Istanbul used to be known as Constantinople. According to Wikipedia, “Constantinople (Greek: Κωνσταντινούπολις, Constantinopolis, or Πόλις, Polis) was the capital of the Roman Empire (330-395), the Byzantine/East Roman Empire (395-1204 and 1261-1453), the Latin Empire (1204-1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922). It was officially renamed to its modern Turkish name Istanbul in 1930.”
I told you in an earlier post that the city is literally full of mosques. It is also the home to Hagia Sophia. This beautiful church, constructed by the Emperor Justinian in 537 AD is one of the most important churches in the world. It was here that so much of what we affirm as church doctrine was debated. The early church fathers wrestled with key doctrines like the deity of Christ, Christ’s divine and human wills, and creeds at this very church. It was here that the Nicene Creed was reaffirmed after many sought to discredit it. It was here that the doctrine of the Trinity was upheld.
Jenny and I had a chance to take the tram to this beautiful area of the city tonight. We stood inside the outer court of the Blue Mosque that stands across the street from the Hagia Sophia. It was constructed to show that Islam could produce a mosque more beautiful than the Hagia Sophia. It was actually modelled after Hagia Sophia, but built more than 1000 years later. It’s larger and looks more impressive on the outside, but can’t compare to the beauty of Hagia Sophia on the inside. Justinian had the architects of Hagia Sophia fill it with beautiful mosaics. It was lit by thousands of candles at night. The mosaics were of famous stories from the Bible. It’s said that when you were in the church at night, it was as if the mosaics were moving when the candle light hit them. Hagia Sophia was captured by the Ottoman Turks and Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. He ordered that it be converted into a Mosque and that the mosaics be covered up. It remained a mosque until 1935.
So, why the history lesson on Hagia Sophia tonight? Well, as I get ready for bed, (it’s 12:05 AM here), I am struck by the fact that the same God that we have prayed to all week long for mom is the God to whom men and women have been praying to from the beginning of time. We are in a country which has only 3000 known believers in it. There are 72.6 million people in this country. We’re here for a reason. Many of you have shared that in your posts. If we could bring just one person closer to Jesus (He whose divinity was upheld by church councils in this very city) through Mom’s illness that would mean the world to us. We’ve become close with many people here. From the doctors and nurses to the families of other patients that we waited with together for days in the ICU waiting rooms, from the store owners whose businesses we frequent for bottled water, to the restaurant workers we see often at our favorite places, from the hotel staff to the people we see on the Metro, God has allowed us to rub elbows with so many who need his touch. Please pray that God will give us wisdom, and that he will give us courage to stand for Him in this wonderful country, no matter how tough things may be.
We continue to praise God for Mom’s health. She continues to long to hear from you. To all of my cousins, relatives, long lost friends, and those so close to Mom, thank you for writing. She prays for each one of you as I read your comments to her. She really does love all of you. And, your comments and e-mails have been like manna from heaven for us.
In His Love,