On Wednesday night when we arrived in Cappadokia (Turkish spelling of Cappadocia) we traveled immediately to a caravanserai (these are large enclosed buildings built in the 13th century for camel drivers and their camels as they carried goods from China to Europe along the Silk Road. It is like a very large pony express hotel). The whirling dervish is a religious ceremony of the Sufis (a mystical sect of Islam). Because this was worship for them and not a performance, there was no clapping and no pictures until the end. It was a moving experience for us.
Thursday, September 5 was a long but one of our most anticipated days of the sabbatical. It some sense, we saved the best for last! We were awake and on the bus for a short ride an hour before sunrise to experience the Cappadokia hot air balloon ride. What makes this balloon ride the most famous balloon ride in the world is because of the fairy chimneys and the limestone hills that have been dug out and served as homes, churches and monasteries for over 1000 years. With over 150 hot air balloons filling the air with all their colors, it was a fantastic way to start the day. It was one great hour of this trip! Wow.
Our next stop was touring four monasteries and churches dug into the limestone. The walls were painted with frescos that told the story of Jesus over the last millennium surrounding the monks with a constant reminder of the gospel as well as telling the story of Jesus for people who came to worship and were illiterate. In a near by community we toured an underground city carved into the limestone so the whole Christian community could use these spaces to hide from invading forces.
We ended the day by visiting a huge Turkish rug cooperative with thousands of wool, cotton and silk rugs on display and for sale. The demonstration of rug making as well as the presentation of rugs was well done. Yes, we helped the Turkish economy ☹ 😊! Finally, when we were so ready to head back to our hotel room, we stopped at a Turkish pottery shop. Again, a great presentation with a man using a foot-powered pottery wheel and making an ancient styled wine decanter while they served us home made wine. We escaped with no more damage to our almost empty pocket book at this point in the journey 😊!
Friday was a long day of bus time as we made our way to the capital of Turkey. The Hittite museum (the Hittites lived and ruled a large part of Turkey from the 18-13th centuries BC) which had a surprisingly great amount of pottery, tools, and jewelry on display. The Hittites were eventually replaced by the Phrygians who ruled in this area from the 12th-7 centuries BC. Their last and most famous king was King Midas with the golden touch! I was pleasantly surprised. At the end of the day we stopped at the Turkish equivalent of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. It was a mausoleum for the first president and reformer of the modern republic of Turkey, President Ataturk.
Our last full day overseas (September 7) began as we traveled for 7 hours back to Istanbul. Our high point on this day was our boat trip on the Bosporus. This waterway connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. It also serves as a marker which divides Europe from Asia. It was a great way to relax with our 34 new acquaintances from around the world. At night we ate our last meal together. We were blessed to share this trip together.
It is time to fly home, see our family again and write up the final report and send in all our receipts. Thank you Lilly Endowment for funding this sabbatical. Thank you Grace Church for supporting us being away these three months. We really feel blessed to know of your support of our ministry with and among you! Most of all, thank you God for your unending love and mercy we have felt so many times on this journey. We are excited to return home again!