I remember waking up the first morning in Lakeside, and gathering as a group for Prayer. We had arrived after midnight the night before, and we were bleary-eyed, seeing our surroundings in the light of day for the first time. From where I sat during our reflections, I could see the startling image of a gate of the old Roman walls, standing silent and alone, as the walls on both sides had crumbled away leaving just the arch. The City’s ancient walls easily possess the attention of visitors; coming from America, a country without fortified cities, I imagine that I was captured more than most.
One of our primary functions during our time was to prayer walk the old City. Practically, this meant splitting up into sets of twos or threes and walking the streets of the city, praying for anything our eyes laid on and any prayers or ideas incited by the Holy Spirit. We split up the city into four sections, with each street prayed for by the time we left.
The Walls formed the boundaries for our goal and a guide to us as we traveled the City. If you became lost, as long as you found the wall, you could reorient yourself, walking the route back to our home base. Over the course of a week, they became an old friend.
Importantly, the walls were a visible testimony of time. They were completely gone in a few sections and, in many others, decaying with the expiration of centuries. We took great joy in discovering the idiosyncrasies of certain sections, in particular finding old stones with Greek or Roman alphabet or ornamentation in the wall’s foundation. The walls were also a visible testimony to change. At one gate, the City commissioned an enormous mural displaying, with great effect and with undeniable pride, the moment the Turks finally made it past those invaluable fortifications, now deteriorated, of the Christian city. The walls were a reminder of ancient glory, and its demise.
The walls were also a visible image of the barriers to a renewal of the Church in the city. Our groups was incredibly moved, by the end of the week, with all of the hospitality and generosity given to us by the locals we met. Within each interaction and each conversation with people we met, however, there was distance amidst the hospitality, a pride in local religion and nationality in the willingness to speak about faith. There were walls there, especially for our faith.
We were provided images of hope. Across city walls, plants and other vegetation have made their home. Vines spread abundantly, from the walls into the city, a sign of new growth and the persistence of God’s creation. More astoundingly, even in walls with few plants growing on them, we found roots emerging at eye level of the 25 foot high edifices. These roots had been around a while, waiting and persistent, digging for life-giving water.
We followed the passages prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer each morning and by grace God gifted us Ezekiel 37:
- (v1-5) “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. “
- (v11-14) Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”
God’s plan for the restoration of his creation and his plan for a new heaven and a new earth include West Asia and Lakeside. God will breathe life into the ruins and roots which lay dormant, and he will be worshiped anew in a place where the foundations still remember Him by name. Most importantly, God’s plan involves not just what was, but who is there, toiling through everyday life, wondering what it is like to be known, to know, and to be loved steadfastly. I pray that God would give those roots water and breathe life into those dry bones.
Interested in hearing more? Join us for story-telling about West Asia (and food!) at our sharing night “Turkish Delight”, Wednesday at 7:30 PM at the Grays. Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in praying for Asia? Join Eric praying for the Silk Road (and Asia) on Monday, February 1, 7:30 PM at the Church.