Notes from Turkey...
(by Tim) A brother who used to be what we of Church of the Good Shepherd call a "Bobbite" recently sent this short E-mail to a present Bobbite who, in turn, passed it on to me. It's a fascinating glimpse into one small part of the Muslim world and provides clues concerning the commitment of young men to this Christian heresy. As we peer into this Muslim community, I'm reminded of Romans 10:2:
For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.
And I ask myself, where are similar communities of Christians whose family life resembles anything even approximating this Muslim brotherhood? Or what we see all through the New Testament? No, too many reformed churches today are merely preaching stations with the Sacraments and a little bonhomie before and after worship thrown in each Lord's Day. When's the last time someone said about our church, "See how they love one another!"
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I've got a bit of an adventure to tell you about -
My friend K. asked me several weeks ago if I would be willing to come with him to visit a "bookstore-like" place and talk with some of his friends. On Thursday night I agreed to go and met him at 7 in the heart of the old part of the Istanbul near where many of the tourist places are. I assumed we were going someplace nearby. After sharing a corn-on-the-cob with him we jumped on the tram and took it to a part of town I have never been in before. From there an older friend of his from his village picked us up in his car and took us another hour away - by then I had no idea where I was...
You know the stereo-types of a mega-church - a big box that is very useful but aesthetically painful? This was a mega-mosque. There were maybe 1500 to 3000 men (no women allowed) there for prayer and a sermon. I skipped out on the prayers and then joined K. to listen to this Saudi guy give an Arabic sermon translated into Turkish. After the service was finished I was thoroughly proselytized, then got stuck doing the prayers with them, was given a tour of the premise, and had dinner with 8 Saudis, a Pakistani, and 2 Turks - after which it was about 12:30.
By then I expected I was going to be spending the night with K. (yes, I did inform my wife) but what I didn't expect - nor even thought possible - was going to spend the night/ /in/ /the mosque! This was no normal mosque. There were maybe 500 or so men that slept in the various extra rooms around the premise - all on cots and sleeping bags. My room consisted of K. and I, the Pakistani, and the 8 Saudis (one of which had given the sermon earlier) - we were in the foreigner's room.
K. was high as a kite - he had never spent the night there, nor been so near the leadership. So he wanted to talk. I made it to bed sometime around 1. The Saudi's got up and turned on the light at 3:30. They got the room picked up and prepared for the 4:30 prayers. After the prayers there was another sermon - this time all in Turkish. It finished at 6:30 and then we had breakfast. I finally made it out of the building at 7:30 and went straight to my class - which I was still 1/2 hour late for as it took me 2 hours to get back into town. I haven't been that tired in awhile!
It was quite a gift to be given such a window. 1/2 of the men there had beards down to their chest. It was by far the most conservative setting I have personally witnessed. They all were very respectful, very friendly, and smiley.
And I have to be honest - it was a very impressive community. I would like to ask you to try to consider life from K.'s perspective. If I had to choose between a radical huge society of believers/men that clearly show solidarity with one another, eat, worship, and sleep together weekly, and have an uncompromisingly devoted faith in Allah, and what we offer as a tiny struggling community - well, what would you choose? This whole experience was a basal reminder of the importance of loving one another and being a community that loves and supports each other to an other-worldly degree. We are up against a formidable and, frankly, an attractive alternative.