Serving the Lord in Russia

Monday, February 27, 2012

In Istanbul, Turkey

Stephen and I had the opportunity to attend our Europe East Area Mission Presidents' Seminar last week (from February 21st to the 25th) in Istanbul, Turkey.  It was an amazing experience!  I loved Istanbul!  What a place!  We had three days of incredible training and it was such a spiritual uplift and a time to be instructed and counseled by our wonderful Area Presidency and others who work and serve so faithfully here.  I feel strengthened, encouraged, and excited to press forward.

Istanbul has so much history and we were thrilled to be able to see a few of the famous ruins and lovely places of worship from long ago.  And, of course, we had a fun time wandering around the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, trying several Turkish foods, being among the people, seeing the Marmara Sea, enjoying warmer weather than Moscow, and having the sun shine each day.   

The Marmara Sea as you head into Istanbul.

The Hagia Sophia is acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world and was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years.  The original Hagia Sophia was built on this site in the fourth centruy by Constantine the Great.  Constantine was the first Christian emperor and the founder of the city of Constantinople (now it is called Istanbul).  This church was destroyed and a second one was built by his son Constantius and the emperor Theodosius the Great.  This second church was burned down in 532.  Hagia Sophia was rebuilt in her present form between 532 and completed in 537 (1,475 years ago) under Emperor Justinian I.  It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings.  Over the years it served as a place of worship for the following:
525 - 1204  Eastern Orthodox
1204-1261  Catholic Church Cathedral
1261-1453  Eastern Orthodox
1453 - 1931  Imperial Mosque
1931 to today  Museum 

The famous Blue Mosque, constructed between 1609 and 1616, was built at the wish of Sultan Ahmet I who wanted an Islamic place of worship that would be even better than the Hagia Sophia. Its cascading domes and six minarets dominate the skyline of Istanbul.  Inside the high ceiling is lined with 20,000 handmade blue ceramic tiles and there are 260 stained-glass windows.  None of the exterior is blue but the name Blue Mosque comes from the blue tiles inside.

The men still prepare by washing before they go into the mosque to worship.

One of the great moments during the seminar was when we were invited to stand and sing "Called to Serve."  At that moment four newly arrived missionaries walked into the room - the first young Elders into the country of Turkey.  Last fall approval was finally given for Turkey to have young full-time missionaries, and it became part of the Bulgaria Mission.  Two weeks ago these four elders left Bulgaria and arrived in Istanbul to begin the process of learning the language and going out into the city to preach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  We witnessed the miracle of the Lord opening the doors to another country where missionaries are now serving.

The first four elders in the country of Turkey with their mission president and wife.

Shopping in Turkey is quite the experience - full of adventure, the unexpected, and haggling.  One of my favorite lines we heard was, "Come into my shop and let me sell you something you don't need."  The merchants here really do a song and dance trying to get you to buy their products.  Before we arrived Stephen and I had talked about getting a Turkish rug for our home and our mission was accomplished.  There are two bazaars here that are justly famous - the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar.  We had a fun experience at both.

This is one of the entrances to the Spice Bazaar which is near the Golden Horn peninsula.  You could find all sorts of Turkish foods and other goods in here.

This little shop is where I discovered the delicious Turkish Delight candy.  I bought one box but I'm afraid it won't last very long.  I should have bought 100 boxes of my new favorite treat.

This is one of the entrances to the Grand Bazaar and it is grand.  I love this place.

My new Turkish friend - the carpet man.  I've never seen so many beautiful magical carpets/rugs and I'm thrilled with what I got.

Another new Turkish friend - the scarf man. 

I didn't get this particular scarf but I did purchase a couple of beautiful scarves from him.

What a grand experience Stephen and I had in Istanbul.  We hope we can come back someday.