HEARTS RIPE FOR HARVEST: FROM NOAH’S ARARAT TO PAUL’S ANTIOCH OF PISIDIA
Ancient Ties to Biblical Stories
When people think of countries which are related to Biblical stories, Turkey isn’t usually at the top of the list. Israel, Egypt, Rome, and even Babylon may come to mind, but many people don’t realize places famous for their roles in the New Testament, like Ephesus, Laodicea, Philadelphia, Smyrna, and Tarsus, are now part of the country we know as Turkey.
But Turkey’s ties to the Bible go back even further than that. Noah’s Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, which is tucked into the eastern most tip of the nation. From there Noah’s sons spread out to re-populate the world and their heritage can be found in any history book. Take for instance Shem’s son, Asshur, who was the seed of the Assyrian Nation.
Even those who already knew Mount Ararat was in Turkey might be surprised to discover that 60% of the places mentioned in the Bible are located in Turkey, according to the Biblical Tour Guide. Even Abraham himself came from Ur of the Chaldeans, now Hurran. A list of the Turkish places listed in the Bible and the references to them goes on for several pages.
Turkey and the Church
Once you realize Turkey’s ancient ties to the Bible, especially the various mission trips made by Paul and his companions, it is not so amazing that Constantinople was one of the early centers of Christianity, rivaling Rome with its power. Today, the city called Istanbul is a very different place from the ancient Constantinople.
Hagai Sophia (Holy Wisdom), originally Constantinople’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral and an architectural wonder of the Christian faith, now hosts Muslim prayers. The country which served Noah when his family left the ark and was also the home of St. Paul’s friend Lydia, the seller of purple, is not so friendly to Christianity anymore. The Turkish government allows tourists into the mosque on Mondays, at least until the end of October, but what then?
In July of 2016, there was a failed coup by military leaders. Opinions vary as to the reason for it. Some have even claimed it was a false flag operation designed to expose those who were against the government’s policies of Islamization. Others claim an exiled cleric living in the US instigated the conflict. Whatever the reason, thousands of people were arrested after the attempt and many are still imprisoned. Of those imprisoned, many were journalists. New laws limiting the freedom of the press have been enacted, making it more difficult than ever to get a true picture of life inside the country.
Turkey is one of the many countries in The Middle East and Central Asia with access to satellite broadcasts of GHM programming. Some members of our audience there are ex-patriots from Central Asia and Middle Eastern countries. In the past, Turkey enjoyed more religious freedom, and when persecution made it impossible to remain in their home country, Christians from countries like Turkmenistan and Iran would escape to Turkey. Since the coup, life has become more difficult for these Believers, but GHM programming is there to encourage them.
Turkey is officially becoming more Islamic, but its population is still filled with people looking for hope and they share the cultural heart of our programs. Some also share heart languages with our hosts, while others speak these languages as their secondary tongue, and others just enjoy the fact that the Turkish language is so similar to those used on our programs. Whatever the reason for their access to our heart languages, they are tuning into our programs and finding the hope the official religion of their nation does not offer.
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