We had come from a place where I had had lots of satisfying physical work in a lush, pleasant rural setting, to live in a crowded, polluted, dark city of a million people where the only tasks I had before me were the mental work of teaching English and learning the local language. We were without all our normal means of emotional support, including peanut butter, our favorite snack and comfort food.
In addition, there was the stress of adapting to this new culture where we had to make a thousand little new adjustments every day. Each one took some energy, so by the end of the day we were exhausted, even though we hadn’t done much.
This was all part of the Lord’s plan to mature and deepen us. To keep ourselves from wearing out emotionally and spiritually, we made sure to keep up our quiet times and our prayer life. We tried to give God praise in all situations, as well as to think in terms of God’s truth. We tried to consistently encourage each other. There was no other way for us to survive the challenges of our new environment.
The civil war in the country continued, with bombs going off in Ankara almost every night, but we found nothing in the newspapers to tell us anything about these attacks.
The weather was cold, often below zero and we froze in our house. Often the only heat we had came from lighting our stove’s oven which worked on propane gas that the city sometimes provided. We would huddle around its open door in the kitchen, trying to get warm.
Many foods were hard to find. Every Saturday we would go with John to an open air market for fresh vegetables, and then to the one real supermarket to choose from the limited stock.
The one “comfort food” that was available to us was cornflakes. Granted they tasted a bit like soggy pieces of cardboard, and often had dust in with them, but it was a touch of home to have a nice bowl of cereal and milk, even if the milk did have a strange taste.
Since peanuts were available, we decided to make our own peanut butter. We would sit in a team meeting, peeling the red husks off the peanuts, then take them home with us and put them through a grinder, along with some margarine. It didn’t taste like Jiffy peanut butter, but was sure better than nothing.
As I think about that early time of adjustment, it was like having a pall of darkness hanging over us, like we were dragging ourselves through a heavy, black, smog– which often was literally true in our highly polluted city–but this darkness was more than physical, it was mental, emotional and spiritual. However, the Lord sustained us and carried us through. He had called us, so there was never a thought of retreating.
The boys didn’t seem to mind the changes that our move from farm to city brought with it. Nat was less than two and really didn’t remember much of Connecticut. Josh missed his aunt Marcia and his grandmother more than anything else.
When he would start to complain about how hard things were, we’d interrupt with, “Yes, but in Connecticut could you look out your living room window and see a shepherd with his donkey and herd of sheep? And could you buy pide?” This was a flatbread topped with cheese or hamburger, a kind of simple pizza, which Josh loved. These questions would help to bring him out of his negative thoughts. We practiced this method ourselves, focusing on the positives before us, not 0n the negatives or the things we’d left behind.
As time went on and we slogged on through language study, teaching English and the difficulties of every day life, I was personally amazed and encouraged to see how much joy God gave me in being where He wanted me. Leaving behind the physical work, the mental stimulation, the success of business, and the beauty of home had not had the deleterious effect I’d expected. Obedience brings joy and God was setting me free from my natural inclinations.
In making these adjustments, however, tensions did surface between us. One morning Barbara and I had a strong discussion. At one point I pounded my fist on the table and said, “Who’s the boss here, anyway?!!!” Josh immediately replied, “The landlord!” We burst out laughing. His comment brought us to our senses and we were able to resolve the issue in harmony.
Picture: Aunt Marcia, Josh and Barbara