For part 2, I promised to write about ‘a leadership opportunity that would change us even more’. This may be hard to articulate but I’m going to try. You could say in many ways that Turkey is the birthplace of Christianity. The seven churches of Revelation are seven major churches of Early Christianity as mentioned in the New Testament book of Revelation. They are all in modern day Turkey. I won’t give you a history lesson here, but do some quick web searches on the history of Turkey and you can understand why the strong Christian presence that was once there is no longer. My team and I had the privilege of being invited to lead worship for a Christian conference held in Turkey, where hundreds of pastors and leaders would converge to meet, be inspired and then disperse to various parts of the rest of the world for their work and calling. And so with a couple days to adjust to the time change and get perspective on this wonderful country, we set our minds and hearts to the job at hand for our first week there - leading worship for those people who have already given up their lives to serve God.
It’s challenging to describe what it’s like to lead music for that many people, in a now decidedly Muslim country, but in the birthplace of the Christian church - who have already truly committed their lives in service of their faith. You could say that standing out for your faith in this part of the world is not without its’ risks. Even more-so obviously for someone from Turkey who might be called a convert. Interestingly, however, on our fourth day of the conference we were honored with 2 dignitary visits. Those were the Canadian Ambassador to Turkey, and the Assistant to the Minister of Culture and Tourism in Turkey (hopefully I am accurate on those titles). At the conference we took a generous offering for earthquake victims in Turkey and gave that to the Turkish dignitary. Of course he was thankful, and he welcomed our conference to return again someday. But I risk losing my point! What a tremendous experience, knowing that God dwells in the praises of His people, and therefore knowing that He was there with us in power and presence as we sang. And doing that ‘where it all began’ you could say…breath-taking really.
It was tremendous to see the development of my own team and how they rose to the challenge of the task set before them, whether on the ground in Turkey or in a support role back in Canada. Part of what I do at my church VAC and Hear the Music is the develop, train and disciple - and I saw that work bearing fruit which was very rewarding for me. About a years worth of preparation went into planning this conference, so to participate in it all coming off, really without a hitch - was a great faith builder and testimony to God’s greatness and presence removed ‘in the fore-planning’.
I’m not a fan of the word ‘awesome’ because I feel it’s overused, and has lost its’ meaning. But it’s really the only word I have to describe this whole week of music in Turkey. Awesome because of the experiences I’ve described above. Awesome because of the incredible production team we got to work with. Both the Turkish and Canadian crews were really the shining stars! Awesome because of new and lasting friendships formed. Awesome because of the leaders I worked with, met and the leadership opportunity it gave take out ‘me’. And that’s a whole other story. The personal and spiritual growth experience I was given, I am so grateful for.
And so to all of my new friends, and the supporters and pray-ers who made this happen, I thank you. You have blessed me and changed me - and my whole team. Some great song lyrics come to mind now…
There are higher heights, there are deeper seas Whatever You need to do, Lord do in me The Glory of God fills my life And I will never be the same again (I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME - Geoff Bullock)
I get a bit scared praying or singing ‘whatever You need to do, Lord’…I generally add ‘in Your mercy’ to that! But I am confident of this, that ‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:6). And God is Good…again He was, and is the one who brings change in us - from glory to glory…never to be the same again.