I had the amazing opportunity to travel around Turkey for eight days, to follow in the footsteps of Paul’s missionary journeys and visit the seven churches of Revelation. The country is beautiful, the sites were breath-taking, and the trip spiritually enriching. I’d love to share with you where we travelled and some major personal takeaways.
Day 1: Attalia, Perga, Aspendos
…when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. - Acts 14:25-27
Our trip started with a wow-moment, as we explored ancient Perga where Paul and Barnabas spent time spreading the Gospel of Jesus (first picture), and visited Attalia - the harbor they departed from (second pic). Aspendos isn’t necessarily a Biblical site, but a marvelous outdoor theater built in 155AD.
Day 2: Hierapolis, Laodicea
Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Heirapolis… Colossians 4:12-13
First picture shows the theater at Hierapolis, a sprawling ancient city that was ministered to from one of Paul’s disciples named Epaphras. It’s here that you find these incredible thermal springs that you can walk around and warm up your toes (second pic). Laodicea, the “lukewarm” church of Revelation, was a contextual eye-opener (third pic). You read about how this church was neither hot nor cold (useful, refreshing), but lukewarm in their faith — what was interesting is from Laodicea, you can visibly see hot thermal springs on one side, and snow capped mountains on the other — so this metaphor would have rang loud and clear to them…
Day 3: Aphrodisias, Philadelphia
Although not a Biblical site, Aphrodisias was a cool (and rather complete) Ancient Greek town. This picture is of the stadium that would hold sporting events such as gladiator fights (whoa). We discussed Philadelphia church in Revelation, another contextual enlightener. This ancient city was ravaged by earthquakes, constantly dispersing the people. It also had many leadership changes that led to name changes — you can imagine the lack of identity that would come with that. In Revelation 3, Jesus makes references to the pillar of His temple and how His name will reign — stability and identity that must’ve been anticipated for this particular church.
Day 4: Sardis, Thyatira, Asklepion
Another Ancient Greek town, Sardis offered us the world’s largest ancient synagogue that’s been excavated (rad mosaic floor in picture one). We discussed Thyatira church of Revelation, and were embedded with commonly found theme in most all the churches addressed: warning to not compromise in faith. The final picture here is from Asklepion, an ancient resort/spa town for the sick. The picture shows a man that exudes hospitality — it was cold, I wanted a hot drink but didn’t have cash — he offered me a hot tea anyways. That was very special for me…
Day 5: Pergamum
Pergamum is a city on a hill and was also addressed in Revelation as a church to watch out for comprises in faith. Stunning views. We had a blast exploring this hillside…
Day 6: Ephesus
This was a big day because you could just feel the Biblical significance of the town. Major early Christian church, Paul’s home base for three years, Paul wrote an important letter to this church, apostle John lived and died here (post-Patmos) and likely wrote his Gospel, 1-3 Johns here. A major theme found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is spiritual warfare because this town had a lot of that - worshipping of false gods, along with practicing magic and sorcery. So Paul combatted that with putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Pictured is the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen and me getting a selfie with Medusa.
Day 7: Priene, Miletus
Priene (first and second pic) was a cool ancient town in the hills that made me feel like I was in the Lord of the Rings. We stumbled in a small home (or what was left of it) that Alexander the Great took up residence (whoa). Miletus (third pic) was a Biblically significant moment in Paul’s ministry and spiritually powerful moment for me, as this is where he gave his farewell legacy speech to the Ephesian elders, before his arrest (Acts 20).
Day 8: Istanbul (Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar)
This was just a fun day to cruise around Istanbul and see some amazing sites and buildings. This is getting long though, so if you’re interested in hearing about it, let me know, haha.
Okay. So, that’s all good and great, but what was the main takeaways? How did this trip change me or work in my life? Good question, let me try and make this brief… The two main things we were following were Paul’s journeys and Revelation church, and I got one major takeaway from each. First, from Paul’s journey. Following his footsteps and reading alone with Scripture, you really got a sense for how much of his life and efforts were dedicated to the Gospel. Culminating in Miletus, and reading his farewell legacy speech, I did a lot of reflection on my own personal legacy. What type of legacy am I living out? I was really encouraged to think about my own life and to be sure I am living out the Gospel like Paul lived out the Gospel…
From the Revelation churches, we talked about how they did struggle with persecution, but there was a bigger theme at work woven in all the churches: compromising faith. That was a major rebuke Jesus had for them, as they struggled living out their faith in all circumstances. Choosing to not participate in temple, idol, pagan worship. Which really got me reflecting on my own life, and my desire to not compromise my faith. Choosing Jesus in all circumstances, as difficult as that can be in certain situations.
There’s my trip. It’s very difficult to concisely recap an adventure like that, but hopefully that gave you a little taste for what I was blessed to experience.