The major league baseball season (USA) begins this month. Hope springs eternal for all 30 major league clubs who play a marathon schedule trying to reach the World Series. The long baseball season goes from April until October!
Every baseball game features two teams--a home team and an away team. You relax a bit more playing at home where you have familiar surroundings, family and friends near at hand. On the road, however, you become more alert to determine where you will eat and stay and what you will do and whom you will meet.
The “home and away” scenario applies in some small measure to those of us who travel regularly. I journeyed with friends to Turkey in February and then went on to several Central Asian cities in March. After being home for a week, I traveled again to the Boston area where I met with scholars from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (Gordon-Conwell). Now it’s good to be home!
When I visit another culture where I do not know the language and customs, I try to alertly listen so I can learn about the peoples and the places I’m visiting. I found Istanbul to be an amazing city that faces both Europe and Asia from the Bosporus strait. The magnificent Hagia Sophia has been a silent witness to centuries of history. I learned it was a cathedral from 537 until 1453. Then it served as a mosque from 1453 until 1931; it became a museum in 1935.
I also spent a day at Ephesus where the apostle Paul preached and taught. Ephesus was also the setting for three Church Councils that took place in the fifth century. I learned that ancient Ephesus had a library built by Celsus that was large enough for 12,000 scrolls. I have meditated a bit on how much New Testament history and early church history occurred in Turkey. Although now officially a secular state, Turkey claims that 99% of its citizens are Muslim. Indigenous Christians in Turkey number less than 10,000. Such changes in Turkey’s history and religious identity!
Most of Central Asia also has a Christian history though Islam dominates the religious statistics today. Christians from Syria-Palestine and Egypt took the gospel along the Silk Road beginning in the third and fourth centuries. These churches were known as Jacobite or Nestorian. At one time, ancient Merv located in today’s Turkmenistan, was one of the largest Christian cities in the world. It had a bishop in 420 and a metropolitan (archbishop) in 544.
The ancient mission-sending world of the Silk Road is today a mission field. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity publishes annual statistics on the number of Christians in each country and region. The CSGC scholars estimate that 2.1 billion people across the globe in 2015 have no access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of these unreached peoples are in Asia--Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and West Asia (the Middle East). How can we be alert for opportunities to help unevangelized peoples gain access to hearing the Good News? How can we stay on alert to meet immigrant peoples who live in our neighborhoods and attend our universities? Reading history, keeping up with the news, studying facts and figures--all these preparation steps help us to pray more strategically. PFF works hard to forge partnerships with persons and agencies working behind the scenes to share the good news and to care for hurting and needy people.
We welcome your prayers and we thank you for your gifts. In this season we say farewell to Lent and celebrate the Resurrection. God is glorious as He brings life out of death. In Turkey and Central Asia a once vibrant network of churches and dioceses has died in so many places. But life can spring forth from death in the power of God’s Spirit. Emerging signs of such life can be seen by those alert to the work of God’s kingdom.
He is Risen! Hallelujah!
Blessings in Christ,
Richard L. HaneyExecutive Director