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Summer 2006

My June "minister's message" should have been replaced a couple of weeks ago, but it is provident that it was delayed as I can tell you about some of the things that have happened to me recently.

Patricia and I were in Turkey. We visited many of the ancient sites and places in Anatolia, the region of modern Turkey formerly known as Asia Minor. Many of these places and people are mentioned in the Bible. We learned about the Hittite people who lived there for many years - Joshua and the Children of Israel took possession of "the Hittite country" when they entered the Promised Land in about 1300 BC (give or take 100 years or so) (Joshua 1:4). We also visited some of the places mentioned in St Paul's journeys in Acts - Konya (Iconium) (Acts 14:1) and Ephesus (Acts 19), where Paul had a run-in with the silversmiths who sold little effigies of the Greek goddess Artemis (or Diana) to the first century tourists who went there to worship. (The 21st century tourists were busy taking digital photographs of the ancient ruins!) The next door city of Selšuk is believed to be the burial pace of the apostle St John. Now I know that many of you reading this will have visited Asia Minor or the Holy Land. You will have "been there, done that and got the tee-shirt", but this was MY visit and I found it to helped me to set the Bible stories in their place.

The main purpose of our visit was for me to attend and present a paper at an international conference in Istanbul on the Teaching of Mathematics at the University Level. One of the speakers, an Israeli woman whose name is Nitsa, was taking about the differences - some would say wars - between mathematicians and mathematics educators. She was calling for co-operation rather than confrontation and quoted a verse from Isaiah: "God will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks" (Isaiah 2:4). In Northern Ireland we are slowly moving away from the use of violence to achieve political ends. On our return on 11th July I asked the taxi driver taking us from the airport if things were quiet for the 12th, and he said they were. So thank God that our "long hot summers" of violence and dispute are a thing of the past. (As I write we are experiencing lovely long hot sunny days!)

Sadly the Holy Land is on fire again. Nitsa lives in Haifa and has had to prepare her home bomb shelter in case the long range missiles come her way. Let it be our prayer that the Lord will indeed turn swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, not only in Israel/Lebanon, but also in Iraq, Afghanistan and all other troubled places in the world. Isaiah also brought this message from God: "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you." (Isaiah 41:10). Jesus said a similar thing: "I have told you these things [warnings abut future persecution], so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world!" (John 16:33).

Ken (17 July 2006)