Howie helped us carry all of our stuff up to his small apartment, and then said, “Let’s go out to the bakkal and get some food for supper.” He was speaking what we came to call “Loc/Eng:” inserting local words into English sentences. We learned that a “bakkal” was a small corner grocery store.
Howie and I went down the three flights of stairs and out onto the street where I was startled to hear gunshots. I looked to the left and saw two men with pistols shooting at each other. Fortunately both seemed to be bad shots, but Howie didn’t seem interested in waiting around to see the outcome.
“Let’s go around this way,” he said calmly, like this was something normal. And it turned out that it was normal. Tur.key was in the midst of a civil war and thirty or more people were shot on the streets every day in fights like the one we witnessed.
It was the leftists against the rightists, Islamists against Communists, conservatives against liberals. We learned that in the university classrooms there were usually soldiers with loaded rifles sitting in the middle row from front to back. The leftist students then sat on the left and the rightists on the right of the soldiers. That was the only way to keep them from literally killing each other in the classrooms.
It was a brutal, dangerous time. We had stepped out of beautiful and peaceful Connecticut into a war zone. And anarchy, we found, was not limited to politics. Traffic rules were ignored by most drivers and pedestrians. Traffic lights were considered decorations, sidewalks were for parking, not walking and the pedestrians walked in the streets.
When we came to one intersection where the traffic did stop for a red light, the cars were lined up six abreast. When the light turned green, the car on the far right turned left, cutting across everyone else’s path. But the Tu.rks seemed used to this, letting the car pass in front of them and then going on their way. One had to be always on alert for the unexpected.
The next day, we set off for Ank.ara, a twelve hour drive over narrow, crowded, two lane roads. We climbed from sea level to 2500 feet onto the Anatolian plateau. There were hairpin turns galore, steep drop-offs with no guardrails and lots of heavily loaded trucks belching great clouds of diesel exhaust.
It was the same game as in Yugoslavia, searching for places to pass the long lines of slow traffic, except there were far fewer places to do so. I was exhausted by the time we got to Ank.ara.
We stopped at a bakkal and used the phone to call our team leader, John. He was unable to give us directions, not really knowing where we were, so we were reduced again to asking locals for help but not understanding their answers.
However, with the Lord’s protecting hand, we able to arrive at the team leader’s house towards evening. It was December 16, 1979, three years and three months after the Lord told me we’d be on the field in three years. His promise for us was fulfilled again: “(the) the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Ps. 121:8).