In early September, 1980, we were looking for a larger bed for Nat and heard of one for sale out at the Middle Eastern Technical University campus, so we planned to go out there early in the morning to pick it up.
But, as we were getting ready at 6 am, there was a knock on the door. Barbara answered it, and came back looking very pleased.
“What is it?” I asked,
“There was a military coup last night,” she said. “The landlord’s son said we can’t leave the house until further notice. I’m going back to bed!” She was the happiest prisoner I’d ever seen.
At three in the afternoon, we got word that we were allowed to go out and buy bread if we wanted to, so the boys and I went. We were startled to see a tank at the end of our street was with its 50-caliber machine gun loaded and pointed our way!
From the corner we looked down the hill and at the entrance to every side street there were soldiers in full battle dress with loaded rifles standing guard.
We learned that during the night 10,000 people had been arrested, including all the leading political figures. Martial law had been declared, the parliament dissolved and all political parties closed.
In that one night the country went from being perhaps the most dangerous one in the world to the safest, with all known criminals taken in, along with a lot of innocent people. Many, probably most, were tortured to get information and a number of them died. For those arrested it was a brutal time of transition.
For those of us left at home, the coup certainly made things better for daily living: no more bombs, no more machine gun fights, no more dogs barking in the night, and a gradual end to the shortages in the stores. How it would affect our work of sharing the gospel remained to be seen.
We continued partnering with John on the foundation work. One of his desires was to either set up an orphanage or work through local orphanages, so we made regular visits to some in the city.
On one visit, John met a woman outside the orphanage door who said she had brought her three children to put them in the orphanage because she could no longer care for them. On an impulse John said he would take them if she’d sign the papers. She agreed, and John came home with three new children.
His wife said she could not handle this responsibility, so John came to us and asked if we would take them in.
Unwise as we now see it, at the time we agreed. So, our little family suddenly grew from four to seven, as the two girls, nine and seven, and their three-year-old brother, Solomon, moved in.
This made for interesting dynamics. These children had experienced little discipline in their lives, didn’t know about the basics of life—they ate with their hands, had never seen a sit-down toilet, and were suddenly thrust into the home of foreigners who spoke the local language very imperfectly. It turned out that their grasp of the local language was also pretty poor; they spoke a different, minority language as their mother tongue.
Explaining to those girls why I was disciplining their spoiled little brother proved to be a daunting task. Young boys in this culture are considered little kings, given anything they want. Solomon’s older sisters wanted to protect him from my attempts to teach him what “no” meant. It was an interesting time.
For Josh and Nat, this “live-in language and culture exposure” was a good thing. Nat and Solomon were about the same age, but very contrasting in their looks: Nat very blond, Solomon very dark, our chocolate/vanilla pair. They played well together and became good friends.
We also took in a German girl in her twenties who was supposed to help us with our new family additions, but being a rebel, she turned out to be as much trouble as the children!
Another idea of John’s was to have the foundation distribute help to poor villagers on the Black Sea coast. Charles had contacts there so it was a natural place to start. In January, the three of us drove up, entered one of the villages, and began giving out used clothes and financial help to those in need.
After a few hours of distribution, an army officer and four soldiers appeared and began to ask John questions. In the end the officer decided to take us to the police.
John, Charles, and I got into the car, along with two soldiers carrying their loaded rifles and drove to the police station in the nearest city. There we were informed that we were under arrest, the first of a number of times this was to happen to me.
We actually spent a pleasant afternoon at the police station drinking lots of tea and giving the policemen English lessons while waiting for some “higher ups” to arrive. We were being accused of collecting money for Jimmy Carter!
The time proved to be good language study for me. I easily learned a number of new words, including the sentence, “you have been arrested.”
In the end, after John gave his statement, and some of the irate villagers we’d helped came to speak on our behalf, the police decided to let us go. Hopefully the authorities could now see that we were doing good and accept our innocence!
That night I had trouble sleeping. At first I thought it was from the excitement of the day, and then realized it was from the innumerable cups of strong tea we’d consumed!
When we got back home, I found that our German girl had contracted hepatitis A. We called the doctor another worker recommended and he agreed to come and give us shots to protect us from infection.
Dr. Alsan arrived with his big glass syringe and vials of medicine. We were glad to hear that he definitely believed in germs and were pleased that he insisted we boil the syringe and needles before using them. No one got an infection, in contrast to when we’d gotten other injections here.
Along with all these events, we continued on with language study and slowly made progress.
The picture below is Nat with the children of my language helper. I am on a trip at the moment and will send you a picture of Nat and Solomon when I get home.