Turkey, Greece, Rome Study Tour with The Well Community Church

November 1-13, 2022

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Day 03 - Aphrodisias, Ephesus Museum

Today began with the 5 am wake-up call of the local rooster in Pamukkale, Turkey. It took a few good crows before I decided to open my eyes and then it seemed that each passing crow became more frenetic as if threatening not to stop until I put my feet on the floor. 

Then came the morning call to prayer from the tower of the nearby mosque. Since being on this trip, I’ve now heard quite a few and I can say that this guy took full advantage of his opportunity. I got the impression he wasn’t a rookie and seemed to have an incredible zeal for the prayer he was chanting to his god. It really got me thinking about what commitment and drive he had and what the motivation was behind it. Admittedly, I struggle in my prayer life. I often wish it was stronger and more robust, and the real kicker is that I have the privilege of coming before the creator God of the universe, the Alpha and the Omega, to worship, praise and petition, and I don’t pray with even a fraction of that zeal.

Preparing for a cool morning and a warm afternoon, we layered up, dropped off our luggage, and headed down to a beautiful breakfast buffet prepared in our hotel. This morning I was aware of the chatter and laughter around each of our tables. I suppose it could be attributed to a few good night's sleep and waning jet lag, but I actually think it’s just a testament to the sweet cohesiveness our group shares because of our circumstances and shared love for Jesus.

With full bellies, we loaded the bus and headed for our first site. On the way, one of our fellow travelers Steve gave a teaching on the second church of Revelation, Smyrna. One of only two churches to not receive an admonishment, this early church was recognized by Jesus for choosing material poverty over compromise. They were under extreme persecution from the Roman’s for their unwillingness to acknowledge Caesar as Lord and their refusal to sacrifice in his name. Jesus knew that their suffering was only going to increase and encouraged them to stay the course and not succumb to fear. His words provide encouragement to them and assure them that their continued faithfulness will result in a reward that far outweighs their earthly trials. 

Steve then told us a story about Polycarp, an early disciple of the apostle John and a bishop of the church in Smyrna. He was asked to renounce his faith in Christ. Knowing death was the outcome for refusing, he chose to stay the course and was sentenced to burn at the stake. He was quoted as saying to the sentencing authorities, “You threaten fire that burns for an hour and is over. But the judgment on the ungodly is forever.” What an incredible example of faith and trust in the face of adversity that I can’t fathom. Polycarp truly understood Jesus’ words from Matthew 10:28 “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” 

Entering the gates of Aphrodisias, we were greeted by several dogs, a litter of puppies, and several cats. This site is vast and we began with a stop at a very unique Sabastian Theater. Brad shared some history and we learned how there is nothing like this site in all of Asia. It was a favorite of Julius Cesar and it was luxurious and beautiful. It is dedicated to Aphrodeite, the goddess of love and beauty. The Sabastian theater was 3 stories high. Each story held Greco-Roman relief sculptures using Corinthian, Ionic, and Doric capitals. The 3rd story had a theme of the emperor's proudest moments, the 2nd story told stories of the gods and the bottom level told stories of the commoners. We learned that only 20-25% of the people during this time period could read - so they needed to tell stories through pictures. We later visited the museum that held the actual relief sculptures that were recovered from this site. They were so beautiful to look at up close!

Brad shared a devotional outlining how in this culture there was no correlation between what you believe and how you lived. In contrast, as believers in Christ, we have a biblical understanding that our deeds authenticate our faith. 

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

John 15:8

He called us to reflect on our own lives and what we would like our personal legacy to be. 

We then walked to great fountains and admired the beauty of the marble carvings. We noted that this city was a place where tradesmen learned the art of sculpting. They had a marble quarry nearby and they were known throughout the Roman Empire as a place where great sculptures were trained.

We continued our walk and came to a huge stadium that once held up to 300,000 people!! The stadium was used to hold athletic events. The people of that day understood the perseverance needed to compete and win a race. Brad shared a great devotional about how Paul conditioned his body as if for training but rather it was for spiritual purposes. He also challenged us regarding the signature sins in our lives that our flesh is attracted to but reminded us how we are now new creations in Christ and called us to lay them aside if we are to find joy.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11

Our last stop before the hotel was the Ephesus museum. It was loaded with incredible artifacts dated back to 4000 B.C. 

By Michelle Saladino and Denise Voth


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