Steve Dennie, UB Director of Communications
A group of nearly 20 persons from the United States, most of them United Brethren pastors and wives, spent ten days in Turkey November 4-13, 2013. This “Seven Churches of Revelation Tour” was sponsored by Global Ministries, the international arm of the United Brethren churches in the US and Canada.
Several years ago, Global Ministries began pursuing ministry opportunities in Turkey—the first predominantly Muslim nation into which the UB church has ventured. They organized this trip not only as an educational experience for UB pastors, but to introduce UB leaders to ministry opportunities in Turkey. Global Ministries is partnering with IN Network, a mission agency which works in Turkey.
The United Brethren participants were:
- Bishop Phil Whipple.
- Jeff Bleijerveld, director of Global Ministries.
- Donna Hollopeter, associate director of Global Ministries, and her husband, Jason.
- Gary Dilley, pastor of College Park UB church (Huntington, Ind.), and his wife, Rhonda.
- Mike Caley, pastor of Banner of Christ UB church (Byron Center, Mich.).
- John Erwin, pastor of Hopewell UB church (Auburn, Ind.).
- Patrick Daugherty, associate pastor of Atlantic Avenue UB church (New Castle, Pa.).
- Micheal Dean, pastor of Sabetha UB church (Sabetha, Kansas).
- Mark Ralph, pastor of Mt. Zion UB church (Wayne, Ohio).
- Steve Henry, pastor of Victory Heights UB church (Franklin, Pa.), and his wife, Amanda.
Three ministers from other denominations tagged along at the invitation of IN Network.
Leading the trip was Dr. Mark Fairchild, who chairs the Bible & Religion department at Huntington University. His numerous trips to Turkey include two from last summer—one with the Biblical Archaeology Society, the other as a consultant, at the invitation of the Turkish government, to a committee writing curriculum for a Christianity course to be taught in public schools. He knows his stuff, and is recognized for knowing it.
Walking Where Paul Walked
The travelers saw and experienced a lot. A boat ride in Istanbul. The magnificent Hagia Sophia church. Wonderful food. Beautiful countryside.
But, this being a group of ministers, the biblical sites made the greatest impression.
They visited six of the seven churches of Revelation (they skipped Thyatira—not as much to see there), and visited many other historical sites.
“It was quite a remarkable walk through history to where so much of the New Testament happened,” said Bishop Phil Whipple (left).
“The link between the Bible and the map wasn’t connected in my mind,” said Patrick Daugherty (middle). “Seeing, touching, and walking through the ancient sites, actually getting the dust of Turkey on my shoes, made that connection complete.”
Micheal Dean (right) points to Ephesus as his personal highlight. “Ephesians is my favorite epistle. Seeing Ephesus made it come alive.”
Ephesus was a highlight for others, too. Said Patrick Daugherty, “The Apostle Paul lived and ministered there for over two years. It was incredible to stand in the theater and visualize the crowd screaming and shouting, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ and know that Paul wanted to address them and was willing to put his life on the line.”
Steve Henry (left) added, “To read the words of Luke while in the actual location of this event was gripping. Just as walking the streets where Paul and other New Testament leaders walked was humbling and almost inconceivable. This trip has given me a better connection to the text as I prepare my sermons.”
“I loved walking through the city of Laodoceia,” said Mark Ralph (right). “To walk where the Apostle Paul walked was amazing.”
Several persons were fascinated by an old Roman road which wasn’t even marked, but which Dr. Fairchild knew about. “As we drove up the highway from Assos to Troas,” said Phil Whipple, “Mark told us about a Roman road from the days of Paul. We pulled the bus off the side of the road and walked about 20 yards down a hill, where we came upon a stone road, probably ten feet wide. Paul traveled from Troas to Assos. It was meaningful to walk on the road that Paul would have used.”
Patrick Daugherty added, “Our Turkish guide didn’t know about this stretch of road, but Dr. Fairchild did.”
Donna Hollopeter was struck by the contrast between old and new–the ancient archaeological sites, vs. the modernization and economic development occurring throughout Turkey. The very modern Istanbul vs. the very quaint old Istanbul just across the bay.
“I did not anticipate how much visiting the sites would make them—and the whole New Testament—come alive for me,” Donna said. She returned with “a renewed desire to study scripture and dig deeper.”
John Erwin (right) touched on a different angle. “While touring these sites, I was impressed with the work ethic and commitment of the ancients – especially in honoring their gods. We can learn much from them in our relation to the true God.”
Dr. Mark Fairchild: Knowledge and Passion
The UBs absolutely loved Dr. Fairchild.
Phil Whipple: “Mark Fairchild was a delight. He’s not only very knowledgeable, but has a passion for God’s Word and a love for Christ, all of which comes through clearly.”
Micheal Dean: “Dr. Fairchild was like a kid in a candy store at each site we visited. I tracked up mountains with him, on a dead run usually. Sometimes we went where we probably should not have been, and we saw things others were not able to see. I learned so much from him.”
Patrick Daugherty: “Dr. Fairchild was the perfect host and guide for the trip. His wealth of knowledge and his enthusiasm about Turkey are contagious. At each site, he knew intimate details that went beyond academic research; they stem from his love for the land. He is a wellspring of knowledge that cannot be contained when he is given the opportunity to share.”
Mark Ralph: “His grasp of the Word of God was amazing.”
Donna Hollopeter: “I remember seeing Mark run down a steep hillside at full speed and do a perfect pirouette at the bottom. You had to be there to really appreciate it.”
They all enjoyed the banter between Fairchild and the tour guide, Macit. The two had worked together on many previous trips. Macit, noting Fairchild’s ever-clicking camera, kept asking, “How many photos can one man take?”
Said John Erwin, “They obviously had a great deal of respect for each other, and were good friends. I appreciated Mark’s sensitivity to Macit and his Muslim beliefs.”
With the IN Network Team
Joining the ministers on the trip were LaDoyt “Rody” Rodeheaver, president of IN Network, and Behnan, a Turkish church leader who works with IN Network. Rody is a graduate of Huntington University.
The group spent the last night with the workers from IN Network, hearing them talk about their ministry and what it’s like to live as a Christian in Turkey.
John Erwin said, “Getting to meet and talk with these dedicated people, who have overcome much adversity, was eye-opening and impressive. They told stories of what they must deal with—like the children who make a profession at their camp and have to go back home and take mandatory Islamic classes.”
“Behnan is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm for the work,” says Phil Whipple.
John Erwin said Behnan made quite an impact on him. “He has endured prison and threats on his life for standing up for his beliefs, and he still has a smile on his face and joy in his heart. It was, well, convicting.”
“The faith of these Christians grabbed my heart,” said Mark Ralph. “We closed the night by singing ‘He is Lord.’ They sang in Turkish and we sang in English. What a wonderful opportunity to meet my brothers and sisters in Christ in Turkey!”
Land of Opportunity
“Turkey was far more that I expected,” commented Patrick Daugherty. “The people were pleasant and welcoming, the food was delicious, the accommodations were top notch, and the sites were much more extensive than I could have imagined.”
Phil Whipple believes Americans have many misconceptions about Turkey. When he mentioned the upcoming trip to people, they raised their eyebrows, wondering if it was safe. Turkey is a Muslim country, after all. But safety was never an issue.
“In Turkey,” said Whipple, “the majority of people are Muslim in the sense that most Americans are Christians—it’s more of a title than a faith commitment. Turkey is a very secular nation. Many Turkish Muslims don’t go to the mosque or pray at the designated times. At some of the towns, we didn’t even hear the call for prayer.”
“My heart went out to the people,” said John Erwin. “Even though they are secularized Muslims, they still need Jesus in their lives. This will become a matter of prayer and, hopefully, some action as I pass this on to my church.”
Steve and Amanda Henry thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Says Steve:
“The ten-day trip opened my eyes to the physical reality of places in the New Testament. We visited many biblical, historical, and cultural sites. Our tour guide was top notch. But ultimately, it was being able to travel with Dr. Mark Fairchild that made these places come alive with biblical relevance. I told my wife that if all of the professors at Huntington are the caliber of Dr. Fairchild, then we will seriously look at Huntington for the future education of our children.”
About 160 photos from the trip were posted in a Facebook album. Below is a selection.