I love traveling. New scenery. New people. New cities. New foods…ok not so much this one, but you get the idea. Maybe it’s the extrovert in me looking for a sense of adventure and the opportunity to meet new people and see new things. Maybe it’s something else, but whatever it is, I enjoy it. Over the last 14 years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel internationally to 10 different countries. Each of those trips were unique regarding team dynamics, ministries, housing, activities, etc. However, the most recent one introduced a rich historical focus.
In April of this year, I had the privilege of traveling to Eastern Europe and North Africa with a group of pastors from Iowa. If you know anything about this part of the world, you know that it is a tremendous part of Christianity’s history. Experiencing the history of my faith, up close, was extremely impactful. Let me share with you a couple of my experiences.
Istanbul, Turkey is a unique city in the fact that it is on two different continents, Europe and Asia. Part of the city was formerly known as Constantinople. It became known as such when Constantine moved the center of the Roman Empire to this location in 330 AD. Before moving the capital of the empire to Constantinople, the emperor converted to Christianity in 312 AD, and began to Christianize the Roman world. One of the staples of Christianity throughout the empire was the Hagia Sophia (meaning Holy Wisdom). The Hagia Sophia was originally known as the Megale Ekklesia (meaning the Grand Church), which was a church commissioned by Constantine in 325 AD. Much of the current structure that remains today was built during the reign of Justinian I, who ruled the eastern (Byzantine) part of the empire. This beautiful piece of history is now a mosque but is open to the public during non-prayer times. It was a magnificent experience to walk in and see this historical masterpiece. (See picture)
Standing in a building built in the 6th century was amazing, but it was surreal a few days later to stand in structures that were built 3,000 years before that. While in North Africa, I had the opportunity to, not only see, but go into multiple pyramids. These structures are mind boggling to look at in real life. Pictures just don’t do it justice, but you can see the enormity of them in these pictures. Many people talk about these wonders of the world, but there is more history there. While visiting the National Museum of Egyptian History, I was able to the see the mummies of former Pharaohs. Included in those mummies, were those who ruled during the time of Moses and the Exodus of the Israelites. In another museum, we saw the cave where it is believed that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stayed while fleeing from Herod.
Walking in places like this always causes me to reflect. The Lord has numbered our steps, but He has also ordained us to certain places during specific times. I’m thankful for where I live and the time period that I live in. I’m also thankful that I can learn from events and places of history.