ACTS 6: 1-7

MAY 23, 2004


This is a letter from Ziya Meral, a student at London School of Theology and a new friend of mine. Ziya is from Turkey, and this letter expresses what it feels like to be one of 2000 followers of Jesus in a country of 75 million people. It is a plea for help, concern, even awareness to Christ-followers in the West. Ziya’s voice is important for all in the emergent friendship to take to heart. – Brian McLaren

O Brother Where Art Thou?

Ziya Meral

I walk aimlessly among the streets of Smyrna; tired, weary, alone. The clouds thicken and hide the blue sky behind ever present darkness. Millions of people pass me as I tremble with an instant realization; we are less than 200 hundred believers in this old city, we are less then 2000 thousand in this country of 75 million. I stand in front of the church of St Polycarp, as the sky opens her arms and lets go of the tears that she holds next to her chest. I am not sure if it is her tears or mine that fall down to the road from my cheeks. This is where Polycarp was burnt for his faith in the God who has never left him. This is where I grow up and this is where I suffocate. I sang a song, unknown to me. ‘We the broken, we the crushed, we the abandoned, we the persecuted; long for air, for comfort, words of encouragement. We yearn for friends to hold our hands.’ No, I am not alone in singing this; these are our words, our laments. All the demons surrounding us, mock all day long; ‘Why are you alone? Why is there no one around to comfort you?’ We stand weak and tired. We are afraid to even think, not so much to realize, that there is no one out there paying attention to our cries. They draw closer. We are put to shame among crowds. Our own names become thorns in fragile flesh. As we are trapped in our long standing fortresses, we fear of knowing that we may not survive one more siege. Our walls are weakened, our supplies are almost finished. Our hearts, for the first time, start to entertain thoughts of giving up. ‘There is no point in calling for help! They cannot hear you. Their ears are full of their own voices. They only hear the calls that give them what they want. Those are much sweeter to listen than your cries. Do not expect them to come to your help. They are in spiritual retreats, far away from you, seeking to find out what’s wrong with their spiritual lives. Do not hurt yourselves anymore! You are the only ones out here in this distant post. Give up your foolish resistance! No one really cares! See you are alone. If your God was this much precious to follow, than why is it only you out here? ’ The darkness sieges us and we, just like a flock of sheep, draw closer to one another and scream as much as we can calling for help.

Brother where are you in the hour of our distress? Where are you in the hour of Christ’s distress? We don’t want a simple mention of our names in your busy prayer schedules. We don’t just want your donations. We want you and your presence. We want to know that this final post, that is about to give in, stands with millions behind it. We want to know that we the nameless are in the very heart of the body of the One who is suffering right here next to us. We want to know that when we close our eyes, we can see the faces of thousands who share that moment. We want to know that if we cry, you will run to us. We want to know that you care and what we are doing is not pointless. Do you hear us? If we are to ask you to hold our hands and cry with us tonight, will you be there?

Only God knows how broken and fearful I am, not the crowd that mistakes this weakling with a bold one. I hide away from the familiar faces that do their best to turn me away from what seems to them a useless faith. Shame waves through my veins and I feel the nails going through my wrists. I bow down, and watch my own tears falling. Faceless and colorless tears drop on the dust beating the ground as if it was a mighty drum. In that silence, I wonder where you are now. So I grab a pen and write to you. This is my letter to a church which has never written to me. These are the words that have been baptized with tears and pain falling all around me. This is a cry to the church that seems distant, cold, indifferent and self-obsessed. I dare to ask, will you be there? If you are not with us tonight, when will you ever be?

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