Ever wondered what the church building in Antioch in Paul's day ever looked like? Well yesterday we went to see the cave where it is believed the early church met. Nothing impressive at all really. It is said to be built by St Luke but is called St Peter's Grotto! ! Now it has been taken over by the Catholic Capuchin monks, the Pope has visited it and now that I have too, I can claim an indulgence from my time in purgatory!!?? Antakya is known for its mosaics and in the local museum is one of the best collections of mosaics from around the time of Christ to be found anywhere. Room after room of huge, say 30 ft x 30 ft, beautiful and impressive mosaics, either abstract patterns or of people and animals. We all went shopping in the bazaar for pipes to connect to the stove in the house...nothing exotic! The smells of spices and cooked food fill the air. Don't think of small narrow streets like some Arab bazaars you may have been to, these are wide, clean broad streets with sizeable shops selling absolutely everything. The atmosphere is good and friendly not threatening in any way.
Josef and Elin are in the process of building friendships here all the time. I have never "walked across the room" so many times in such short space of time. Usually it is a walk across the street, a talk with a barber, a restaurant owner, a shopkeeper, boys we meet in the street, officials at the museum, stallholders in the bazaar and so on. Conversation is a wonderful mixture of Turkish, English and sign language. They have only been here really since the summer and have already made an amazing number of friends. People are easily and eagerly invited round to visit or to a meal or meet up again. Last night two Filipino ladies came round with their daughter as they are helping arrange a Karaoke evening, all part of reaching more people.
Between times and in the evenings we talk together about how to develop things, reaching people, the needs they have, clarity of vision, and what to put in place.
As I write this yet again the call of the muezzin goes out across the city from the many mosques. We are impressed with what we have seen of Antakya. The streets are really clean, the streets in the bazaar are swept clean all the time. Even on the small minibuses (dolmus) that run round the city carry a brush inside them and the conductor who takes your money keeps it spotless. It is a modern city in every way with latest cars available, traffic jams, and all that goes to make a modern Mediterranean city. Because of the wonderful climate there are solar panels and water tanks on every roof.
Antakya is near the Syrian border and between the 1st and 2nd World wars was run by the French. So in food and buildings there is a wonderful mixture of French colonial style, Arabic and Turkish with other influences like Armenian thrown in.
This afternoon we met with about 25 friends and I spoke with them, and then we ate together. It was great to meet people, especially 2 men who came for the first time, and hear their stories. Now sadly we must leave our new friends and tomorrow morning early, 3.45 am, get up and fly back to Istanbul. We will see you soon!