Written by Mary Alice Ferguson
The Mission Visioning Trip to Turkey was the experience of a lifetime. The opportunity to walk where early Christians began their worship of Christ, to hear scripture read that was written to these churches, and to attend the conference where so many committed Christians from oppressed countries risked so much to worship and learn together with groups such as ours was simply overwhelming. The fact that I was sharing these experiences with valued friends from Forest Hills Presbyterian Church enriched the experience even more. We discussed the events of each day along with the joys and expectations for the coming day. It was my great pleasure and privilege to share a room with Betsy Haskins. Her company made the trip even better. Our accommodations were excellent, and we found the Turkish food to be an added bonus. The opportunity to be a representative of our church family is a memory I will cherish the rest of my life.
My interaction with other conference participants was another highlight for me. A lovely lady from one country tried to teach me a few words of Russian. The conference agenda began at 8:00 am with praise and worship. Then workshops and information sessions continued until 9:00 p.m. At the conclusion of the day, our FHPC group met to review the day. Typically, we discussed the prayers, information, joys, blessings, and fellowship of the day.
Of great interest to me were the Bible Story Tellers. Their method of teaching the stories of the Bible was by oral stories. Often the listeners cannot read or do not have a Bible. The Bible stories allow them to hear the word of God and to retell these stories to others in the community. This method also had the advantage that no physical evidence of worship could be used against them.
Some Christians from a region in Asia worshipped amid danger in underground churches. Some served as dedicated missionaries. Each did their mission in a way that brought blessings to the recipient of the word of Christ.
One message that became clear to me was that the need in this region of Asia is great. However, the people bringing the message of Christ there are great in their strength and their commitment.
In the final analysis, there were people from many countries who spoke different languages and had different cultural and economic backgrounds. Each person was proud of their country. Each person was optimistic. The atmosphere of joy and serenity was hard to define. But above all, the greatest unifying factor was faith and love.
Now I am home in Virginia with my family and FHPC. I am in awe of all that I experienced. I am humbled by this opportunity to represent this congregation. I thank each of you for your prayers and support of this mission.