We journeyed five hours today from Adana through the Taurus Mountains and the Cilician Gates, northeast to Konya, ancient Iconium in the province of Galatia. These steep hills were Paul's only land route between Cilicia and Galatia.

Along the way we stopped in Ulukisla to see a carvansaray, the three day way station for Silk Road caravans. But it's Monday and we crashed the bazaar. You'd think we were Martians. 

"Hello. Where are you from?"
"Oh, Americans!" 

What a surprise, and what beautiful produce and smiles.

Paul wrote his first letter to this region of Galatia, to the believers in Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. He was incensed about their following a different teaching and adamant about living by the spirit and not by the law. Circumcision, the major identifier for God's people, was the focus of Paul's letter.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love... Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Galatians 5:6, 6:15

And it was in Iconium Paul was beaten for the first time, left for dead and scarred:

From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. Galatians 6:17

We visited a mosque in Iconium built with stones from a 4th century church--men praying in the large room and women behind the screen. What is victory for one raiding nation, means death and rubble to another.

It was in Lystra, Galatia, where Paul meets Timothy his protege, his true and dear son in the faith:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 2 Timothy 1:4

One generation rises up to lead--Timothy is a trusted partner for Paul.

Two women hosted us in the only Catholic/ Christian church in Konya called St Paul's. They came 19 years ago from Trento, Italy, because missionaries from Iconium sent missionaries to Trento and were persecuted in the 4th century. Out of gratitude for service given 1600 years ago, these two women decided to provide hospitality to visitors. Twice a month a priest leads mass. 50 came to Easter from neighboring cities; the closest church is 220 miles away.

Visitors see the story of Paul on the walls as well as the stations of the cross. "We answer questions and invite people in, hoping somehow they experience the love of Jesus," Isabella told us. 

I think this is a place of faithfulness.


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