I must admit that when I got on the plane at Dulles for our trip to Turkey I was not at all sure what to expect. Sure, I had a picture of what we would see during the “tourist” part of our trip – Bradley had provided us with links to videos about Istanbul, Pergamum, Smyrna, and Ephesus – but the meeting at the conference was a giant question mark for me. We had talked about the conference being a “once in a lifetime” and a “life changing” experience but I was having trouble taking these broad concepts and molding them into an “on the ground” expectation.”
The fact that the first session at conference dealt with security brought the program into focus. How often do we give any consideration to security in this country? We certainly don’t worry about being seen going to Church on Sundays here at Forest Hills or talking about our faith at the mall, or sharing our beliefs in each others’ homes. But for the people beside us during this entire program these concerns were very real – this truly had the potential to be “once in a lifetime experience” for them since they face the possibility of persecution and prosecution every day and everywhere they go.
It also did not take long at all to realize that the people we were going to spend the next several days with took Jesus very, very seriously when he commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations and to teach them the things he had said to them. These people were giving their all to share the Good News with hungry souls in conditions that we simply cannot imagine from our comfortable sofas, easy chairs or pews.
I guess it is pretty clear that our trip brought me to view the vast majority of our fellow attendees at the conference as true heroes. They sacrifice and risk so much for the benefit of those who seek out our God. And the trip also brings me to question my own faith and dedication to spreading the Good News in my everyday life and to question whether I can live up to the examples these people face every day. May God bless each and every one of them.