The next day, we set off for the capitol city, a twelve hour drive over narrow, crowded, two lane roads. We climbed from sea level to 2500 feet onto the central 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 our next city.
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).
Beginning our new life
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, there was very little heat.
Winter in Ankara 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: fuel oil for heating, propane gas, cooking gas, gasoline, and many food products.
Another difficulty for us was the air quality; this city was located in a bowl of mountains, so the exhaust fumes from vehicles and the smoke from furnaces were 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 home city was the site of the biblical 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 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 a small voice, “Do it again, Daddy!” We all laughed, but I was shaken.
Picture: our new city in the grip of a cold, snowy winter