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FC: Iraq Turkey Greece | "God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose." -John Piper

1: Ancient cities, breathtaking views, lovely beaches, amazing history; that's what our trip consisted of. But the most wonderful part of all was the believers that we had the privilege of fellowshipping with. Their hunger for God and His word was so inspiring. I will never forget the look of expectation in their eyes as they listened to God's word being read and explained.

2: Our Journey begins.... | Destination; Istanbul, Turkey

3: Istanbul | We arrived in Istanbul at 7 am after a 9 hour flight. Checked into our hostel and settled in as best as we could before our first Turkish meal. | Istanbul | August 4

4: Turkish food and Turkish tea. | Needless to say we were very tired and jet lagged by the time we sat down for lunch. The Turkish tea is very strong so that is just want we needed to wake us up and get us going.

5: Aya Sofia | We toured the Aya Sofia that afternoon. It was first built in 530 AD by Christians under Roman rule, but it was later turned into a mosque by Muslims in 2600 AD. It was used as a mosque for years but now it's just a museum that is toured by hundreds of people daily.

6: Touring the city by ferry. It was a wonderful experience.

7: Our tour guide was an interesting man whose mother was Armenian and father was Turkish. He told us a lot about the city, about the difference between the old half and new half, etc. He also told us some sad facts about its religious state. There are over 2000 mosques in the city of Istanbul, about 25 Synagogues, and around 55 churches - including Greek Orthodox and Gregorian churches.

8: NIght shots of Istanbul.

10: Iraq

11: We accidentally got separated on the train on our way to the airport, and believe it or not, we ended up leaving Leroy behind in Istanbul while we flew to Erbil, Iraq. That is where we met up with Tim and Brian, so it would have been our whole team together for the first time if Lee had been there. Tim and Brian left early the next morning to go across the border to Turkey so they could renew their visas and also to meet up with Leroy, who had just bused must of the way to Iraq. They had some amazing Divine intervention in crossing the borders and things went very well for them. We praise God for answering our prayers for them. The rest of the team spent today in the town of Zakho with a small team of local workers there, some of Tim's friends. We spent a lot of time talking together and getting lots of helpful advice. After Tim, Brian, and Leroy met us here, we all got a much needed nap and then headed off to supper with some local friends of Tim's. This was a conservative Kurdish family, so it was really an experience! We spent the evening in separate rooms, one for the guys and one for the girls. It was so nice to have a local worker there to interpret for us girls.. We asked them - the Kurdish ladies - lots of questions but also has some more quiet moments. We ate a huge, generous dinner all together at about 8:30 pm. They had lots of unfamiliar foods - for example, some type of cooked grass, (It doesn't taste nearly as disgusting as it sounds :) and also some type of canned meat that tasted like a bland vienna sausage. Also, they had their traditional fresh pita bread with apricot jam and rich sheep's milk yogurt, and of course, tea. After dinner, we divided up into the separate groups again, and I noticed that we ladies felt much more comfortable with each other than when we had first arrived. We played with the kids, learned how to say more than a few Kurdish words, and looked at family photos together. Finally at about 10:15, they served us fruit - watermelon, grapes, cantaloupes, and peaches. We were informed by the local worker that when fruit is served, that means it's time to go home. We thanked them the best we could, gave them warm hugs, and piled into taxis. It was wonderful to have Leroy back with us for our debriefing back at the hotel. We all felt like we'd had a good day and learned a lot. We ended our sharing time with prayer, which, I think we all realize at this point, is very necessary. | August 5-6

12: August 8 | Since we had had church the day before, a Saturday, we decided to go hiking. It was great! We left at like 5:00 in the morning to try and make it up before the sun is really hot. There were lots and lots of huge, rocky mountains in Iraq with a range on either side of the place where we were staying, actually. Anyway, on one of these mountainsides facing the city of Dohuk, there is an Iraqi flag about 60 ft tall painted on a huge flat rock. There appeared to be a moderate climb to the flag but when we actually went to climb it, it was a really steep and hard climb. Leona ended up opting out close to the bottom but the rest of made it all the way to the top of the mountain. We took our time and Steve got a kick out of using the painted part of the rock like a slide.. He would start out maybe halfway up and slide all the way down. I didn't like that idea at all but guys will be guys I s'pose.. After we made it all the way to the top we all sat there and enjoyed the sunrise for a while.. We ended up having a good long discussion about Mohammed's life, etc. and Brian led out in a time of prayer. Before we headed back down, we had a time for prayer for the village of Dohuk. It is heartbreaking to see so many sincere people practicing a religion that CANNOT bring them to God!

13: The Climb. | We did it! | -Memory- We kept singing. "It's the climb!!"

14: Ain't about how fast I get there Ain't about what's waiting on the other side It's the climb, yeah! | It's a beautiful day, don't let it get away.

15: We made it! | Going down was actually harder then going up.

16: A Smile As Sweet As Spring | I will never

17: forget you.

18: Anwar is a baby Christian who received first New Testament in his own language - a dialect of Kurdish called Behdini - only one week ago from when we were there. He doesn't even have the whole Bible available in his own language! We saw God's Spirit there, speaking truth, raining on thirsty ground. This is beyond exciting! ..My heart ACHES to be able to help them in some way. To explain our activities of the day, we arrived at the village of Derishke about 2 pm and were given a warm welcome by brother Anwar and his family. Anwar is a believer with a Muslim background and his family are very much alone here in the mountain village. Our reason for spending time there is to do our best to encourage him and his family in any way we can. He has a good sized family and the kids are very well behaved.. We had a lot of fun together with balloons and silly bands. =) Anwar knows a minimal amount of English but we also have Pastor Bahzad here from Dohuk as an interpreter. (Dohuk is the city where Shivan and Esther live.) | August 9

19: Anwar's Family

21: Dear God, Thank you for making something so beautiful.

22: The next morning was a little quiet. We girls sat down with the kids and taught them a song called "Bind Us Together" with a clapping sequence a little like the old fashioned "Peace Porridge Hot." This one is really neat though because you sit in a circle and can add as many people as want to join, so the words of the song fit perfectly. =) Even the little girls, who don't speak English, were singing along with us, "Bind us together, Lord, bind us together in love.." It is without doubt my favorite memory from the trip! The best part was that I think they enjoyed it every bit as much as we did! | August 10

23: That afternoon we went on a picnic at the river with the whole family. =) It was a lot of fun.. They took frozen chicken and grilled it on skewers over the little campfire. We had some good discussions and learned more Kurdish words. Something that is a little bit of a trial to me is the culture here concerning food. Don't get me wrong, I like food, but the way they look at it makes things a little uncomfortable for me. Laughs.. Seriously though, being at the village is interesting because they serve 3 large meals daily. The first one may be at 9 to 10 am, the second one from 1 to 4 pm, and the third one from 8 to 10 pm. These people are generous to a fault , the extreme opposite of stingy. They always have lots of flat bread, olives, and tea, but the main course may vary. It seems they serve watermelon at the end of every meal. BTW, keep in mind that they have not only a normal sized portion of food in each serving dish, but they pile it on! You may eat twice as much in a meal as you normally would and they say, "Why have you not eaten anything. Do you not like our food?" If you decline, you are telling them you don't like their food, and they offer to make other food if you would like something else better. Your only other option is to eat more and smile really big and keep doing a thumbs up sign so they know you like it! =) | We stayed around for quite awhile that afternoon. Honestly at first I was getting annoyed at how they just stuck around and didn't really seem to want to go, but I realized that that's just the way their culture operates, and I just needed to except that. And as soon as I did I found myself having a wonderful time. The girls had such a blast bringing Claire and I all sorts of things to eat from the woods around us. Grapes, peaches, nuts, some weird tiny, sour, fuzzy balls. It was quite interesting. I have to say that I loved it! And the girls were the sweetest. I loved getting to know them! It was so special.

24: ...just hanging out. Laundry, computer time, journaling... | Tim trying to get the fan going. | We washed laundry by hand a couple of times. It was a new experience for me but I liked it. | That is me trying to get a stain our of my shirt by boiling didn't work. : ( | August 11

25: Our amazing team!

26: Tim sent us on a venture of our own. We went by taxi - with no interpreter - to an Armenian village called Havrez. There were a few people there who spoke some English, so that helped with communication. This village was first started in 1923. There had been a mass genocide of Armenian people in Turkey in 1915, and it is estimated that there were between one and one and a half million Armenians killed. This has been the second most studied case of genocide since the holocaust, although the Turkish government will not acknowledge to this day that it ever happened. Anyway, back to the village. It was first founded in 1923 by people who by some miracle, escaped the genocide. As if that weren't enough of a history for Havrez, it was in 1985 that Saddam came through with his troops and destroyed houses and simply loaded up people and dropped them off in the mountains. The one guy I talked with described to me how he cried that day, as a 5 yr old. He was called out of school and he saw with his own eyes his family's house being burned. He remembers being herded onto trucks and being sent away... heartbreaking! The village is still being rebuilt today, and they eagerly showed us the new church they are constructing. We found out the Armenians are very proud of their Christian heritage, but they are very influenced by Catholic traditions. There are a few men there in the village of Havrez tho, whom Salim believes are very close to becoming true believers. We were given a thorough tour of the village, complete with them giving us samples of their own special Armenian flat bread and allowing us to play a game of volleyball with some high school kids at the school. Overall we really enjoyed it and the best part is, I think they enjoyed it every bit as much as we did!

27: Us girls with our interpreter | This is the family that we went to visit. They weren't believers but he was seeking.

28: On Wed, two days earlier, Tim was able to get us an appointment with a Yazidi Cultural Center. We were able to meet with a board of directors and have tea with them. They had an interpreter there, so we were able to ask questions and get a lot of info. Yazidies are a religious group who believe in One God and seven holy angels. They believe both good and evil are from one source, God, and yet they worship the angel, Tawoos Malak, who in other religions is known as the devil. Yazidies differ from a lot of other religions in that they do not accept conversion from or to other religions. They are a mystical, meditative religion. They don't have a holy book, only ancient texts from "inspired" poets. They do not believe that the spirit of man dies, but that we move from body to body till we reach a certain stage and our spirit transforms itself into God's self. They offered that one of them would go with us to their temple in Lalish on Friday if we would like. So we went to the Lalish Temple. This is their city, kind of like Mecca is to Muslims. It was an extremely interesting experience. There was kind of a complex of buildings around the temple, and since Friday is a big day for Yazidies, there were lots and lots of people there! We had a tour guide who spoke English fairly well, so he took us through the Temple and did his best to explain things to us. He is a Yazidi himself, so he did his very best to impress us. =) He assumed without asking us that we wanted to have our photo taken with every "holy man" there. That actually got really old! He also took us to meet his family, who was camped out on a rooftop with many other families. They welcomed us warmly and served us ice cold drinks. It appeared they were every bit as much or more interested in us as we were in them! They kept snapping pictures of us and attempting to talk with us. At first, we wondered what was their motive for trying so hard to impress us. This was more than just a warm hospitality. We knew they didn't accept converts, so what could be their motive?! By the end of the trip, we decided that it was about awareness. They told us to go home to America and tell all our friends about them. They want more rights, etc. They would like to be recognized as a people group or a culture rather than a religion. They asked Tim some questions about what we learned while having been there and recorded his answers. It got almost overwhelming, but I think it was a very good and educational experience for us all. | August 13

30: Pastor Bahzad took us to visit some more of his friends in the evening, a family with eleven kids! We had a wonderful time connecting with the kids and also hearing their story as a family. Bahzad makes a wonderful interpreter most of the time and he has a really good sense of humor that makes potentially awkward situations into funny moments. =) The mother and father of this large family both looked fairly young, too young to have that many children, to be sure! They were on fire for the Lord though, that was refreshing to see! They have a Muslim background and have a wonderful testimony! They have been through a lot tho with having a few of their children die in the space of one year. A few of us girls couldn't hold back the tears as we hear their story.

32: Turkey | August 14 | First stop-->>> | Back to -- | ->

33: Diyarbakir, Turkey | We arrived in the evening as tired, hungry, travelers at the church Tim had visited on previous trip. We were given a warm welcome by a few people here at the church, one of whom is a 26 yr old girl (Suzan) Tim's last team had really connected with. She knows English pretty well, so we were able to find out a lot of interesting things about her. Her father is an atheist and her mother a Muslim. We were able to hear her story over the time we were there. She has a strong personality, is very sweet, and has a wonderful sense of humor!

34: We had a really meaningful prayer and worship time the next morning, which was nice because we went to the church service here later on, which was all in Turkish. Suzan interpreted for us part time, so that helped. This afternoon, a few of us got naps and the rest of us did our best to have conversations with someone or other who spoke English. Lee and Steve went with the youth group from the church here. There is a man here from El Salvador who speaks some English, so tonight he and Suzan went with us girls and Brian out in the city. This is an ancient city, built about the 13th century BC, with walls surrounding the older part of the city. It is absolutely packed with history. You can almost feel it as you walk the city. It almost seems like Jesus could come walking around the next corner in a robe and sandals at any given minute. Anyway, we went up on the wall and walked a while. It was amazing, with a soft breeze. (Albeit a hot one!) We took a lot of fun pictures and had some good conversations. We ended up stopping for tea later at an amazing place! The entrance of this place from the street looked like it would be underground because it went directly into the wall and there were steps descending into the main area. After you walked down the steps, tho, there was a circular courtyard in the center with a water fountain.. There were worn stone stairs leading to a second story balcony that went the whole around the circle.. We found a table up on the balcony and enjoyed some famous Turkish tea and a lot of laughs.. Good memories! | August 15

36: August 16

37: Bus ride..... | next stop ---> Urfa. | The coffee they served us on the bus was a treat!

38: "Wherever you go, go with all your heart." ~Confucius | Urfa

39: Our hotel was beautiful.The front door from the street opened directly into an open courtyard. The style reminded me of Europe, there was a water fountain, cupola with climbing grapevines, old stone artifacts, marble staircases, and moonlit balconies.

40: Writing Contest! | ....then Steve... | First I won.. | Tim decided that we needed to get more involved so he told us that we would have a writing contest. We all had to write our experiences, what we did, what went through our minds ect. of our time in Diyabarkir. Then later Jo read all of them and we rated them on a scale of 1 to 5, then added up the points. Whomever had the most points won. It was quite funny actually. Tim added up the points wrong so there was a bit of a mix up here's how it worked.... | Lee's artwork ---->

41: ...then finally Claire! | The true winner!! | But of course we are all winners. :)

42: We toured a very interesting castle - or the remains thereof - overlooking the city of Urfa. Beside the castle, there was a huge fish pond and rose garden, restaurants and also a mosque. There is so much history attached to many places in this city! The reason the mosque was built there is because according to the Muslims, it is the birthplace of Abraham. There is also a legend - a huge jumbled up tale - about Abraham having had a fight with King Nimrod there. There is something about Abraham being thrown out with a huge catapult but, because God loved Abraham, He caused a pond to appear, breaking Abraham's fall and saving his life. Strange but interesting! One thing that amazes me is the way the people build on traditions and legends!Jesus has done for them. | August 17

43: We met with a Korean worker here in Urfa. She is an older single lady who has lived in Korea, Germany, and Turkey. She has battled cancer, braved being on her own, and still she has been in Turkey as a worker for 26 years. This lady has an amazing testimony of being called and of living out that call.

44: Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.

45: "Send me Lord.." | Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

46: next stop -----> Cappadocia | We took the night bus to Cappadocia and "slept" on the bus. Some of us slept better than others, and even though we had a guided tour of the area the next day, there were more than a few sleepy eyes and nodding heads. That area is an amazing natural wonder! I had heard of Cappadocia but I never had even close to an idea of the amazing history and scenery this place holds! There are hundreds of cone shaped rock formations in these valleys. Most of them are hollowed out on the inside and being used for homes, giving one the impression of wood gnomes being their tiny inhabitants. We saw many, many of these homes, complete with painted red trim, outdoor flower gardens, and windows with decorative bars over them. The one thing that kind of messed up the gnome idea though, were the occasional cars parked beside the homes.

48: The view was much too beautiful.

49: Cappadocia

50: Ice cream break. (:

52: 16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." | Matthew 28:16-20

53: .......touring an underground city.

54: Ephesus | Next stop ------->

58: Samos, Greece | Next stop------->

59: One day in Greece. I would have to say that it was the most relaxing and unwinding day w had on the trip. The ferry ride over to the island was lovely. It was the prefect amount of time. It was so refreshing to stand on the bottom deck and feel the wind in your face and sometime is occasional splash of water. When we got to Samos we had to wait in line for what seemed like forever, but Tim, having gotten in line before us was nice enough to buy us a couple of fraps and hand them over the fance while we were waiting. :) In the heat it was just what we needed. We found this lovely stony beach right after we got there. The brightly colored rocks and warm, perfect for wading, water made it so that is where we spend our first hour. Collecting rocks, or just sitting on the edge and watching the waves come in...after a little bit I wondered further done the beach and found a perfect rock to sit on with the best view. So there I sat and prayed. It was nice to get a moment to reflect on God's greatness and also remember how small I am in relation to everything else. A song came to mind as I watched the waves rising and falling and sometimes come up and touch the edge of my skirt and also as I felt splashes here and there, it was "God's love is like an's waves are reaching me." I needed that. I love being reminded of God's love every once in a while. The rest of the afternoon was mostly just browsing thru the shops along the steet and meeting up for lunch followed by more shopping. We ended our time there the same as we started, the stony beach. Life just seemed alittle bit brighter when I was watching the waves roll in and as I heard the lulling sound of their acention and decention. There are some pretty amazing things in life but nothing better then the ocean and all of it's wonders. Nothing too exciting happened but it was so good. On the way home we did have some exciting moments. We all had a blast being tossed back and forth by the bostious sea. It was way more choppy then it had been on the way over. So if we were on the bottom deck we were for sure gonna get wet and we were lucky we might even get soaked, Lee was one of the lucky ones. It was pretty great. :)

63: On the way back to Turkey we did have some exciting moments. We all had a blast being tossed back and forth by the boisterous sea. It was way more choppy then it had been on the way over. So if we were on the bottom deck we were for sure gonna get wet and we were lucky we might even get soaked, Lee was one of the lucky ones. :)

64: Our last dinner together before we flew home the next morning... | It was a good night. :)

65: ....and one more Turkish breakfast before leaving for the airport.

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