On our recent journey, our itinerary connected through Istanbul several times. While considering the comings and goings, we also considered our firm belief that workers should rest from work. Jeremy and I decided to turn our last connection into a long-weekend siesta in Istanbul. We learned early in parenthood to include each family member’s preference and desires when planning a family trip. So we researched, talked to each family member, and determined a must-do list for Istanbul. You will not be surprised to learn only one place or activity was selected by all five travelers: the Hagia Sophia.
The largest cathedral in the world for 1000 years after its construction, this house of worship caught each of our imaginations and therefore was our family’s number one sightseeing priority in Istanbul. We alternately read about the history of the church and later mosque, watched YouTube tours, learned a few key Turkish phrases, told many people of our enthusiasm to see the Hagia Sophia, and listened enthusiastically when we discovered friends had visited there once, as well. The kids and I even inadvertently began a documentary which detailed the catastrophic consequences of a major earthquake to the structure!
Nineteen weeks of anticipation later, at the end of a somewhat exhausting trip through five countries, we awoke to our first full day in Istanbul and the Hagia Sophia was finally on our day’s agenda!
Now, we had already walked the streets of Sultanahmet and met numerous hawkers of carpets and sundries, so we thought we knew the game. Keep walking; decline politely because, after all, these men are people, too; do not accept the tea or the tour, it will invariably lead down an alley into a carpet shop. And on this trip, Jeremy and I were NOT in the market for carpets!
The Hagia Sophia is distinctive and large, a dominant feature of both the square on which it presides as well as all of ancient Istanbul. As we crossed the square, a man approached us.
“You cannot go to the Blue Mosque today, it is Friday. Let me…”
Jeremy interrupted, “We are going to Hagia Sophia,” and gestured vaguely at the building ahead.
“Oh well, I know a shortcut. It is just around here and you will skip the very long lines.”
Our group increased in size as we continued to move toward our destination. “I can give you a tour of the Hagia Sophia,” said another man.
Jeremy pointed at the Entrance sign, not twenty feet away, and said, “We are going THERE, we are NOT going with you!”
An additional knot of aggressive salesmen stood less than ten feet from the entrance to the ancient church. Those who were not enticing other tourists watched us, having heard at least the end of our exchange.
We bought tickets but only had to wait behind two small parties or families buying tickets ahead of us. As I went through the metal detector, I became incensed. Isn’t that just like Satan?! My family had traveled over six thousand miles, through many (admittedly minor) trials, and had anticipated the treasure we would witness for five months. We had scouted the site the evening before and also had a map to lead us to the Hagia Sophia. And yet, on the doorstep of our destination, there was one final hazard that could keep us from our goal.
Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour. His aim is to kill, to steal, to destroy. And yet, we have no cause to fear Satan. When you encounter his ways as you journey, remember them and be wary of his schemes in the future.
Be sure of your directions and destination. When you have clear direction, do not deviate without collaboration from faithful sources. If you doubt your directions at the onset, do not be afraid to wait and join the journey when you can do so with confidence. We are admonished to be wise, to plan carefully, to hear and know Jesus’s voice.
There are many hazards in the Believer’s journey and the hazards do not diminish in treachery just because the destination is in sight. One of the benefits of pastoral care is to point out potential hazards as one with no personal agenda in our client’s life. Jeremy and I are the first to admit that we continue to learn and grow as we live and minister. But as we travel, we are available for confidential consultations.
If you are a cross-cultural worker interested in hearing more about how you can Thrive Again, please contact us. Additionally if you, too, believe that no one is expendable in the kingdom of God then we welcome your financial gifts and prayers!