I'm in the lobby of the taxim erisin hotel enjoying a starbucks coffee (three blocks from our hotel) and wondering where I am and what time zone I'm in. We had a long day of travel yesterday driving by bus from Thessalonica to Istanbul, with stopping by Philippi along the way. We literally had the entire ancient site of Philippi to ourselves...truly awesome. Scott and I hurriedly went to the prison cell of Paul and Silas to set up for our first teaching time there and the rest of the group caught up and we recorded the lesson. It was moving sitting in the place of Paul and Silas' suffering. I noted that they didn't respond to hard times like we Christians often time do: complain, wonder where God is, blame others, doubt, throw a pity party...they prayed and sang!
Then we went by bus, just a short trip, to the river outside the ancient city to where Lydia was baptized. Here, J.k. spoke and many got in the water and took pictures. Again very inspiring. Then we were on a bus for 9 hours (with stops and crossing the border which took about an hour or so) arriving in Istanbul around 9:00 p.m. Monday (1:00 p.m. central Illinois time). Even though we were tired, we wanted to get out and see some stuff, so we walked around this incredibly large city (17 million - 110 mile drive from east side to west side! - they grow by 300,000 every year!) and took in the sights and sounds and smells of this place. Though we don't have any record of Paul being here, we know that when he travelled through this area, the town that was Byzantium (started by Bisas - some king dude) was here and though not as large, it was still a huge city! His heart must have been stirred at the lostness of the place as was ours. The country is 99% muslim and our guide is as well. Because of some (I think ill-placed) questions from our group, he explained the resurrection and life after death according to the Koran. His take was this...it will be a day of judgment and people will be running around scared and have to answer for everything they have done. this is quite the contrast between Christians who have hope that Jesus has washed every sin away and our names are written in the book of life. We look forward to that DAY.
Anyway, we are here today, just checking out some of the sights of Istanbul: aya sofia, the spice market and ancient bazaar. Update you later.