I have just returned from a ten-day tour of the Seven Churches of the Revelation in Turkey. Our excursion in Turkey was bracketed by time spent in the city of Istanbul. Straddling the Bosphorus Channel, the splendid waterway that divides Europe and Asia, connecting the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea, Istanbul is to me the most magnificent city in the world. Each time I visit it, I enjoy it more. It is an ancient city and a thoroughly modern city at the same time. Its history, both bloody and beautiful, spans millennia; its architecture is fascinating; the hidden treasures beneath its soil defy imagination; its hundreds of museums contain items and artefacts too many to count; its palaces are breathtaking; its global influence cannot be underestimated; and the minarets of its mosques pierce the skyline like a thousand needles. From them the Muslim call to prayer resounds across the city five times a day, calling its fifteen million inhabitants to prayer. Ninety-eight percent of Turkey’s population of seventy-eight million is Muslim. The light of the gospel is very dim there. How will Turkey be won to Christ? How will Istanbul be won?
We left Istanbul on Tuesday night for Cairo in Egypt to catch our connecting flight to Johannesburg. We were flying over the Mediterranean when our Egypt Air Boeing began its descent into Cairo. Within minutes the lights of the sprawling city came into view. I had a window seat, and for the next thirty minutes, until we landed at Cairo airport on the south east side of the city, I kept my eyes focused on what was below me as we flew lower and lower over the city. At eight o’clock it was still rush hour in Cairo and the highways, roads and lanes were clogged with slow moving traffic. From the air the lights of the vehicles made the city look like a living thing with light coursing through its arteries and veins. The famous River Nile snaked its way through the city, crossed by dozens of bridges. As I gazed at that vast city with its nineteen million inhabitants, I felt a growing sense of despair. Egypt is eighty-seven percent Muslim. The light of the gospel shines a little brighter in Egypt than in Turkey. But it is still very dim. How will Egypt be won to Christ? How will Cairo be won? I don’t know!
I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage,
How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of East and West, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendor
When He, the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.