We toured through a castle that many of the Ottomans lived in, a jail of its own with much hatred and jealousy concealed in its walls. The hatred and deception between brothers and mothers, the distrust when one brother would rule and would have to kill all the other brothers so there was no possible way of his throne being overtaken. There was a beauty in this place, but you also knew the roots of much of it was fuelled with hatred for one another.
It was fascinating to hear about the times of the Hittites, the Babylonians and King Nebecadezer (I know that is not the right spelling :) right in the area they would have lived. The stonework of their time was incredible to see. Although I was not too sure of the ;"staff of Moses" that we saw or the "sword of David" :) but it was very interesting to see all the displays and the armor of those times in the museum here at the castle.
We also toured through St. Sophia Church which was built 1,500 years ago...amazing how that was built then...and the first 500 years it was a Christian Church, but then Islam took over and it became a mosque for the next 500 years, then there became a division and it has been a museum since. The height, the architecture, the mosaic and the paintings are all what make this church unique and absolutely stunning.
After having lunch at The Pudding Restaurant, where Bill Clinton has eaten :), we toured the Blue Mosque. Here we witnessed a people of much dedication and worship with their focus on Mecca and Mohammad with no tolerance for Christianity, a deep hatred for it actually. Much hatred and destruction has happened in the past here in the land of Turkey where Islam now rules and if one leaves this faith, their lives are at stake. The harvest here is full but the workers are very few, pray to God to send workers into the harvest to be a light and shine for Jesus, no matter what the cost. I have always been spiritually sensitive when things are not right and when Jesus is not the center of it all...and He was not the center in this place. Yes there was dedication and prayer but to whom?? Ultimately, it was a thought that left me physically ill and spiritually burdened and wanting desperately to leave the place. I saw so many precious children (and boys who were having a very special day before they were to be circumcised) with such innocent eyes and my heart was softened. Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world. Father, protect the children and as the prayers that are prayed around them that there is no other god but Allah, somehow open their hearts and the hearts of the parents to see that there is but One God, whose Name is like no Other and whose heart is full of love, compassion, peace, forgiveness, mercy and grace and desires all to come to Him through His One and Only Son Jesus Christ. This part of the tour was a sobering one but I am thankful for the eyes that I saw and the smiles I exchanged and the a couple of photos I had with a few precious women.
Once we left the Blue Mosque, we walked through a couple of extremely busy marketplaces, a spice market and a shopping area that was under the freeway where you moved with the throng of people. As much as I love people, I did become a bit claustrophobic :) but I did manage to purchase some delicious Turkey Delight was actually, a delight to eat, :) I had not expected that. I had tried some by accident in Canada one time and felt it was quite disgusting, but like anything else, when you try a food in the country it was originated in, the taste is completely different and more enjoyable. :) Yes my eyes were also drawn to the Pomegranate Tea and the scarves, which I could not pass by and purchased an...yes I did and you knew I would....an orange one. :)
I am thankful for this time in this very very busy city and for the insight and understanding I have gained. There is much beauty here, but also much lostness. I really look forward to a few days from now when I will be meeting with a pastor of a small church in the country to hear from his perspective how it is to live here as a believer in a place where the number of mosques far far far outnumber the number of churches. A country of 74 million people where only 3.5 thousand are Christians...it will be such an honor to meet this pastor. Please pray for the committed pastors here in this country.