THE GIFT OF GOD
shs.Amy Stasinos Chicago UBF
“…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Merhaba! Praise and thank God for his glorious work through the first Bible conference in our Turkey! Our God surely blessed our conference from the beginning to the end. I am so thankful for the opportunity to attend this conference and can only thank and praise God from the bottom of my heart.
First, Our Turkey
Shepherd Adam Kramarczyk and I arrived in our Turkey to the greeting of Msn. V.P. and Dr. Peter Kim. We prayed that the name of Jesus might be above all names in Turkey and we kissed the ground there in the airport. As we traveled to Msn V.P’s flat, the land was very spacious and full of houses and buildings. There are 75 million people in Turkey with 20 million in Istanbul alone. Istanbul is in both the continent of Europe and Asia. From Bosphorus University one can see both sides of the city and the connection of only two bridges. The thing that stood out the most was the amount of mosques throughout the land. In America we can always tell the churches by their steeples, but in Turkey, the mosques are recognized by their domed roof and the minarets. Most mosques had 1-2 minarets and they had bullhorns on the outside to announce the time of prayer throughout the day.
Two blocks from Msn V.P’s home there was a mosque and one could hear the cry to prayer five times a day. In order to get to Msn V.P’s home, we had to travel down a narrow and steep hill. He shared that the sisters would climb this hill at least two times a day to go to the Bible House and then to campus. It was great diet training and exercise for us! We had a delicious lunch of red lentil soup which is similar to what Esau sold his birthright for. His home was located on the sixth floor, we climbed the spiral staircase into his spacious new flat. God provided the best place for their family. The first place they lived they lost because the landlord was scared because they were Christians and had people coming in and out and they sang too joyfully. But this new flat was very spacious with a large kitchen, living room area that was converted into the worship service area, a closed in balcony that could also be used for storage, two bedrooms, a large bathroom and a small room for the European style toilet. They had a beautiful view of the city. God even provided them this new flat at the same price as the previous place and the landlord did not live in the building. This allowed them to be freer in worship but they still needed to be careful since they were on the top floor and there were five Muslim families living in the building.
Here I want to share a little about Msn V.P and R. Due to the living situation of trying to find a new place to live they had been separated for the past four months. Rebekah first arrived with our Ukrainian coworkers and saw the flat for the first time. They thought that their family would only be separated for 2 weeks but it took 4 months. Msn VP and brother Nikolay had lived above the internet caf? during that time of separation and grew as good coworkers. Msn VP shared that initially he thought Turkey was strange with no heat and crazy drivers. But then he fell in love with Turkey and saw that the people were simple and beautiful. He also shared that the church in Turkey had not grown in the last 20 years—as people joined, the same number left the church. It has been stagnant, but God has great hope for our Turkey! Msn VP said that we should call it our Turkey because we should love this country with all our hear and pray for our Turkey to be a kingdom of priests!
I also had a chance to talk and pray with Msn R. She shared that she had a difficult time to accept VP’s prayer and direction to go to Turkey at first. She would often cry and even thought that Msn VP did not need her because he could do everything because he is so able and can help sheep find their life problems and overcome. But God has completely changed her heart over the year, especially over the past four months. She accepted Turkey as their mission field and prays to serve the flock of God, VP and her daughters as Jesus loved and served her.
God has blessed their family and has provided for all their needs. Msn VP was able to find a job teaching English. Not only did God use this to improve his English and provide for his family, but it helped him to serve Bosphorus University students who spoke Turkish and English. And the week of the conference we learned that Msn. VP was accepted into the English education program. God has answered our prayers—it was almost impossible but God provided a way that he was only one of five foreigners chosen for the program. Because he was accepted, he could have permanent residency while in school. HE said that he would study poorly so that he could remain on campus longer—like 8 years like S. Adam.
Second, The conference
The day S. Adam and I arrived we left that evening for Cappadocia, an 11 hour bus ride southeast of Istanbul, on the Asian side of Turkey called Anatolia. Cappadocia has a few small towns and houses scattered throughout the land. It had many different rock formations throughout which were a result of 3 different volcanoes that erupted at different times in their history.
We had 27 attend the conference: 15 from Kiev, 1 from Kharkov, 2 from US, and 9 from Turkey. From Turkey we had Msn VP and R, brother Nikolay and sister Hande, Minal, who was a self-professed atheist, Yilmaz and Necat who are a part of the Turkish church, and Ira, who used to study with Msn Maria Peace in Ukraine and her Muslim husband Ocon. Sister Dilek was not able to come because when she went home, her Muslim parents refused to let her go back to Bosphorus. They were even considering sending her to another university so she would not be influenced by the church any longer. We prayed for her to overcome her fear and follow Jesus alone, even if it meant forsaking all for the cross of Jesus.
On Saturday, the first day of the conference we checked into our hotel called Otel Kral—which was beautiful, like a king’s residence. We had a wonderful breakfast of loives, feta, bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, cherry and strawberry preserves and chocolate spread.
Then we went sight seeing on our way to hear our first message. The land was dry but full of many beautiful rock formations. We saw the famous fairy chimneys that had the father, mother with child, and the grandparents. We also saw rock formations that look like a camel, rabbit, the Virgin Mary and Napoleon’s hat. Then we went to visit a church that was cut into the rock. When we climbed inside we sang the Lord’s prayer, it was wonderful. Then we saw a village that was cut into the rock. There was a mosque dug along with homes that had a living room area, winery, and bedrooms. There were also tombs cut into the rock. It was steep and dangerous, with many narrow paths and air ventilation shafts cut into the ground. I could not imagine living there and trying to raise a family.
We then went to a castle—high up on a mountain top to have our first message. It was absolutely breathtaking. We could see all of Cappadocia below us and it was there that we sang praises to Jesus and Nikolay shared his message on 1Peter 1:1-9, The Living Hope. It took on a whole new meaning as we were in Cappadocia, one of the regions Peter was writing to in his letter to the scattered church. While we were singing we drew a crowd of curious onlookers. I was able to talk to two of them with the help of Yilmaz and pray with them and 2 others. The first, I did not catch her name, was an older woman whose heart was opened through our singing. When I prayed for her, her daughter Oficer was moved and asked that I pray for her and Yilmaz translated. It was beautiful. Then one other couple, Norgid and Alnor were listening in and left before Nikolay was finished, but I prayed for them to meet Jesus and be missionaries to their own families and people, and God will surely raise up our Turkey to be a kingdom of priests.
In Nikolay’s message we learned about Yasayan Umut—living hope. We learned that we need to get rid of our dead hopes in this world and have our living hope in Jesus alone. And we should experience real joy because our sins are forgiven in Jesus and our salvation is protected for us in heaven, so there is no need to fear or be anxious. Nikolay shared that he used to be a man without joy, hardly smiling and playing with others. He also use to be on antidepressants, but Jesus entered into his heart and now he was a man with joy in his life and had no need for antidepressants. He prays to live and serve others with thanks to God! We prayed that our Turkey may be a kingdom of priests and a source of blessing for all the world when we have living hope.
Next we went back to the hotel and had the rest of our evening program. S. Adam Kramarczyk delivered the message on 1Peter 4:12-19, Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ. S. Adam has grown into a clear messenger. He learned that day before we left that his message changed and as we left for Turkey he had not written the message. But on the plane and bus ride he wrote a clear and pointful message. God will surely raise him as a messenger of his word—even for our next international conference. He shared about the sufferings of Christ—he was blamed, had to deal with arrogant people, denial and even separation from God. And Peter wrote to the early Christians and to us that we must rejoice that we participate in the sufferings of Christ. Why rejoice? It is because ultimately Jesus has the final victory and when we suffer we bear the name of Jesus. Turkey has been disowned and ridiculed especially now that it is a Muslim nation. But we pray that God may restore Our Turkey as a Christian nation. And we may commit ourselves to our faithful creator and continue to do good and share the name of Jesus into all nations.
Later that evening we had our world mission night—four from Kiev shared their life testimonies: Marie Mazan, Olena Chuse who is Msn Maria Peace’s student and is praying to go to Turkey as a missionary, Maria Joy shared her testimony and prayer to go to Boshorus University next year, and Andrew Shpagin. Blessing Hande from Turkey shared her testimony. She was blind from birth and has a Muslim background. She shared how she accepted John 9:1-12 kv3 that her blindness is not from anyone’s sin, but so that the work of God might be displayed in her life. She prays to serve God with all that she has and share love with others. Also she prays to use her beautiful singing voice to bring glory to God. I thank God that I was also able to share my testimony. There was a drama from the Kiev team about the early Christians—one Christian who repents of fear and dead hopes in this world and one nonbeliever who accepted Jesus. Msn Maria Peace prepared a great musical drama. That night we prayed for Sister Dilek to overcome fear and follow Jesus alone. We also prayed to repent of our hatred, complaining, pride, love of money and convenience and to know Jesus more and love one soul to the end.
That night I thank God for the opportunity to work with Msn Jacob Vladimir who pioneered Kharkov on his message on Romans 6 and English pronunciation. I thank God that I could support his message and pray for him and Joan of Arc as they pioneer. They pray for sister Olga and for God to grant them a child.
Sunday morning the English speaking delegates had Bible study with Dr. Peter Kim and the Turkish speaking team had Bible study with Msn VP. Our Sunday message was delivered with great spirit from Msn Jacob from Romans 6—The Gift of God, Tanri’nin armagani. He took this difficult passage that he said was equivalent to a nuclear physics course and made it clear and simple. He shared that Jesus took all our sins through his death on the cross and when we accept Jesus we not only just die to sin, but we have a new life in Jesus. This is the gift of God—eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. I learned that we need to train our minds that we died to sin and we are now alive to God. We need to see our body as a living sacrifice to God and offer the parts of our body as instruments of righteousness.
We also had 6 testimonies from Ruth Ushimirski, Samuri, sister Minal from Turkey, Jonathan, Daniel and Joseph Kim. Hande sang Turkey’s national anthem which moved our hearts. And the Kiev team prepared a wonderful Cantata.
Msn VP delivered the closing message on John 17:1-5, Eternal Life. We learned Jesus prayer to depend on God and to glorify God through his life. We learned that we can have eternal life when we know Jesus as Christ and we can glorify God by completing our mission from God. We need to live as people with eternal life and we prayed to go back to our mission fields to glorify God. We prayed, “Father your kingdom come into our Turkey” and “Use my life to glorify your name.”
After a wonderful Turkish lunch we went to the catacombs to learn the early Christians’ faith. The first floor of the catacombs we entered were made initially by the Hitites and later the Christians added the 2nd through the 8th floor. The catacombs were made of soft rock so as they dug past the outside which was harder because it was in contact with the air, it would crumble like dust and sand. The Christians used these catacomb during the Byzantine time period because they could hide from the Romans and later the Arabs. They lived above ground in their houses but the catacombs had many entrances, so when their was trouble they would go down below. The first floor had a stable for the animals to keep the smell from coming down below. The second floor had a church with an altar facing Jerusalem and a baptism stone. There was even a cross dug into the baptism stone and the wall. The deeper tunnels were used as living quarters, food storage, kitchen and winery. The tunnels were narrow to prevent military from attacking and they even had a huge millstone that could be moved to block the passageway. Near the millstone they had holes in the wall used for a lookout and for spears when they were being attacked. The temperature inside was the same year-round. They guess that up to 2000 people could live inside. The maximum amount of time that one could live there was 2 months due to the air condition and also it was not healthy for the psyche.
Down on the fourth floor, which was the lowest level open to the public, we gathered around and brother Nikolay delivered his message a second time. It held so much meaning as this letter was written to Christians living in similar catacombs. We learned that we should leave all our dead hopes in the catacombs and live each day with living hope. Dr. Peter reminded us that the Chrisian’s faith in the catacombs was our hometown faith—it was where our faith stemmed from. We prayed for our Turkey and to give our life for one sheep.
Later that day we traveled to a great valley where St. Basil started a monastery. We walked and saw churches and homes built into the rock. Some of the young men in our group climbed a giant cliff and the rest of us went to the water and washed our feet.
It was wonderful being on the castle and looking out over the land of Cappadocia nad experiencing the catacombs. We were on top of the world and in the depths of the earth which is what our Christian forefathers experienced. May God help us to grow in the spirit of the early church and conquer all Muslim nations with the gospel of Christ Jesus. May God change Turkey into a Christian nation once again.
I learned that there are not many universities in Turkey because the educational system is not very advanced. As we went throughout Istanbul to do some sightseeing and visit the universities, we saw a very large line of men standing outside. When we asked about it we learned that this was the line to enroll in the military. It was very prestigious to go into the military because it was a way to be considered a real man. The military service is 15 months.
We walked through the largest covered Bazaar or market in Istanbul. Then we visited the Soltanakmed—the Blue Mosque which has six minarets instead of the normal 1-2. It is similar to the one in Jerusalem and is highly regarded.
We visited 3 universities—Bosphorus or Bogazici University, Istanbul University and Istanbul Technical Institute. Istanbul University has economics, management and law on the main campus and all the classes are taught in Turkish. This is one of the oldest and biggest universities in Turkey. We read Mark 11:22-25—Have faith in God. Mother Barry had prayed on the opposite side of the courtyard from where we where and prayed about sending one family to Turkey. God answered her prayer and Msn VP’s family was sent out. S. Jonathan gave an impromptu message on the passage and we learned that God can send our missionaries when we pray and believe, love one student to the end, and forgive others. God will hear our prayer and make our Turkey a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We pray that God may raise up one missionary to serve Istanbul University through VP’s family and 12 disciples of Jesus may be raised.
Istanbul Technical University is where the most prominent engineers graduate from. It’s called ITU for short and all classes are in Turkish. Tuition is not expensive, only $500 per year. We read and had impromptu messages on Mt 22:37-39 and Jn 4:34-35. We learned that because this country did not serve God with everything this country became a hated and Muslim country. The Turkish people must lift their eyes and head to God and grow in righteousness. We need to be open to God’s will and love God with and through our acts. Through Jn 4 we learned that Turkey is waiting for gospel coworkers. We learned that God shows his will and heart for Turkey and he will give us a burning heart to preach the gospel to students at this university. We prayed that God could use Msn VP’s family to raise up one missionary to pioneer this campus and raise up 12 disciples of Jesus. We also prayed for Msn VP’s Turkish message each week. Dr. Peter Kim went and met one Christian woman teacher and prayed for her on the campus. They also met one young man and prayed for him as well.
The final university is Bogazici—Bosphorus University. We visited and prayed for this university on the first day. It was founded by American missionaries then later given to the Turkish government. A lot of prime ministers and international delegates have graduated from there. This is an international school and it the only university in Turkey that is taught only in English. It is a beautiful campus, about 5-10 minute walk from Msn VP’s home. The tuition is only $600 per year, but it only takes a few foreign students per year, like 5 in the English department this year. As we gathered on the campus lawn we prayed to lift up Jesus’ name above all names in Turkey; for Turkey to be freed from deception and become a source of blessing to all Muslim nations; raise up 1 Abraham and 12 disciples; create sister’s common life; Msn VP and R to master the Turkish language, especially Msn VP to prepare the message in Turkish; and their family to be good shepherds for one student. We also had one prayer topic that was answered before the conference—since Msn VP received entrance into Bosphorus and their family received permanent residency in Turkey. Praise and Thank God!
Fourth, One Word
I just want to praise and thank my God that I was able to attend this historic conference in Turkey. I learned that I need to give up my dead hopes within this world—like the comfortable life and live each day with living hope. I also thought about the gift of God that God offered to me in Christ Jesus, that I have a new life because Jesus died for me and in the same way, I must die to my sin and live each day as if it was new life. I learned that I need to train myself/my mind that I am dead to sin and I am alive to God alone. May God help me to complete my mission from God—to be a wife of noble character and to love one student to the end. In this way, God may use our family to serve our fellowship and one Muslim nation in his right time.
One Word: The gift of God is I am dead to sin and alive to God!!