December 30, 2015

Turkey Turkey Turkey Baklava Turkey

Rocks from the beach...and an adult coloring book from the airport in Turkey.

I started this post quite a long time ago and saved it. Care to know what I typed in the text box in order to save it? "Turkey Turkey Turkey Baklava Turkey". So if that tells you anything about what I did while in Turkey...just kidding, kind of. As usual, my posts regarding particular events are delayed. I'm sure you're all used to this by now. Nonetheless, thank you for your patience.

Neither of these photos are very good, but I wanted to show the flags.
They were on almost every building we passed on the way to the resort.
One of the two (terrible) photos I took of the actual conference. 
Breathtaking, to say the least.
I spent the first week of November in Turkey for the Nazarene Eurasia Regional Conference. This conference takes place every four years and gathers missionaries, volunteers, and other various folks from the Eurasia region. This region spans from Portugal to India, which makes it incredibly diverse. We had worship services together twice a day, as well as workshops on various topics. You can read more about the conference here. This description is better than anything I could attempt to write, in regards to the basic details.

The view from the balcony of my hotel room. 

There were about 640 people in attendance. An introvert's worst nightmare. I'll be totally honest...I was nervous about attending. As a nerd, I greatly enjoy conferences, hearing from others, and gaining new information. However, with conferences come social interactions, and I'm not the world's biggest fan of those most of the time. Thankfully, I roomed with someone I know, Roberta (who has been serving in Romania for 18 years), in a very nice room. The hotel resort was insanely beautiful. The staff were so friendly, and definitely had an eye for detail. The food options were endless and delicious. I actually ate a pomegranate for the first time...ever. Apparently I'm sheltered, but I don't even care. Now I know about the deliciousness of pomegranates and I'll never go back. I ate one almost every day for breakfast while I was there. I also ate a lot of baklava, as previously mentioned. They had a dessert area with many options, and there was always a little section with various types of baklava. I mean, I had to find my favorite, which I did, so I tried them all. Okay, enough about the food. I feel like I just wrote a review for this place...oops.

Not bad, not bad at all.
This changed every day...

We arrived the day before the conference began which was quite nice. The weather was fabulous...warm during the day for sitting at the beach and reading a book, but cool enough in the evening to wear a cardigan while sitting on the balcony and drinking a cup of tea. Perfection. I spent a lot of time reading, journaling, reflecting, etc. during my time in Turkey. It was a introvert's dream. Once the conference began, we had worship services twice a day with a time for workshops, small groups, and free time in between. I found the schedule to be quite nice. Enough time for conference-y things, but also enough time to enjoy being in Turkey! And now I'll overload you with a bunch of pictures of the beach and Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Not sorry.

If you look closely, you can see mountains in the distance. 
The beach...full of beautiful rocks and stones, rather than sand.
"She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well." -George R. R. Martin
No words. Just look at it. 

So aside being stunned by the beauty of Turkey, I did actually learn a thing or two from the conference. The theme was Reconciliation, and we read from II Corinthians 5:14-21 at the beginning of every service. One thing that I loved about the services was that a different field was highlighted in one way or another during each service. There were videos for every field, and sometimes someone from that field would pray during the service, sing a special, preach, etc. It was nice to see and hear from so many different people...all doing incredible things in their field. The fields include: C.I.S. (Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Moldova), Central Europe (my field!), Eastern Mediterranean, India, Northern Europe, South Asia, and Western Mediterranean.

I used to be obsessed with these in high school, always photographing them when I saw one.
Apparently, the obsession continues. I was also obsessed with telephone poles...another fun fact you probably didn't know.

As I've already mentioned, there were various workshops offered during the conference. The ones I attended were all very good, and very different. The first one was focused on human trafficking where we heard from three ladies who are working to fight trafficking (both through prevention and aftercare) in their fields. As the topic tends to be heavy, it was a difficult workshop, but also very good. We learned/reviewed facts about trafficking, but like I said, got to hear about what's being done within our region. There is an aftercare center in Bucharest, which I have yet to visit, but I loved hearing the stories from the work happening there. Click here to find out more about this ministry.

The second workshop I attended was related to personnel development on the field. It was informational and enjoyable. It got me thinking about different goals that I want to set for myself and my time in Romania. The third workshop I attended was called, "NCM: Holistic Development", which is something I feel very strongly about. As a social worker, I am a firm believer in empowering and educating people, and holistic development is one of the best ways to do that...Seeing the whole person and meeting them where they are at. Anyways, the man who presented in this workshop is from Bangladesh, which is where the holistic ministry is currently the most successful. He started by reading from Matthew 4:23 where it says that Jesus was preaching, teaching and healing a.k.a. holistic ministry. I could go on and on, but I won't. He talked about the Child Development Center (CDC) model, which focuses on education, nutrition, health, sports, spiritual needs. One of the things I wrote in my notes at the end of the workshop was, "what skills do I have?", which is something that I've really been thinking about. I know that God has brought me here for a reason, and I've been able to offer some of my skills during my time here, but I want to expand on this. I want to be used fully...using all of my skills and abilities to better serve others.

This has nothing to do with anything. Just a Turkish can of Sprite. 

Upon returning from Turkey, those of us from the Sighisoara Nazarene church were asked to speak about our time at the conference. Not my favorite pastime, as you know. I struggled to find something to share because I had SO MANY THINGS that I wanted to share. Seriously, what has happened to me? Most of my life, I've been at a loss for words, but since coming here it's been the opposite. Verbally, still a struggle, but sit me down in front of my journal or the computer and I could go on and on forever. I'm not complaining, just continuing to adjust. Annnnnyways, back to the point. I'll end this post with the two things that impacted me the most.

1. At the closing ceremony of the conference, we sang "Sing Alleluia to the Lord" in all of our various languages. I wish I could tell you how many languages were represented at the conference, but I do not know. Regardless, it was so incredible. So powerful. I feel like I got a tiny preview of what Heaven will be like. So many different people, languages, cultures, experiences, etc. coming together for worship. I had the goosebumps and spent most of the song just listening because it was just so magnificent. On the third day of the conference, we also sang "How Great Is Our God", which is a song that I greatly enjoy. We sang it in English, Russian, Italian, Arabic, German and French. Another incredible experience.

2. Just. Walk. Across. The. Room. For the first sermon, to introduce the topic of reconciliation, the speaker told the story of the Prodigal Son. He used the phrase "just walk across the room" to illustrate part of the message, specifically in Luke 15:20. The verse reads, "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." The point is, Jesus does this. He reconciles...while we are "still a long way off". He comes to us, meets us where we are, and embraces us.

At first, I didn't know why this message was sticking with me throughout the week of the conference. But after reflecting on it a bit, it started to make more sense. The thought of being a "missionary" kind of freaks me out. It's hard for me to even use that word to describe myself and what I do in Romania. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and feel like I'm not doing enough in my current position, but the thought of doing and being more...freaks me out. BUT! I can just walk across the room. I can reach out to people I know and show Jesus to them in our friendship. I can walk across the room to acquaintances and build better relationships to show them Jesus. I can approach people I don't know and meet them where they're at to show them Jesus. I can just walk across the room. It doesn't take much. It's a small step. And yeah, it might become a bigger step later, but I can start the process by just walking across the room. I can do this, missionary or not. (And so can you.)

In another service, a man who works with youth said the following, "Accept young people for who they are, not who we want them to be...and let God do the work". This hit me too. Related to walking across the room, and in other ways. I think it's very true for young people, but I also think it applies to everyone. To make the connection for you...I might walk across the room (to someone I know or someone new), show someone Jesus, and then realize that I can't be what this person needs (materially, health related, emotional, spiritual, etc). But that's the point, I'm not the person that he/she needs. I don't need to do the work...God will do the work. Maybe God will provide me with what they need (materially or otherwise), but initially, it doesn't need to concern me. I need to follow the promptings that I feel whether that be to smile at someone, start a conversation, volunteer to help at an event, learn a new skill to better serve others, etc. I need to listen, follow where I'm lead, and let God do the rest/work.

And before I go, here are two more photos for your viewing pleasure.

Apparently, this is how you spell my Turkish name. Airport coffee for the win!
This was not taken in Turkey. This is what I did as soon as I returned home to a much chillier Sighisoara. 

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