 1½ hours north of Athens, this center for prophecy inflamed the imagination of Greeks, Jews and Christians alike.



Wednesday, 5/27/2009
Our day began with a city bus tour of Athens, delivering  us  at the Parthenon. The acropolis was more crowded than I had ever seen; even so, it is undeniably majestic. From there we descended on Mars Hill (properly the Areopagus) where I unleashed my heart concerning Paul in Athens—he was not enamored with intellect, monuments, or power. He simply preached the resurrected Christ—the single most powerful event of human history. Then we walked down the hill to the Agora where Mark Scott preached about the word of God from the speaker’s platform. It was a moment! We then released the troops for shopping until dinner, followed by a symphony in town. What a day!


Thursday, 5/28/2009
Our last day in Greece took us to Corinth and Cenchrea. Sy Huffer had his head shaved by Lynn Ragsdale and Nathan Schultz got his half done before we had to leave. Needless to say, he has worn a hat the rest of the day. Lunch was at the Agean side of the Corinth canal where a large ship passed by as we ate lunch on the water. We arrived at the airport three hours before our flight and are sitting at the gate in a daze.


Friday, 5/29/2009
Today was the Vatican in the morning and St. Peter’s in the afternoon. Need I say more?


Saturday, 5/30/2009
Our morning was a tour of the Colosseum as well as the Forum. Afterwards we went to three churches: where Paul was buried, where Paul was beheaded, and one of the Catacombs. It was thick! In the evening we walked to San Giovanni as well as the sacred stairs. It was there that I wept…hard. The sight of a hundred faithful pilgrims crawling up the steps supposedly imported by Helen in the 4th century from Jerusalem to Rome, doing penance for sins rather than seeking Jesus through the Holy Spirit in faith just undid me. I can’t put into words my anger and shame. As a cleric I share the shame of building earthly kingdoms of human grandeur and most of all I share the ugly courage of oppression of the poor. Where will I stand, like Luther, walk off the steps and revolt against the hegemonous power of the church without fragmenting her witness to the world.


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