Land of signs and wonders
Before we knew it, it was the 3rd of October 1997 and Magda and the group of intercessors departed for Istanbul, Turkey. Their itinerary included many of the places I visited in 1995. Their primary focus were to go and "pray with insight on site". They were also each given a few Turkish New Testaments to distribute on their way.
Before her departure our pastor told Magda to go and see where God is at work in Turkey. Being a 99,9% Muslim country, Magda did not expect to find God at work in Turkey. From what I told her and according to all the information at our disposal Turkey was a spiritually dark place with very little Christian witness.
Although it was a great experience to visit some of the places where Paul and other apostles lived and worked, it was the spiritual climate in some of these places that made the biggest impression on her.
From scripture (2 Tim 3:11-15) we know that Iconium (Konya today) was one of the cities where Paul was persecuted and attacked. During their stay in Konya, Magda stood at the window of the hotel room overlooking a Turquoise Citadel in the distance. She was overwhelmed by sadness for no apparent reason and cried and prayed for the city and its people. The next morning she saw a post card of the Turquoise Citadel describing it as the main training center for Imams in Turkey.
After a few days of visiting archaeological sites with only stones left where the church was gathering before, she started to talk with God. She was looking for evidence that He was at work in Turkey but could find nothing but the ruined remains of church buildings from the distant past.
They were nearing the end of their journey and they were in Selchuk near the excavations at Ephesus. That night she had a dream. In the dream she saw a bald headed man telling her about persecution and how difficult it was to be a Christian in Turkey. When she woke up she could remember the dream clearly. She was upset by the dream and shared it with the leader of the group. He listened and asked her to describe the man in her dream. He smiled and told her to be observant because they will be visiting interesting places and people.
Their first stop was at the Tyrannus Bible School outside Selchuk. When they were introduced to the director of the Bible School, Magda could not belief her eyes. It was the man from her dream! But, he did not share anything about persecution. This left her curious and puzzled.
They went for a stroll through the streets of Selchuk. At one point Magda saw a book displayed in the window of a Bookshop. Upon closer observation she saw that in was a Turkish Bible! This was strange because the Turkish Bible was seldom publicly displayed. The group leader promised to return to the place the next morning to see if there were other Christian material on sale.
The next day they met with the Turkish owner of the bookshop. He told them that it was a "Cake Shop" but that a group of Korean believers prayed on site asking God to change it into a Christian Bookshop. Eight years later he became the owner of the "Cake Shop", turned Book shop. He took them down into an underground room and there he shared his testimony of becoming a Christian, persecution and the difficulties of being a Christian in Turkey. It was as if Magda was seeing her dream played out in front of her eyes! God was at work in Turkey!
On their way back to Istanbul they travelled by bus and stopped late one night for a short break at a service station. It was near Smirna (Izmir today). All around that region, Artemis is remembered as the Goddess of fertility and Paul preached against the practices of sexual immorality surrounding the temple of Artemis. Whilst Magda was sipping on a cup of coffee she look up into the eyes of a Turkish man sitting across the room. The look of lust in his eyes was a harsh reminder that the spirit of immorality was still prevalent in that region.
They arrived in Istanbul in a rain storm and by the time they reached their hotel they were all soaking wet. They decided that they will all go to the Turkish bath as a last activity before their departure. It was an unforgettable experience. Upon arrival they were greeted by a Turkish lady built like a wrestler. She showed them to strip down and to cover themselves with a towel. They were then taken to the wash room where they laid down on warm marble slabs. The Turkish lady came and scrubbed them with soap and a sponge. It felt like a heavy-handed massage!
Magda was all along aware of the fact that we were considering Turkey as a destination to serve as missionaries. She considered life in Turkey as a mother with two young children and she was not impressed with the prospects. She did however decided that she will be obedient if God would make it clear to me that we should still move to Turkey in the future.