A few facts that our tour guide gave us as we left the city of Istanbul to head out into the country are these: there are more than 11,000 different kinds of plants growing in Turkey. The vegetation is truly lovely and the flowers at this time of the year are lovely! All of the young men have to go through military service for 6-12 months after graduation. In 2013 Turkey has 31 million tourists, and were #6 in the world, Istanbul had about 9 million alone. It is crazy how many tourists are here and how our bus drivers get us around and the places they have to squeeze into...I am so glad they are driving!! :) Another side note...we may have old things out in Canada, but none of our old dated sites can compare the the old sites and the history out here in the Middle East and in the Holy Land. There is old stuff here!!! :) Our guide also mentioned that there were 2,900 mosques in Istanbul alone, but 81,000 in all of Turkey; only 157 active churches which are only Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox and 19 active Jewish synagogues; there are no Protestant Churches in Turkey, only house churches where people meet in their homes. Our guide also felt that there is no persecution in Turkey which not everyone agrees with. Parents do not want any of their family members to change their religion, they believe strongly in the religion of Islam and do not want anyone turning away from it. I guess in that sense that is the same as Christianity...we want no one to turn away from the One True God who gave His One and Only Son to die for our sins so that we may have the gift of salvation and eternal life. You see the Devil copies absolutely everything that God has done and so Islam has done exactly that. They hold Allah and Muhammad up as high, if not higher, than God and Jesus. They uphold the God of Abraham and Ishmael, whereas the Jews uphold the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. Things went all wonky with Ishmael and Isaac and the division that has risen between them is very strong today. I could write a whole post about the differences and similarities between those two brothers and how it relates to Islam and Christianity and how the Devil is using it all today....but I do not have time for that. :) Google it. :) Again, I am thankful for our time in Istanbul and event though I knew it before, seeing it with my own eyes just clarified it much more for me....Jesus is not present in any mosque, only Mohammad and Mecca is their focus, not the God of the Universe and Jesus His Son.
We took a two hour drive out to the country and the photo of the map I posted shows our route. It is beautiful! We stopped at a lovely place for lunch which was close to the land of Troas. It is good to try the different foods here and pray over it before eating so that it settles well in our tummies and gives us energy for the day. :) The people truly are super friendly and have a smile on their face. They are a beautfiul people and we need to continue to pray earnestly for their souls to be saved. Jesus came to save all....every race, every nation, every person...and He desires no one to perish. Love wins. Not hatred and control. Love. As the disciples said long ago, they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they will know we are Christians by our love....are you singing the song now? :)
After our lunch stop and having a potty break in very clean and well kept washrooms....which we love :) we continued our drive to the waters edge to be taken over by a ferry to the other side. Take a look on our map to see where we crossed over. I love the water and being on it. I am looking forward to experiencing being on the sea in a cruise ship....it will be a wee bit different than being on Memorial Lake in my little boat. :) Being on the ferry was a nice taste of it...I love the sun on my face and the wind in my hair and the sound of the water rushing alongside the ferry as it pushes its way to the other side. Truly blissful indeed! :)
Our drive was a couple more hours before we reached the old city of Troy. Fascinating stuff. And yes, I got to climb up into the Trojan Horse! :) They had a couple of young people in costumes to give us a taste of how it was so long ago....I could sure see my handsome hubby in that getup :) Ooooh-la-lah! <3 :) Of course the saddest part of it all is the pagan rituals and worship that is surrounded by it all and seeing the places where girls/children were sacrificed to the different gods always pulls at my heart with much sorrow. That is one thing about God...He does not require sacrifices and rituals to prove that we are following Him, yes of course the sacrifice of our lives in serving Him and not living for ourselves, but never ever the sacrifice of a human body through the fire or in hatred or through death just for sport. What was done in times gone by, and also in the name of a god or in the name of Christianity at times is horrific. Those are never Gods ways. Ever.
It was a long day of driving and the sun was hot today. We were up early and are getting to our hotel late today. Another long day is ahead of us....but I could not let that stop me from taking photos of the incredible buffet that was displayed before us at supper.....or watching the sunset and walking down by the waters edge to allow the peace of God to settle on me before I closed myself up in my room for the night. It was a blessed day in a different way.....now let us see if I can sleep with the much longed for anticipation of walking through the 7 Churches of Revelation over the next 4 days. God is good and He has gone before us....and He has hand chosen each one of us on this tour....it is wonderful to be together and to meet new people and to learn so much from others....He always has so much to teach us....and I love how He always brings people together from all different backgrounds and churches to study His Word together and walk alongside each other. Be blessed my friends!!