I’ve never been one for learning about history. I was good at school, but history will always been the only class in high school I got a B in. I was just never interested, unless that history was directly related to me. So when it came to family or the Bible, I was more inclined to be interested but wanted it to be a personal story.
Cyprus is a very historical place. It has long been a fought-over island from empire to empire because of its location in the Mediterranean Sea. Many of the apostles most likely traveled to and through Cyprus in order to reach many cities, including Rome. The early church met in catacombs on the southwest side of the island near Paphos called Tomb of the Kings to avoid persecution and to worship God freely.
I knew that Cyprus was a historical landmark when it came to the first generation of believers, but I had no idea what other history was involved with the island that was connected to my own.
Over the last hundred years, Cyprus has been under both Turkish and British rule but was admitted as a country in the European Union in 2004, several decades after a third of the island was occupied by the Turks and declared their own in an illegal occupation. There has long been a tension on the island due to the displacement of thousands of Cypriots and the constant struggle between the two sides.
Believe it or not I am a quarter Armenian, a middle eastern country on the edge of Europe next to Georgia that is the first Christian nation. I grew up being told the story of how my grandpa came to live in the US. About a hundred years ago his parents heard a story of a young boy from their church who had a dream where God had come to him and told him to leave. Hundreds of people—including my great-grandparents—emigrated from Armenia in obedience. Those who didn’t were left at the mercy of the Turks as they invaded the country and massacred thousands as a part of a religious war.
As you can imagine, hearing this story several times throughout your life brings a thankfulness to God, but also a bitterness to the people group who wronged a country that you came from. I found myself really nervous about being in the North side of the island because it was occupied by the country that invaded a place that I am proud to come from. And when we first got there, it was odd. I wasn’t addressed by someone at a coffee shop. He wanted to meet all of the bandmates, except me.
I began to question if I should even share the Gospel that evening. I was turned off by the Muslim religion that demeaned women and wouldn’t see me as someone who has something worthy to say. But after speaking with Jon, the missionary we would be partnering with for our rock concert, I began to change my mind.
He expressed that the northern side of Cyprus may be occupied by the church, but it is an extremely diverse area. There are people in their church alone from the US, Australia, South Africa, England and more. Even though I was a woman, the Turks there had begun to grow past the strong rules of their religion in order to adapt and better relate with the people they are sharing space with.
So I shared. Even though I was nervous how I would be received, people listened. There were a lot of people from the church there, but others became curious. They talked to some of the team members and the missionaries we had with us because they had questions. Even though I was a woman, it didn’t stop my ministry to the people.
I realized that the people in the north were exactly that: just people. Though there may be Turks, they are searching for their own home. They’re searching for control because they don’t have a peace within them that God gives. They need the Gospel just as much as I do.
While we were there we also spent time wandering around the south side of Cyprus where the Greek Cypriots live. The people there were just as desperate for the Gospel as the north. People there are so caught up in the Greek Orthodox religion which is full of false gods and idols. There’s so much history of the Church there, but they are still searching for something that has existed on their island for centuries.
Our last rock show of the year was actually in a very historical spot. It was right on the harbor of Paphos where an old castle from the Ottoman Empire was, and it was right next to an ancient amphitheater and an archeological park. When we played music, it echoed across the harbor to hundreds of people and drew them in. They came to listen to our music and hear our stories. It was an unbelievable experience where I was able to be near history.
God will consistently blow my mind. History both matters and doesn’t. And my story will one day be history for others. I was able to share in history with people who have received the Gospel and who still need it. I was honored to be used by God, and humbled to be corrected by Him.