AUSTRALIAN PRAYER NETWORK NEWSLETTER – SPECIAL EDITION
ARMENIA AND SE TURKEY PRAYER JOURNEY REPORT (SEP 2014)
Regular readers of our newsletters will be aware that the Australian Prayer Network in conjunction with CHI Ministries undertook a prayer journey to Armenia and South East Turkey in September this year. This is a report on that prayer journey.
ARMENIA: THE HIDDEN PLACE
Wow! Armenia has an incredible heritage as the first nation to adopt Christianity in 301. Why doesn’t the whole world know about it? The terrible tragedy of the Armenian Genocide 99 years ago should be in the global consciousness alongside the Jewish Holocaust. Yet today most nations ignorantly turn their back on the fate of two million Christian martyrs.
If God hadn’t have placed it on our prophetic agenda we too would have been blissfully unware. A year ago God spoke emphatically to us that we needed to take a strategic prayer team to Armenia & SE Turkey. After researching the history it was obvious to us why God had mandated this assignment. The Armenians call South East Turkey ‘Western Armenia’ and it was the scene of a hidden crime that later Hitler would refer to, inspiring his officers to execute the Jewish Holocaust.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey (a pivotal event in Australian/NZ history that began on 25th April 1915) few people realise that the Turkish authorities began attacking Christian minorities within their borders on the day before the first ANZAC troops landed. Thus the day before ANZAC Day is observed by Armenians, Assyrians and Pontic Greeks as Genocide Memorial Day.
With Australia preparing to honour our troops’ service at Gallipoli in 1915 you would think that God would have us in the AUSTRALIAN PRAYER NETWORK focus our attention on this issue (which we were actually led to do in 1999). Instead the Lord has asked us to turn our prayers towards the nations of this overlooked and denied Christian Holocaust where the blood still cries out from the land.
What follows is a headline report of the strategic prayer journey to Armenia and SE Turkey in September 2014 with a team of 28 prayer leaders and intercessors. A full detailed report will be released later and will be available for limited distribution.
ARMENIA’S 4TH CENTURY HOUSE OF PRAYER AND WORSHIP
During our five days travelling the length and breadth of Armenia there was one place that resonated strongly with us as it continues to echo the calling of this firstborn Christian nation – The Monastery of the Psalms (Saghmosavank).
Gregory the Illuminator who is credited with leading Armenia to Christianity in 301AD is said to have built the first church here for the continuous singing of Psalms and prayer. With the Kasagh River Gorge itself crying out in praise to our God, the peace-filled chapel that stands atop of it today dates from the 13th century.
Our team had received insight from God on how to pray for Armenia’s destiny in the weeks before we stepped on to this faithful land. The Lord had given us three levels of transformation to pray for. Each transformation can be referenced to the colours in Armenia’s flag.
The first level is the RED ‘sacrificial blood of Christ’, the once and for all sacrifice that redeems creation and addresses the cry of spilled innocent blood on the land. Many religious Armenians have not appropriated the forgiveness and healing that Jesus’ blood offers. They are not able to see beyond the injustice of their ancestors’ martyrdom in the Genocide. A root of bitterness has taken hold that needs to be removed through forgiveness before their wounded spirits can heal.
The second level is the BLUE ‘living water of the Holy Spirit’. God wants to pour His Spirit on Armenia, yet He patiently waits for angry hearts to find peace. This will be a season of equipping in the gifts, fruitfulness in characters and restoration of callings, both individual and corporate.
The ORANGE ‘holy fire of Father God’ is the third level of transformation that will see Armenia step into its calling as a ‘House of Prayer for All Nations’. Their calling to intercede in the throne room will release Kingdom authority and see God’s glory made manifest across the Middle East and the rest of the earth.
Armenians will proudly tell you that they are mentioned in the Bible in Jeremiah 51:27, being called to ‘raise a banner’. Our guiding scripture over the last 8 years in praying for a highway of worship to be built across the Middle East is ISAIAH 62:10 –
Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people.
Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.
We find it most promising that Armenia’s calling to ‘raise a banner’ fits in context with the ‘highway revelation’ that God is revealing to us for the Middle East region.
AN ASSYRIAN WELCOME
We were so privileged to be invited to pray in the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world (397AD). The Assyrian Mor Gabriel Monastery lies in the monastic heartland of Assyria known as Tur Abdin, meaning the ‘Mountain of the Servants of God’.
The descendants of the ancient Assyrians, who were once an enemy of Israel and Egypt, were swept into the Kingdom on mass as the Gospel travelled East in the early centuries of the Church. Since then to this day, to be an Assyrian is to be a Christian.
Most Iraqi Christians are ethnically Assyrians and inhabit Northern Iraq in the plains north of Mosul which is ancient Nineveh. Since the first Gulf War in 2003 and more recently with ISIS assaults more than 1 million have been forced to flee Islamic terror. Assyrian populations in their homeland extended into Syria, Iran and Turkey. Now many have settled in North America, Europe and Australia.
Our team was given special favour to pray at Mor Gabriel during the midday period when the monastery was closed to tourists. We were greeted by the Metropolitan at the gate and led to the oldest chapel for a private prayer session. Our prayers focussed on the protection, restoration and renewal of the Assyrian Church. We prayed for walls of division to come down and for their connection to the rest of the church across the Middle East.
It was a particularly poignant occasion for the leaders of our team who had been in Egypt during the previous week teaching Pastors and Leaders on Isaiah 19. Isaiah prophesied a day when Egyptians and Assyrians would ‘worship together’ and together with Israel ‘be a blessing on the earth’. That picture of ancient enemies finding the one true God and moving back and forth along ‘a highway’ is not simply a metaphor for peace & partnership in the distant future but needs to be evidenced in the hearts & lives of Christians today.
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria.
The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria.
The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.
In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth.
The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying,
“Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”
KURDISH PASTORS AND SYRIAN REFUGEES
Another stateless people who live across Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey are the Kurds. The region of SE Turkey that we prayed through is predominantly inhabited by Kurds, who make up 20% of Turkey’s population.
We had the great privilege to pray with Kurdish Pastors who are working to bring the Gospel to their communities and also reaching out to the flood of refugees who are fleeing to Turkey to escape the religious war in Syria.
We were invited to conduct a prayer and worship service in Midyat, in an empty Protestant church. This building was completed in 1912 and only housed a congregation until the genocide of 1915 wiped out the entire church.
To keep the Muslim authorities from seizing the building a nearby orthodox Assyrian Church created a trust to hold onto it until they could see it given back to a Protestant congregation. Such acts of love inspire us to believe that the church will soon be made one in answer to Jesus’ prayer, so that the world would know that Jesus came to save the world.
For 99 years these walls have stood silent and not echoed the singing of praise to our God. We prayed for the Kurdish Pastor who has been asked to re-establish a church here and we asked God to bring forth the believers He is calling.
Our team was also moved hearing how our brethren, though small and persecuted themselves, are ministering to the Yezidi refugees on the Syrian border. Shunned by Islam as infidels, we heard that these angel-worshipping Yezidis cower in fear of Muslims but run into the arms of Christians.
Our hearts broke as a Kurdish Pastor opened up to us and shared his personal struggle in keeping his heart pure and his spirit sweet. Day after day, hearing story after story of abuse and murder from the refugees had taken its toll. We prayed for the nightmares to cease and feelings of vengeance to be handed over to God.
This same Pastor has been hauled through Turkish courts over many years in establishing his church. Typically under Islam, no new church buildings are allowed to be built. Yet this man was instrumental in seeing the Turkish authorities amend a law to extend recognition granted to ‘mosques’ be extended to ‘places of worship’.
ANI – THE GHOST OF CHURCHES PAST
Ani: ‘The City of 1001 Churches’ once rivalled ancient Constantinople and Rome. Yet for the best part of a thousand years it has been allowed to decay and disintegrate into a debris field. A former capital of Armenia, sitting on the modern border between Turkey and Armenia, this Silk Road city is a mournful reminder that the things of this world must pass away.
Ani is a powerful reflection of the state of the relationship between Armenia and Turkey, showing a complete breakdown of trust and a haunt for ghosts of the past. Watchtowers peer suspiciously across the closed border at one another. The small gorge between two lands has become an insurmountable chasm between two peoples, as if carved out by the Devil’s finger.
Yet for those with Reconciler’s eyes there is a faint symbol of hope – the remains of a small bridge that once spanned the river gorge. Only a couple of crumbling stone pillars remain, reaching up like desperate hands in prayer to God.
That hope was embodied later in our assignment by a young Armenian missionary we met unexpectedly who had been in Turkey for over a year reaching out in love to Turks and Kurds demonstrating forgiveness for the sins of the past. We’ll pick up more about his story below but he represents the forerunner that answers Ani’s cry.
To exorcise ‘the ghost of churches past’ requires us to look forward and not back. The ultimate future of Christ’s Church lies not in grand edifices that are made with dead stones but in the sacrificial living stones that are faithfully laid down one upon another. Those lives that were laid down in the previous generations rest upon the foundation of the Apostles and are aligned to Jesus our Cornerstone. We all eagerly await the time for the Capstone to be placed on top to see His Church completed, but until then the harvest fields beckon us.
PRAYING FOR A HARVEST IN TURKEY
Turkey is an incredibly fertile country in the natural with two great rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris, snaking their way down from the Ararat footslopes to create the Mesopotamian Plain. As we travelled past field after field that had just been harvested it jarred in our spirits that minimal spiritual fruit has been reaped after such a significant mission focus on this land. Having a population of 75 million we heard that the indigenous church numbers just 3,000.
Why? While I’m sure missiological reports could throw up a number of factors impeding the spread of the Gospel in Turkey, there was someone I encountered who shared insights that hit me (Jonathan) right between my eyes. Let me start at the beginning of that encounter.
That morning Dennis, the husband of someone on our team, rang from Australia to share a dream he had received the night before. He was alerted to pray for the protection of a young man that he saw travelling on our bus who would “impact Turkey’s future.” He sensed that the enemy was prowling up and down our bus seeking out this individual.
Dennis nor anyone else knew that a young Armenian man, I’ll call him Paul, had approached me the night before to ask if he could travel with us the next morning. During that 3 hour journey Paul shared his story with me that he’d been in Turkey for over a year reaching out in love to Turks and Kurds demonstrating forgiveness for the sins of the past.
The things Paul said that hit me between the eyes: “The sins of the fathers are only visited to the third and fourth generations!”; “A century ago nearly two million seeds (martyrs) were sown in this land!”
“I the Lord…visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (EXODUS 20:5; CF. NUMBERS 14:18)
Tertullian wrote in 197AD,
“kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. Therefore God suffers (allows) that we thus suffer…. The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”
Could that hatred of our Lord that manifested itself in a genocide against Christian believers be on the verge of being transformed into an outpouring of our Merciful God’s love for Turkey? Could this corporate sin be forgiven by the priestly descendants of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks today and remove this offence from God’s sight?
I see Paul as a forerunner preparing the way for a wave of extravagant lovers of Turkey to sweep across this land. The closed Armenian border, I pray, will act like a dam that holds a pent up flood of missionaries in Armenia until the appointed time. Where Armenians were robbed of their physical lives and inheritances because they remained faithful to His name, could God be granting them authority in this season to reclaim spiritual lives and inheritances amongst their former enemies and in their former homeland?
So the approaching 100 year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide might not be so arbitrary after all. With faith, pray for God to send harvesters into Turkey’s harvest field.
ANSWERING THE ARMENIAN CALL TO PRAYER
Within 24 hours of completing our strategic prayer assignment in Israel in October 2013 the Lord gave us three clear confirmations that we were to prepare to pray through Armenia and SE Turkey in 2014. With what you’ve read above I hope you can now understand why the Lord was calling us to pray there in this season.
Many people have asked us already where to next?
The answer we have right now is to return to Armenia in 2015 to answer the request of Armenian leaders to partner with them to see birthed across Armenia, a national prayer network – a network not too dissimilar to the AUSTRALIAN PRAYER NETWORK. Why? Because, we passionately believe in the power of nationwide prayer to transform a nation.
We invite you to join with us in praying that God raises up a broadly representative network of prayer across all denominational lines that can be a catalyst in the transformation He wants to see in Armenia and the Middle East.
• Humble prayer leaders to be raised up
• Watchmen and women to answer the call to rebuild the walls of this nation
• Resources to train people in intercession
• Unity across the body in Armenia
• Favour with church and civic authorities
• Healing to flow into hearts wounded by the genocide
• God’s spirit to be poured out to empower mission
• His now word to be made known all across Armenia
• God’s House of Prayer for all Nations to be built.
We plan to take a team of prayer leaders, intercessors and kingdom-minded saints to support our work in Armenia in 2015. The potential to see Kingdom change is huge.
If you are interested in joining us overseas in the future or supporting us in prayer from home please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you’d like to stay in touch with the broader work of CHI- Ministries send us an email asking to receive our quarterly newsletters or visit our new websitewww.chiministries.com.
Source: CHI Ministries
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