from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2
We have spent the last week in Kas, Turkey on the coast of the Mediterranean. Kas (rhymes with “posh”) is the home of some friends of friends of ours, who have hosted us for a personal retreat, for us to reflect on the 9 months of travels and to prepare a bit for the remaining months. Kas, like Kotor and Bar, Montenegro (see previous post), is nestled in on the side of steep hills and yet is on the Mediterranean Sea, and also like these other places, has turned out to be a great place to lift up our eyes to God, to reflect on his goodness and work in our lives, and to reflect on all we have done, taught, received and learned during these last months.
It is not surprising that people like to retreat, to seek God’s guidance and deep presence, in places where the heavens meet the earth, in mountain settings. Moses and Elijah on Mount Horeb, Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration—people have been meeting God in high places, in places both of solitude and beauty, for millennia. While traveling in countries dominated by the Orthodox church, we have seen the landscape spotted by ancient monasteries in high places, some still active while others just a memorial to past piety.
While in Kas, we took a day trip to Greece, or at least to a tiny island off the coast of Turkey that is a Greek possession (since after WW1). Kastellorizo is a coastal town not unlike Kas, but in the thirty minutes the boat takes to traverse the few miles, we left a town with no native Christian believers and no Christian church, to a place that has a couple Orthodox churches and most of the population, being Greek, would consider themselves Orthodox, if not actual believers. We were there on Orthodox Good Friday (or “Red Friday”), and the town cemetery we walked past was filled with people laying flowers, burning incense, remembering their loved ones, and the church bell was ringing a mournful set of notes the whole time we were there.
We arrived in Kas two days after Western Easter, but we celebrated Orthodox Easter the following Sunday with a sunrise service at the home we were staying at. Nabil and Sarah, our good friends from Lebanon joined us, having arrived the day before for a retreat of their own the following week, and the four of us sang some Easter hymns that we had missed when we were in Georgia the previous week. It was a subdued and short service, but long on gratitude for the beauty of the surroundings and the warmth of friendship. (Photo credit above to Nabil, shortly before the sun's rise, that Easter morn.)
Our time in Turkey has come to an end, after a time of looking back (reflecting on our trip’s highs and lows), looking up (to hear from God and to incline our souls more deeply toward him), and looking forward to both the remainder of our trip and the open questions about life and ministry upon our return home. Our hope is not in the hills, but in the God who made them beautiful for our enjoyment and his praise and glory.