First of all, hello from the amazing country of Turkey! It is a place of beautiful mountains, amazingly strong coffee, and I must say, some very nice looking young men… Oh! And some great Biblical sights!
When I signed up for this trip in November I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Unlike other college students when my advisor asked me if I had a desire to study abroad freshman year I honestly said no. But I needed a cross cultural studies credit and five of my good friends were coming. So I sat on the first of several planes thinking, “God, why are you taking me to Turkey?” It would be several days before I would get an answer.
The first days of my trip were spent in Istanbul jet lagged and frustrated. I still didn’t understand what I was doing and the numerous nagging shopkeepers were overwhelming. I wrote in my journal that I felt like Jo in Little Women when she moves to New York. She says something along the lines of, “I find the city strange and myself strange in it.” Then we flew to southern, rural Turkey.
Now I know what it means in our guidebook when it says that if you make a Turkish friend, you make a friend for life. Every restaurant we went to the waiters were incredibly welcoming. Shopkeepers give you tea even when you’ve told them you’re not going to buy anything. And you can go back the next day and they’ll offer you more! I have fallen in love and this feeling is not just the caffeine talking. I’ve fallen in love with the hard working women hanging their laundry when they stop for a bit to ask where I’m from. I’ve fallen in love with with the shopkeepers who would love to sit down with you and teach you how to play backgammon. And I’ve fallen in love with the purpose seeking fashion designer who wants to stay up all night discussing philosophy.
Visiting a Turkish church today was an eye opening experience. Turkish generosity & Christian passion and truth = wow. The pastor said that sometimes they have to kick people out because it will be many hours after the service and people will still be fellowshipping. Today at church there was man from Haiti who lost his sister in the earthquake and another who’s mother’s home was destroyed. There were tears and praise and questioning and music.
Obstacles are nothing new to Turkish Christians. A convert may not be martyred but I am told their family will sometimes disown them. A girl may be able to find a job but how will she find friends and a Christian husband?
I’m not sure how to end this except to say that I have never felt more at home. I have learned incredible lessons about generosity and love. I have also considered what it would be like to make this my home when I graduate from college. But my thoughts have been numerous and scattered and so even getting this into paragraph form has been difficult and it is getting late here. I just wanted to share some thoughts and updates from Asia Minor. Have a lovely evening. Also, I have typed all of this on an iPod touch without spell check so please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors, for I am sure there are many. (I got out on the word cement in the 8th grade spelling bee.)