Author Spotlight: Roy & Evelyn Turkington
We are pleased to introduce authors Roy and Evelyn Turkington. They recently published No Stone Left Unturned with us, which is now available through the Word Alive Press Bookstore, and everywhere fine Christian books are sold. We asked Roy and Evelyn to share a little bit about their travels and their new book. But first, a little bit about them.
Roy and Evelyn Turkington were born in Northern Ireland and lived there until they were married. Roy has a degree in Biological and Environmental Studies from the New University of Ulster and then completed his doctorate at the University College of North Wales. He was a professor in the Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research Centre, with a specialty in Plant Ecology, at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver from 1977 until 2015 and is now professor emeritus.
Evelyn was a registered nurse with specialized training in midwifery (Scotland) and operating room technique (Bristol, England). The couple immigrated to Canada in 1976.
Roy and Evelyn have been married forty-six years, have two children, Alistair and Andrea, and seven grandchildren. They were involved in the AWANA ministry for thirty years as leaders, commander, conference speakers, camp team leaders, and Canadian board member.
Since retirement, their ministry has shifted its focus to Christian volunteer opportunities in Jerusalem. They’ve led a number of Christian tours to Israel and travelled widely to ninety countries. They lived for one year each in Wales, Israel, Turkey, China, and Argentina. From 1992 until 1993, their family lived in Jerusalem, which was the unintentional springboard for the travels described in this book.
Q: What prompted you to write this book?
A: This book is designed to introduce the reader to many of the major narratives of the Bible, beginning with Abraham and the other patriarchs, Israel’s judges and prophets, Jesus Christ, Paul, and John’s seven churches in Revelation. The central theme is a journey through the Bible, but the major focus is Jesus Christ. We wrote this book to introduce readers to Jesus Christ and enrich the lives of those who already know Him.
We lived in Jerusalem for a year, and while there our son was proceeding through the Junior Varsity program of the AWANA ministry. One of the program’s requirements was to search references in the Bible to the various sites we had visited in Israel. This ignited our interest, because we had already visited many sites that weren’t on any tourist itinerary.
This developed into a project to visit the site of every recorded Bible event in Israel. As we travelled around, we took thousands of photographs, made notes, sketched maps, and after encouragement from many sources we compiled all this information into a book: Arise, Walk Through the Land, published by Palphot in Israel.
Subsequently, we visited biblical sites in Italy, Greece, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. We published an updated and revised edition of our book in 2017.
But these books were purely factual guides to sites in Israel and Jordan and lacked one major dimension: our experiences. As we gave presentations, we realized that we had a story to accompany almost every slide or PowerPoint image. Often these were funny, exciting, or frustrating. Sometimes they were daring, and on occasion they were a little dangerous.
Many of these experiences were documented, but many were simply stored in our memories. After some gentle encouragement from well-meaning friends, we embarked upon this compilation of our travels in No Stone Left Unturned.
If this book stimulates even one additional person to visit Israel and some of the sites written about in the Bible, then objective achieved.
Q: How did you develop as a writer?
A: This may be a strange answer, but I don’t really consider myself a writer, at least not in the popular sense. I was trained as a science writer and published more than 150 scientific papers and book chapters. My motto was to write as few words as possible but as many as were necessary. This led to the typically terse style required of much science writing.
In writing No Stone Left Unturned, I had to set aside fifty years of science-writing training. Instead I wrote as if I were taking dictation from standing and talking to a live audience. This resulted in some very awkward sentences and a number of instances where the written word deviated, sometimes quite markedly, from the intended message. Fortunately, there are people in the publishing world called editors!
Q: Where is your favourite place of those you visited?
A: This depends on the metric used for “favourite.” The beauty in God’s creation is evident in many forms. China is perhaps the most scenically spectacular country we have visited, with azure lakes, towering peaks, and deep valleys, all mostly tucked away where few western tourists venture.
For individual attractions, it would be difficult to surpass the three-hundred-plus cascades that comprise the stunning Iguazu Falls on the Brazil-Argentina border. Trekking to the Mount Everest base camp, on the Nepali side, and to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro was breath-taking—literally. Then there’s the exotic wildlife of the East African game parks, including the iconic crossing of the crocodile-infested Mara River by hundreds of thousands of wildebeest. Even for non-botanists, the tropical/subtropical forests of southwest China are simply awe-inspiring.
Arguably, our most stunning moment occurred at the Mount Everest base camp, this time on the Tibetan side. Everest rises straight up and unobstructed for nearly eleven thousand feet, or 3.3 kilometres, but it was totally obscured by cloud. After about three hours, the clouds rolled back and the towering peak appeared in all its majestic beauty. Then we heard a loud crack and we were privileged beyond words to see a mighty avalanche come crashing down the north face. We were singing in our hearts, “Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder…”
Finally, without doubt, nothing can surpass celebrating the Lord’s Table in the Jerusalem garden which most probably is the location of the tomb where Jesus was laid and from which He arose triumphantly from the dead.
Q: What was the most dangerous place you visited, or the most dangerous encounter you had?
A: We have visited nearly ninety countries on all continents and subcontinents, seen every oceans, and gone to most of the world’s great deserts. Much of this travel was done on our own, although it was often work-related, and this inevitably placed us in difficult situations.
Probably the most dangerous was our visit to Iraq in 2001, a visit described in our book. More recently, in 2017, on one of our few guided tours, we spent six days in North Korea and flew in by Air Koryo, officially ranked as the world’s worst airline. We were “safe” on this guided tour, but many of the sights, sounds, and images still disturb us.
Undoubtedly our scariest moment was crossing the security barrier between Ramallah and Jerusalem when we were probably within seconds of being shot by Israeli border guards. This was due to our own negligence, which is also described in the book.
Our heart rates took a noticeable jump when we became trapped by wildfires in Argentina, were followed in the Grand Bazaar in Tehran, and had our passports held for five days after entering a restricted military zone in China.
While the immediate situation didn’t signal danger, it became evident when Evelyn was mugged in Kampala, while suffering a compound wrist fracture, that we had been robbed at the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu in Jerusalem.
Some of the more sobering encounters on our travels reminded us of the total depravity of man. The Bible describes the human heart as being desperately wicked. We refer to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, Ide Amin’s torture chambers in Uganda, the Military Junta torture prison in Cordoba Argentina, Prison S-21 in Phenom Peng, Pol Pot’s Killing Fields in Cambodia, and the sarcastically labelled Hotel Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam.
Q: What was it like to preach in so many significant Bible locations?
A: It’s always a humbling experience to be given the privilege of preaching God’s Word, and one that is not to be taken lightly. It’s a bonus to preach at locations where great men of the Bible preached more than two thousand years ago—such as Mount Nebo (Moses), Mount Carmel (Elijah), Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Caesarea Philippi (Jesus), and Caesarea (Paul)—or where significant events occurred—such as Elon Moreh (Abram), Beit Shemesh and Elah Valley (David and Goliath), Shiloh (Eli and Samuel), the Bethlehem shepherds’ fields, Pilate’s judgement hall, and of course the Garden Tomb.
Try to enter my head/heart-space as I preached a sermon about the prophet Samuel at the location where the Tabernacle stood in Shiloh. While preaching, I can point to my feet and state that Samuel probably was sleeping about there when God called “Samuel, Samuel.”
Then there’s David and Goliath. The preacher can point in one direction and show where the Philistines camped, then indicate across the valley to where the Israelites camped. “Goliath came from that direction, David from over there, and they probably met within a hundred meters of here. Oh, the giant fell to the ground over there!”
Q: What was the biggest culture shock you experienced while living in Israel, Turkey, China, and Argentina?
A: If anything, we had reverse culture shock. When we arrived back to Canada, everything seemed so calm, clean, organized, and highly regulated compared to the chaos, dust, and smells we had left behind. Argentina was very similar to home with a Spanish flavour. Lengthy visits abroad always provide a fresh reminder of how privileged we are to live in a country like Canada.
Learn more about Roy, here: