We bid a sad farewell to Patmos at 8 AM. It’s not hard to get used to Greek island living—friendly and laid back people, beaches and hills, gleaming white buildings, and tasty food—not hard to take! But Turkey was calling us back, so we hit the sea and made the four-hour passage back to Kusadasi.
To be honest, my list of things to write about today is shorter due to some unforeseen circumstances. A couple of my co-travelers are a brother and sister (maybe 19 and 21 respectively), named Jonathan and Jennifer. They, along with a couple others, rented scooters yesterday to explore Patmos in our free time. Near the end of the day, Jonathan had a wipe-out on some gravel. While he’s very fortunate that it wasn’t worse (he WAS wearing a helmet, and it wasn’t a terrible wipe-out), his skin took a real beating. Shorts, T-shirt, and sandals—More information isn’t needed. His foot especially got torn up. The Patmos hospital did a good job of cleaning him up and wrapping wounds, but he’s not got a routine of dressing changes and cleaning wounds. He’s not walking that well either. So, a decision was made by Charles and Thomas (a doctor who happens to be traveling with us) that Jon and Jen’s trip is done. Arrangements were being worked out throughout today to see how they can get home.
I say this just because it affected our day’s flow a fair bit. We spent time in Kusadasi that we wouldn’t have otherwise so that Jon could get to their hospital for some more attention. Besides further cleaning, they actually grafted some skin on to his foot and toes to help with the healing there. During that time, the rest of us were dropped at a local mall. I thought some people were going to pass out when they saw a Burger King and a pizza place. Any who know me know that food isn’t that big of a deal to me most of the time. It just doesn’t do the things for me that it does for a lot of others I know. Turkish food hasn’t been the greatest I’ve had, but I could happily get by on it for a long time. Not so for some! In fact, a few of our crew are downright funny. Anyway, I wasn’t complaining about a slice of pizza, so we ate.
When we picked up Jon and Jen afterwards, we hit the road to Miletus. Miletus doesn’t get much mention in the Bible (only once that I know of), but it IS the venue for one of Paul’s passionate sermons, found in Acts 20:13-38. Miletus is not a very excavated site, so we spent the bulk of our time exploring what IS a very impressive theater, complete with a great relief (carving) depicting the gladiatorial games that were once held there. As well, this theater was especially impressive in its corridors beneath. Grand arches and corridors, like the ancient versions of what you might find in modern sports stadiums, showed what a glorious structure this would have been in its day.
Also of fascination was an inscription that Charles pointed out to us on one row of seats. It read in Greek, “For the Jews and God-fearers”. Whether that’s speaking of one or two groups is debated, but such a term is familiar to the book of Acts. Though this inscription is likely from later than Paul’s time, it just goes toward sketching that a Jewish and/or Christian community once called Miletus home. And apparently they were influential enough to get some decent “season tickets” to the city’s theater.
Further exploration of the site (much of which is flooded right now) showed us the locations of its significant markets as well as where the ancient harbour would have been. Much like Ephesus, Miletus is nowhere near water today. The same silt problem that caused Ephesus’ downfall had the same effect here. The coast now sits 5 miles away. However, as we walked the area, we saw a stone lion (a very weathered stone lion) that apparently marked the entrance to the harbour in the 1st century. Translation: After his passionate sermon in Acts 20, Paul’s eyes would have beheld the same lion that mine beheld today. If only stone lions could talk…
By this time, we were already at 4 PM (I told you today didn’t quite go according to plan), so we hit the road to Izmir (ancient Smyrna), where we’ve sleeping tonight.
Supper was waiting for us when we arrived, as was an evening presentation by Dr. Mark Wilson. Mark is actually a mentor and teacher to our Turkish guide Dell. He’s an expert on Christian history, with particular interest in Turkey and its historical sites. He had been one of the speakers at the Ephesus Meeting last week and had agreed to share something further with us when we were in Izmir. So tonight was the night.
Right after supper, he shared on the topic of Divine Guidance in the Book of Acts. Much of what he said wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was a stimulating focus on the role that the Holy Spirit played in how the events of Acts did (and didn’t) play out. Even a casual reading of Acts (which has long been the favourite book of my faith heritage) makes it blatantly clear that our early brothers and sisters experienced the leading of the Holy Spirit in significant and powerful ways. As I mentioned a few days ago, I can’t help but think that we need this as much today as they did back then. Somewhere along my road, I grabbed the idea that such communication doesn’t happen anymore today. Whether that thought was passed to me in spoken or unspoken ways, I’m not quite clear. What I am clear on is this: If God no longer communicates with His people through His Spirit, then we may as well throw in the towel. Left to our own wisdom, innovation, and organization, the church has no chance at being what it was created to be. So a serious prayer has begun in me these last few days: “Father, fill us and re-fill us with your Spirit. Flood us and surround us. Reveal things we cannot otherwise know. Empower us and lead us. There is much that we will simply go without if you do not provide it. And within that ‘much’ is everything that we need to live up to your calling. So come upon us, Holy Spirit.”
Tomorrow, we depart at 8 AM, and as usual, I’m not in bed by midnight. Definitely have to drop this habit when I get home, or I won’t make it half a week! Our hotel here tonight is very comfortable—likely the nicest of the whole trip, so I’ll enjoy it as much as I can in the next 8 hours. I can’t even tell you what the itinerary is for tomorrow. I just know we begin with a look at a bit of the ancient site of Smyrna. After that, we’ll leave Izmir and continue north along the coast.
Grace and peace to anyone reading this. May you be swept away in a quest to be sensitive to God’s Spirit today too. Much love from Izmir.