How did you spend your Pentecost Sunday? Did you KNOW it WAS Pentecost Sunday? As we’ve traced many of Paul’s steps over the past couple weeks, we’ve again and again come to the role of the Holy Spirit in the events recorded in Acts. Today was no different.
We covered a fair bit of road again today, likely driving about four hours between and around stops at sites. When we weren’t on the road, here’s what we were exploring.
This city gets mentioned in Acts 20:13. It was a spot where Paul and his traveling companions met to travel by ship together. Leading up to that meeting, Paul had sent them ahead by ship, while he walked the road alone. There is much speculation around why he separated the group for that short stretch (likely two days of walking)—much of it centers around the idea that Paul may have been seeking a personal retreat of sorts, preparing himself for what lay ahead and seriously seeking the Spirit of God and His revelation.
One of the archeological highlights of Assos was a temple to Athena, which dated back to the 6th century BC. This stood out just because of its dating. We’ve seen Roman site upon Roman site, so anything older than that time period stands out to me. Our stop at Assos wasn’t too long, as there is much that we don’t know about the city’s Christian community. They’re not mentioned in Acts or elsewhere; the mention of Paul and his friends connecting there is all we’ve got.
The modern town of Assos was cool to walk through though. It maintains an old village feel to it even today. Walking through the peddlers, up steep rocky roads, it was easier to imagine days long past in this setting than in many that we’ve seen so far.
On our way out of town, we stopped to explore a short stretch of Roman road, still in remarkable shape for being two thousand years old. This a stretch of road that Paul almost certainly walked upon as he walked to Assos to meet his crew. It’s not often that such a high degree of certainty is found on “walking in the steps” of such an ancient character, yet there we were today, walking right where the text of Acts told us he walked.
2) Alexandria Troas
Here, by the ancient harbour, we read together the text of Acts 20:1-12. This is the spot where fired-up Paul preached until midnight and beyond, and where weary-eyed Eutychus died after a fall out of the window. Would you believe me that we saw the actual window sill?! Just kidding. No such luck. But the shoreline of the ancient city provided us with a great venue for some discussion again around the Spirit’s role in the events of Acts. Acts 20:16 mentions that as Paul passed through these two places, he was hurrying in the hopes of getting to Jerusalem for Pentecost. And here we were, right here, on the day of Pentecost many years later. So we shared about the significance of that event—both the first Pentecost and the importance of this festival through the history of the early church. We spoke about the struggles of modern people to open themselves to the spiritual realm (or even to accept its existence) as more ancient people may have. This emphasis on the Spirit has been a recurring theme (not really planned by any of us) as we’ve traveled. I have found it to be one of the most major thought trains for myself personally, as it resonates with places I’ve been for much of the past couple years. I’ve no doubt that my steps from here on have received significant fueling during these weeks in Turkey.
3) Our final site of the day was the ancient city of Troy. Here, we learned of the archeological process of even finding this site in the last century. Did you know that it was thought to be strictly a fictional location for much of history? Upon its discovery, further tales of stolen treasure, wars, mystery, and still-unanswered questions followed. The story, which I won’t write here, reminds one of an Indiana Jones movie, minus the zombies or aliens or whatever that he tends to run into along the way.
Troy wasn’t as impressive of an archeological site as some that we’ve seen, but if you’re nearby, you sort of HAVE to stop in. We shot our photos with the giant wooden horse replica like good tourists do. I think the highlight for me thought was another ancient artifact. While the story of the Trojan was dates to around 1200 BC (which is equivalent to the time of the Exodus in Egypt!), Troy was a city long before that. Today, we walked past an excavated wall, dating back to 2000 BC. That means that whoever formed and laid those bricks was alive when Abraham was! That’s the kind of stuff that just makes me shake my head—sometimes history just has a stunning effect to me, and those old clay bricks (in which you could still see bits of straw and stubble) just did that for me to day.
4) Our hotel wasn’t far away, in the town of Canakkale, on Turkey’s northwest coast. It’s a little resort town. A quick walk around after supper showed me some quaint homes that definitely have a “cabin feel” to them. It’s likely that most of these homes are owned as second homes by wealthy Istanbul residents, I think.
Our final event of the evening was a group meeting in which our Turkish guide Dell told us the story of how he became a Christian. He shared for over an hour, so there is definitely too much to put down here. But suffice it to say that it is a wonderful story of how Jesus found a young Muslim man, disillusioned with his faith and his world, and revealed himself to him through all sorts of means: Visions, miraculous sets of circumstances, and the faithful lives of his followers. Dell is bold and courageous, having not hesitated since day one to profess his faith and live as light in a nation not pleased with any of it. He has guided us well in the past three weeks, and we ended our time tonight by praying that God will continue to guide him faithfully as he strives to walk the path of Christ in this place. All in all, it was a powerful conclusion to another solid day.
At this point, it’s after 11 PM, and my contacts are melting on to my eyeballs. Just the right time for a shower and a bed. Tomorrow, we hit the road for a morning stop at Gallipoli, a world-renowned WWI memorial. Then we’ve got six hours of driving to Istanbul, where we’ll spend our final couple days.
“Final couple days”… yes, that means we’re near the end. Every day has been an absolute treat, but home is sounding pretty sweet to me right now. I’ll enjoy Turkey all I can until Thursday; then I’ll turn my eyes homeward with some serious anticipation.
Good night from the tip of Turkey. More tomorrow from the capital city.