Monday, June 8, 2009
As I returned home this evening from swimming lessons for Benjamin and Emmalee, I told my wife, Deborah, that I was already missing Istanbul and the people we had come to know. I found myself thinking about what I had been doing this time one week ago, and longing to be back there again. My wife said, "Lee, you definitely have a passion for the work you did over there." She is right. I love the city, I love the food, I love the work, and I love the people. The Lord has developed in me a passion for the Turks that is beyond my ability to fully comprehend. There is so much beauty, kindness, and generosity among the Turks. But unfortunately there is also a sense of hopelessness, darkness, and despair that comes from not having access to the way, the truth, and the life. There is a great need for many more workers to visit Central Asia and continue to sew seeds of truth that will reap an eternal harvest. Again, many thanks to everyone that supported our trip. Please feel free to ask me or any of the team members if you have any questions regarding our trip and adventures in Central Asia. Until we return to Turkey, may the Lord bless you and make His face shine upon you.
Friday, June 5, 2009
We had a good day of sightseeing, buying souvenirs, and saying goodbyes during our final day in Istanbul. We began the day in the Grand Bazaar where you can see and purchase most any kind of knick-knack, article of clothing, or souvenir you can imagine. Next, we went to the Chora Church which is located in a more remote part of the city. It is much smaller that the Hagia Sophia, but has much more of the mosaic tile work still intact. It was quite beautiful. Next, we toured a UPS facility with Chuck's new found friends, where we had coffee and water as we visited for about an hour and a half. Our hosts were once again extremely gracious and for the second day in a row shuttled us around by private car (it was much more comfortable than the bus or subway) as we toured the city. After visiting the UPS office, our driver took us to the premier bakery in all of Istanbul so that we might stock up on the best baklava in all of Turkey. Those of you that get to sample this tasty pastry won't be disappointed. Finally, we had dinner with our host and some of their friends before returning home for the evening. It was a full and satisfying day. We even had a few opportunities to give out gifts as we saw the sights.
Since time is short, I will not post pictures tonight. I'll make one final update to the blog upon my return home. Until we come home, peace be with you and goodnight.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
After sightseeing for a few hours, we had time to buy a few collectable Turkish carpets from a fine man named Mustafa. He spent quite a bit of time showing us and telling us about dozens upon dozens of authentic Turkish carpets and killams. If you ever make the trip to central Asia, find Mustafa, you'll be glad you did. Even if you don't buy one thing from him, you'll treasure meeting and getting to know one of the nicest men you'll ever meet. After a bus and a subway ride back to our hotel, we had a 5-star dining experience courtesy of Chuck's herculean efforts to meet some fellow UPS bretheren here in Turkey. The experience was more than we (including Chuck) expected and one that we will not soon forget. I hope you enjoy the pictures below. We will have one more day in this magnificent city before we make the long journey home. Until tomorrow......
This picture is actually from the day before. I snapped this picture after we spent 15-20 minutes in this pleasant gentlemen's clothing shop. Leigh bought a houndstooth shirt (remember she is a UA graduate) and he gave her a necklace as a gift. We were able to share one of our gifts with him. He was so gracious and kind as are most of the Turks we encountered as we toured the city.
This picture was taken this morning as we gathered in the largest mall in Europe. We had spent the morning touring the city, giving out gifts, and dodging rain drops. It was the only bad weather we experienced during our entire time in central Asia. Greg, Leigh, and Chuck were able to stay dry with their colorful ponchos, although as I saw them I thought that somewhere there was a giant box of 64 Crayola crayons that was missing three colors. After a good lunch and a short rest in this mall, the rain stopped and we continued our tour of the city.
This is a view of the Blue Mosque, the most visited mosque in the city. It was built by Sultan Ahmed in the early 17th century (construction began in 1609) to compete with the Hagia Sophia which is nearby. It is called the Blue Mosque because of the more than 20,000 handcrafted blue ceramic tiles that adorn the interior of this mosque.
Here we are in front of the Hagia Sophia. It was built under the orders of Emperor Justinian between 532-537 AD. It was the world's largest cathedral for nearly 1,000 years until Constantinople was conquered by Ottoman Turks and ordered to be converted to a mosque by Sultan Mehmed in 1453. It remained a mosque until by order of Mustafa Ataturk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey, it was turned into a museum in 1935.
Here Chuck is basking in the sweet glow of knowing he just became "the man." Through his UPS connections we were able to dine with the Director of UPS operations over all of Turkey. We dined at one of the finest Turkish restaurants in all of Istanbul. Our host, a man of obvious wealth, postion, and power, was inviting and a delight to get to know. Afterwards, we jokingly said that our host had enough money and power that at Chuck's request he could (with a snap of his fingers) have one us killed. Thankfully, Chuck spared our lives. I couldn't help but think that despite being mere moments away from death, I still have the joy of knowing the One who gives me life eternally. So, truth be told, I have a wealth and a power that cannot be measured by earthly standards.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I have discovered that each of our team members has different talents when it comes to engaging the people we meet. Chuck is a warrior, he is constantly thinking of the people we are meeting. Chuck keeps his (and the team's) focus in the right place, as it would be easy to become discouraged otherwise. Greg has the talent of "sneakiness." Yes, that IS a talent! Remember the MacDonald's "Hamburglar." That's what I think I'm going to call Greg for the rest of the trip. He has knack for slying getting into conversations and engaging people that would seem next to impossible to accomplish. Jessica is full of joy. Her beaming smile puts most people we encounter as ease. Jessica "disarms" those that might otherwise put up a barrier to our obviously foriegn group. Leigh's talent is boldness. She seems to be the most easy-going, quietest person in the group. But when we "tour" the city, Leigh is the first to say, "Let's go in that store," or "Let's go talk to that person over there." She shows no fear and little apprehension on the streets of this huge city. I'm not sure what my talent is, you'll have to ask the rest of the team when we return. I think I have two talents - eating and encouragement. Speaking of eating, we are headed out to dinner. I'll post more later with pictures. Until later......
I included this picture of me standing in front of the Batman Bufe (Buffet) for the sake of my older brother, Eric. He is somewhat of a Batman fanatic. I would say I have blackmail pictures of him bouncing on a hippity-hop (that was his Batmobile) in full Batman regalia from when he was a child, but he sees nothing remotely embarrassing about those photos. I wonder if Bruce Wayne has ever eaten at this establishment?
In this picture Greg, myself, and Chuck are standing guard at the old city wall that surrounded then "Constantinople" and dates back as far as the 7th century BC when the city was known as Byzantium. Many parts of the wall have been knocked down, rebuild, or fortified over the centuries as this ancient city fell under different rulers throughout the last 2,ooo+ years. This stretch of wall that we are on is still 17 kilometers long and looks as if could last another 2,000 years.
Here you see Leigh and Jessica standing at an opening in the wall that was used to shoot arrows or launch other weapons down upon invading enemies. It is hard to tell in the picture, but the opening sits on an angle which made it extremely difficult for enemies below to get anything in through the opening and kept those men on the wall extremely safe.
Monday, June 1, 2009
After having ridden on a bus, a ferry, a metro (subway), a motorboat (smaller ferry), a dolmus (kind of a cross between a taxi and a van), and having walked for miles, we have much more confidence in our ability to move about this vast city. The next several days will be exciting as we seek to plant seeds of the Truth that will hopefully yield a harvest well beyond when we leave this beautiful place. I have posted a few pictures of the days events below. I hope you enjoy the pictures a fraction as much as we enjoyed experiencing them firsthand. Until tomorrow......
This picture is actually from the day before as we strolled along the Bosphorus Strait. We were at a dock that brought passengers across the straight from the Asian side of the city. The Bosphorus Strait connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara (which eventually connects with the Mediterranean Sea).
This appearred to be a big brother playing keep away from his little brother. It seems sibling rivalry/conflict knows no cultural boundaries. Eventually these young boys' father stepped in and broke up the squabble, leading the younger boy away with a firm hold on his arm.
We shared a dolmus with this lovely mother and her young son. He was more intersted in his ice cream bar than he was in us. Can you blame him? On that note, if you ever get a chance to try a Magnum Ice Cream Bar, DO NOT PASS IT UP! I highly recommend the chocolate/caramel flavor.
These three older gentlemen were having a quiet conversation on a bench near a playground. Perhaps they had grandchildren playing nearby? Regardless, how much wisdom could be gained from a conversation with these three wise men? But do they know "the way, the truth, and the life" or do they know the account of the "three wise men" or their very own lostness? Hopefully, with time more people like this will know the One who sent us.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Chuck and Greg looking for a place to sit down and eat. Notice that Chuck has his Alabama shirt on. But what you can't see is Greg's Auburn belt. And of course I have my Troy shirt on as well. Even half way around the world we have to represent our beloved universities. Go Trojans!
Here is the rest of the team posing in a square that is popular among tourists. Among the buildings behind the team is an opera/performing arts house. Jessica was excited to see that!
We are fresh off the plane and getting ready to look for a place to get some good local food. Truth be told, we ate at a place where the food was "outstanding."
Here is part of the gang as we are getting ready to load up and make the 3+ hour drive to the airport. We are excited about leaving, but dreading being cramped on an airplane for 8-9 hours. In total (with driving, security checkpoints, waiting in lines, and flying) it took about 25-26 hours to get from door-to-door. But the temporary discomfort fades as we have our minds on making eternal differences during our trip.