After my return from Germany we prayed that my work visa and residence permit would be granted before the two months were up, but as time got closer, it was clear that I would have to make an exit trip.
Another worker also needed to go, so we decided to drive to Greece together. On one flat, straight stretch I came up behind a big truck traveling about 50 miles an hour. I peeked out from behind and saw that there was a car coming, but it was a long ways away, leaving me plenty of time to pass.
I pulled out and stepped on the gas and slowly gained speed; that small Volkswagen motor was faithful, but not all that powerful.
As I got half way past the truck, I saw that the oncoming car was going much faster than the speed limit of 65 mph, and I began to suspect that I wasn’t going to make it past the truck in time. So I slammed on the brakes, hoping to get back behind the truck, but the weight of the engine in the rear of my car slung the back end around so we were skidding sideways down the road.
Instinctively I made the proper correction with the wheel, but nothing happened. The oncoming Mercedes was almost upon us and didn’t seem to slowing down one bit.
Then at the last second, my car responded to my corrections and swung back around, slamming us up against the truck, while the Mercedes slipped by on the shoulder and disappeared in the distance. This was a definite God sighting!
The truck driver didn’t slow down either, didn’t even seem to notice what had happened. After taking a second to recover, I also decided to keep going.
In the next town we stopped to inspect the damage. The passenger door had a big dent in it with black marks from the truck tire; however, the door still worked. The back passenger side window was smashed, but since it was one that didn’t open, it wouldn’t be too difficult to fix. We asked around, found a window repair shop, and had the glass replaced.
Counting our spinning on ice into the gas station on our way to Tarsus, this incident was the second of eleven accidents I had in Turkey. Only in this one did I have any fault. The rest were caused mostly by other people running into me. Driving in in this country was certainly dangerous. So was parking.
One day I parked in front of John’s house, which was across the street from a reasonably steep side street. As I was walking toward the house, a car came over the top of the hill and down to the stop sign, but instead of stopping, it slid right across the street and rammed into my car!
The driver hopped out, angry at me. “This accident is your fault! If you hadn’t parked there I wouldn’t have hit you!” he yelled.
This, we found, was the common logic here and according to that, he was right. If I hadn’t parked there, he wouldn’t have hit me, but he also would have driven off the four-foot high wall and landed into John’s yard!
In one of the more interesting of my accidents, I was waiting to turn left at a stop light when a police car came zooming across the intersection and hit me head on!
The driver was a mechanic who was testing the car and the policeman was riding along with him. But the mechanic ended up fixing the car for us at his expense, although it took him two months to do it.
We had come from a place where I had had lots of satisfying physical work in a lush, pleasant rural setting, to 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 new little 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 around us almost every night, but we found nothing in the newspapers to tell us about these attacks.
The weather was cold, often below zero and we froze in our house because there was a shortage of fuel oil and coal. 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 the 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 the negatives or the things we’d left behind.
Picture: Steve shopping in the veggie and fruit market