Turkey/Iraq 2009

Craig’s ’09 Creative Outreach Trip

A Journal of Travels in Turkey and Iraq


Up, Up, and Away

At Sky Harbor ready to leave

Here I am at the airport ready to depart on the 16 hour trip
(including airport waiting time) to Istanbul. I’m looking forward to
seeing the friends I’ve meet on previous trips there, and meeting a
few new ones.










On the transcontinental flight I could only see 1 empty seat – and it was next to me! I moved back and forth several times, but could not manage to sit in the empty seat – it always ended up being the one next to me. I don’t know who was luckier, me or the lady who moved out of the seat next to me to sit with her daughter on the other side of the plane.

The whole flight I was too warm; it kept me from sleepig well and hindered my ability to fight off motion sickness. Suffice it to say that, during the landing approach, mu unsettled feeling was rapidly aleviated and I gained a new appetite. Sitting in Frqnkfurt now, waiting for my flight to Istanbul.

Otherwise, arrived in Istanbul without any problems. Met together with the local team tonight for dinner and prayer. Tomorrow will be a prep day, collecting supplies and building he props I’ll need.


It’s a small world

For the next few days I’m staying in the apartment below the Bible Correspondence Course offices. I rarely have a reason to go up to the offices but I just went up there to talk to someone about tomorrow’s street outreach and saw someone who I assumed looked familiar from my previous visits. A few moments later he said, I think we are from the same church. It was one of our full time workers who recently moved to this country, in a different city. It turns out that he was just down for the day to get some contacts for his area and happened to be in the office just when I went in.


Sidewalk evangelism

Yesterday I went with a team of 7 others to the nearby town of Izmit. There is a 20 member protestant church there and we were to distribute handbills for a showing of the Jesus Film they were having that night, and also do some sidewalk outreach. We passed out the fliers and tracts while we were looking for an outreach site. Eventually we found a location near where there would be some foot traffic, but not too much, and where gathering a crowd would not be too much of an obstruction to the area. I began by doing some rope tricks and then I presented a clear gospel message using the 3-Ball Gospel Illustration. After the 20 minute show and gospel message we hung around and talked with individuals and small groups as long as seemed profitable and then wandered on to a different location passing out more invitations and tracts.Following is a report from the local pastor.”Yesterday was a very wonderful time. The brothers and sisters who did the outreach passed out about 1000 invitations and a few women telephoned for more information. These women could come to our evening film showing but they want to come on Sunday. From the afternoon outreach 25 people came to see the Jesus Film last night. After the film I gave a short gospel message. But afterwards in our discussion time 19 people stayed and 3-4 are very, very interested. Let’s pray for them.”


The tour begins

Written Sunday 10-4 about Friday and Saturday 10-2 and 10-3Friday was a travel day: Dustin, Katie and myself took a sea taxi from the Asian side of Istanbul to the European side, caught a bus to the airport and flew to Antakya. The equipment van left this morning to make the 15 hour trip by road. Saturday morning I helped Dustin finish construction of his show props – a set of wood boxes which he rides between and over with his unicycle.


Our first tour venue

Written Sunday, 10-4 about Saturday 10-3The first show of the tour is the city of Antakya. You may recognize it by the name of Antioch – the place where the term Christian was first used. Our venue was in a courtyard in front of the Orthodox Christian Church. This building was on an historic register, so all during the time we were setting up, people kept wandering across the “stage” area to look at the building. I half-way expected people to go sauntering across the stage during the show, but they didn’t.We had about 35 surveys filled out, with 15 people indicating that they would like to meet with our host (from the 30 to 40 member Protestant Church) to learn more about Jesus.

Spontaneous outreach

We did not have a formal program scheduled for today so we drove partway to tomorrow’s destination and stopped in Gaziantep. There is a small church of about 20 Christians here, who are enthusiastic about evangelism. We got to town about the time that their church service was over, so we joined them for prayer and then gathered some props from our van and headed to the park.Or first stop was at a skate park where dozens of teen boys were riding bikes up and down ramps and jumps – what a great audience for Dustin! He started riding his unicycles and had their full attention immediately. I was to follow with a few tricks and a gospel message, but just then we noticed a number of police had shown up at the scene. Choosing to be cautious, I was requested to keep the gospel message light, so I finished with more of a testimony than a full gospel message. It turned out that once the police learned what we were doing they were not interested in interfering, but rather concerned about the large crowd.After sticking around and talking to individuals for a while, we moved on to another part of the park to do more presentations. Dustin did a routine on his 6 footer, complete with a testimony and gospel message, then a few minutes later, about 50 yards away, I did a short show and a full 3-ball gospel presentation. After my program I invited anyone who wanted to talk to stick around. One man began to politely defend his religion, and while he was doing so, another man came up and started heatedly debating with him (sorry, I couldn’t make any of it out). It turns out that he was drunk and was just in an arguing mood.One young man questioned Dave, our tour director, about why we were here, and Dave eventually figured out that he was wanting to find a place where he could learn more about Jesus. In addition to him, God allowed us to identify about 3 others who were also interested in going to the church to learn more. Not a bad result for spending a beautiful afternoon in the park.

Another park…

…but this time it was a scheduled, full, program instead of spontaneous park evangelism. This means that we had permission to do the program. As a result we didn’t present the full gospel message – or else we wouldn’t have gotten permission. Instead we gave testimonies about changed lives, and to find out what made that change, we invited people to talk to us after the program. By my estimate there were about 300 people at the program tonight (others are estimating higher).Our show tonight is in the same park.

These are some photos of the crowd.


Same park, same show, many different people

Thursday, October 8th – about Wednesday October 7thHere is a shot of the audience at yesterday’s program. The show went well, but was a bit more memorable; Just as Dustin began the last routine of the show – riding a 10 foot tall unicycle, it started to sprinkle. We packed up in a hurry and were thoroughly wet by the time we finished, but it was refreshing!


Waaaaaay off the beaten path

Today our program was in a little village an hour-and-a-half outside Diyabakir. We are definitely not hopping around to tourist spots. This was another outdoor program (I expect all of them on this trip will be) at a school. Since the audience was essentially all minors we could not share openly, but pray that the testimonies we were able to share will take root and sprout someday. We did collect a lot of surveys, but again, can’t follow up on any of them that didn’t indicate an age over 18.Tomorrow we are off to cross the boarder into northern Iraq. We will be forging into new territory at this point, so please pray accordingly. I don’t know how available internet connections will be from now through Wednesday, so it may be a while before you hear from me again.Here is a photo from today’s show. This is Dustin Kelm, world champion unicyclist, riding on the lower of two 20cm wide boards in his obstacle course. It truly is an honor to be sharing the “stage” with him. Every time I get a chance to watch him I am awed by what he can do on his variety of unicycles. Notice the landscape in the background. This is high dessert, very similar to what I’ve seen in northern Arizona.


Night crossing

Saturday, October 10Here is how things go, sometimes, over here. We get up at 8am to have breakfast at 9 so we will be ready to leave at 10am. We don’t end up actually leaving leaving town until 3:15pm to cross the border into the Kurdistan region of Iraq (they don’t like being called Iraq, here). We get to the border at 12:30am. Finally we get to a hotel in Dohuk, Iraq at 2:30am.Yesterday was a day of protest in Turkey. There were road baracades and military checkpoints, and a very visible police presence throughout our trip south.Miscellaneous factoids:
*I started out yesterday morning with the sniffles and am medicating a full blown cold.
*4 of our 7 person team made the first 4 hours of the 10 hour trip in the back of our cargo van with all the show equipment. The ballance of the trip was made with 6 of us crammed into a taxi.
After crossing the border we began seeing a multitude of armed guards at gas stations and street corners.
*We have a show today in a town about 2 hours away. As of 11am this morning we don’t have the details of where or when yet.All in all, still counting it a privileged to be here sharing the Good News to so many who might not otherwise hear it.Photo of the day: looking at the hotel fire escape stairway from the 5th fooor


The thief of Baghdad

It seems like it has been a long time since my report 2 days ago on Saturday. We ended up not having a program Saturday night in Erbil. The application for permission was submitted at the beginning of Ramadan and the officials were too busy to consider it. Then, afterwards, they were too slow to process it; passing it back and forth between the different government departments.

We made up for it Sunday though, because we did two shows in different venues. The first was in a school, in a very loud gymnasium. The students were amazingly responsive/appreciative, yet well behaved – not something we have experienced often in Turkey. The second show, last night, was in a city park: beautiful weather, beautiful surroundings, and a small but very appreciative and polite audience.

Today, back in Dohuk, we did a program as guests of the city. The show went great, we were able to share the gospel message presented as our own experience, not as preaching how they should respond. The front row was occupied by many local dignitaries, including the mayor and the very wealthy/influential local Muslim businessman who was instrumental in getting the program scheduled. A full, polite, yet engaged audience, many news cameras rolling throughout the program, and news interviews after the show. And dozens and dozens of photos with our new fans.

Treated like rock stars

– OK, maybe folk stars? Would you believe polka stars?

After we packed up and got checked into our hotel, we attended tea at the home of the aforementioned businessman. We were then treated to dinner at a verrrrry nice restaurant on his dime.

Factoids of the day:
* Friday is the “weekend” here – Sunday is a regular work day.
* It is not polite to show the bottoms of your feet/shoes
* Our driver between the cities of Dohuk (the first city we visited in Kurdistan) and Erbil, reached speeds of 180kph on the trip. (To get mph, multiply by .621 I’ll be onory and make you do the math.) These speeds were attained on dippyy, curvy, less than “state of the art super slab” highways.
* He was doing near 100kph while slaloming between potholes. I was sitting in the middle, getting bobble head whiplash!
* Our trip took us within 20 km of Mosul – I good place for us to avoid.

Oh yeah; we didn’t have anything stolen, nor were we anywhere near Baghdad – but it made an interesting heading, didn’t it?

Here is a photo with the mayor; I was told it was a travel day so I’m feeling a bit under dressed.

Here I am interviewing with a newspaper reporter.

In the home stretch…

For Monday’s show, the township provided a translator. When she arrived Dustin and I went over what we would be saying for her, so she could make sure she understood the words. When I got to the part about my testimony she interjected that “I am a Christian, too. I have invited Jesus into my life.” Needless to say, I was quite surprised. We found out later that she was raised in a Christian home in a nearby town. She told us that just that morning she was praying that God would show her how He could use her. What a fun answer to a prayer!Fun Fact of the day: I didn’t see any girls/ladies in the audience of approximately 1,500. (apparently a cultural thing)Yesterday was a travel day back to Diyarbucker, Turkey, where we stayed several days last week. But before we could leave town we went to the office of the “Duhok Monicipality Prisident” (as printed on his business card) to have tea and receive some plaques commemorating our visit. (See photo)We were prepared to spend many hours in line to get across the border. Then, I noticed we were zooming past the 1/2 mile long line of cars to the front. It turns out we had a letter from the “Monicipality Prisident” which granted us VIP privileges. We were ushered into a very nice, exclusive waiting room (see photo) where we were served tea and bottled water while we waited the hour and a half for our passports to be processed. Then another hour and a half later, after emptying the equipment van and having everything thoroughly inspected, we were across the border. I had opportunity to show many of the guards, inspectors and other travelers the trick where I magically convert a Turkish bill into an American one, because our Kurdish tour promoter kept introducing me and telling me to “do the money trick”. I guess building a little extra goodwill didn’t hurt anything.There was the possibility of a program today, but it didn’t work out. We had permission from one government department but didn’t have time to get the needed permission form some other department.Photo in Moncipality Prisident’s office – the traveling team plus the Christian interpreter (standing)

Photo in border VIP waiting room

Finishing up

Friday, October 16Yesterday (Thursday) was a travel day. Dustin, Katie and I hung around Diyrarbuckar most of the day, waiting for our 10:45pm flight to Istanbul. Then, this evening I taught a workshop on sidewalk evangelism for about a dozen workers who wanted to learn some magic effects for drawing and holding a crowd. Then I taught them two methods for doing Andre’s Three-Ball Gospel Illustration and also the Pocket Gospel Illustration. As you can tell from the photo, they were taking good notes and even video taping the instructions for future reference.Tomorrow morning I’ll go to the Istanbul airport with Dustin and Katie and we will begin our trek home.Overall, we did 10 programs. This whole team was a privilege to work with. People really seemed to enjoy the combination unicycling/illusion show this show, and it was well received everywhere we went, and even in the new areas we ventured into we received standing invitations to come back. I’d like to take them up on that offer sometime.


A video showing one enthusiastic audience

This was at the school in Erbil, Iraq.

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