Our first few days in our new Middle Eastern country, December, 1979.
Our team leader, John, had rented a partially furnished apartment for us, so we could move right in. The only problem was that with a shortage of fuel oil, there was very little heat. Winter in this city is very similar to winter in New England, plus this happened to be the coldest winter in forty years with record-breaking amounts of snow.
The government had nationalized the coalfields, forgetting, however, that they had no equipment to mine it, so there was a lack of coal. Other things were also in short supply: propane gas, cooking gas, gasoline, light bulbs, toilet paper and many food products.
Another difficulty for us was the air quality; our city was located in a bowl of mountains, so the exhaust fumes from vehicles and the smoke from furnaces were of trapped in the city. That created some serious air pollution.
How different this was from our beautiful, clean and green Connecticut. But the Lord graciously reminded us to reject the temptation to compare. Barbara had a friend tell her, “Accept where you are, don’t compare. It will only make you unhappy.” So we set our faces forward, and accepted what the Lord had for us.
The day after Christmas, our tenth day in the country, our team leader took us on a seven-hour trip down to Tarsus—the town where the Apostle Paul was born. We were finding out how much biblical history there was in this country.
Our city was the site of Galatia. In the southwest were the seven churches of Revelation, along with Colossae. In the southeast was Antioch where the believers were first called Christians and Mount Ararat where Noah’s ark may have landed after the flood subsided. And there were many other sites.
It had snowed in the night before this trip, and I was thankful that the engine in our car was in the rear to give us traction as we drove up and up and up the Southern rim of the mountains to get out of the city. As we crossed the high Anatolian plain, the road became more treacherous, in many places covered with ice.
Most of the gas stations were closed because of the shortages of fuel, so when we saw one open I decided to stop and gas up. I just touched the brakes and the tires lost traction on the icy road. We began to slide sideways into the gas station, then spun around a couple of times and came to a stop when we hit the gas pump.
There was silence for a moment and then from the back of the car came four year old Josh’s small voice, “Do it again, Daddy!” We all laughed, but I was shaken.
We descended the steep and winding roads through the mountains, dropping to sea level, and arrived in Tarsus in late afternoon.
We went first to the home of a local friend of John’s whom we called Charles. John wanted to talk with him about setting up a foundation to use as a legal basis for outreach.
This was our first visit to a village type home. Every aspect of family life was different from ours: take off your shoes at the door, sit on the floor, eat from a common dish on a large tray on the floor, drink tea from diminutive glasses, and use a “squat” toilet. It was primitive and charming at the same time. We were definitely in the “tourist stage” of adjustment to a new culture.
Later we drove on to the next city, Adana, and stayed with other workers. In contrast to the freezing temperatures in our city, here on the Mediterranean shore we were fighting mosquitoes!