Nothing like getting startled awake at 6 a.m. by the call to prayer ringing out over the city, to make you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore.
“Now,” I thought, as I took advantage of already being awake to pray to the real, living God for the Turkish people. “Now, I feel like I am in Turkey.”
Monday when I arrived I was much too exhausted and shell-shocked to have any idea where in the world I might be. But, after flying for about a day and a half, taking my second-ever taxi ride and my first seabus trip (really just a ferry-like boat across the harbor), I made it to the dock nearby our hotel. Since no one waited for me at the stop (turns out they thought my flight was scheduled to arrive two hours later than its actual time), I put on my “game face” and struck out on my own.
“No problem,” I thought, “I’ve looked at a map. The hotel is five streets over and a little ways up.”
Of course, I failed to take into account that streets in Istanbul are hardly the wide, grid-like affairs found in Kansas. Counting five consecutive streets proved impossible. So, like any self-respecting independent American woman would do, I stopped at the closest swanky-looking hotel and asked directions. Fortunately, it only took stopping for directions once more before, after pushing through sidewalks crammed with people and stands selling everything from trinkets to kabobs, I finally climbed a seemingly-endless hill and found the hotel. Mission: accomplished.
I’ve spent the past couple days mostly in meetings, getting to know the other ACFs (Area Communications Facilitators) and gaining a much better understanding of what my role and responsibilities will be upon becoming the OM Europe ACF. In short, it’s a conglomeration of editing photos and stories from field correspondents, doing communications training, visiting fields without correspondents to get photos/stories, collaborating with other communications staff, and putting it all together on OM websites, publications, etc.
But despite the fact that we’ve been working away, we have found some time to get away and enjoy this beautiful city and culture. Life happens on the streets in Istanbul, so no matter where you go, there’s always something going on. Vendors hawking food or trinkets, people just hanging out and talking, men of all ages gathered around open-air tables in the evenings to have a smoke and play rummicub. And, of course, every few hours the call to prayer rises above the din of street noise and conversation.
It’s all so very strange and unfamiliar, often at times overwhelming to the senses, but never so much as during our visit to the Grand Turkish Bazaar, an ancient, roofed-over market crammed with over 4,000 shops selling a vast variety of wares including lamps, jewelry, clothes, scarves, dishes, and, of course, Turkish rugs. It’s all on a barter system, and today confirmed my initial impression that I have no poker face and am a miserable failure at bargaining. Fortunately, the ACF for Ecuador/Latin America was my battle buddy for the day, and she smoothly stepped in and took over negotiations. The result – a couple beautiful purchases at actually a reasonable price.
Each day when the beautiful, haunting call to prayer fills the air I am reminded once more to beseech God to work in the lives of these beautiful people. There are only about 5,000 believers in Turkey right now, but He is already doing a mighty work and bringing people into a saving knowledge of him. Many are hopeless and hungry. Tomorrow, our communications team will produce content for several workers here to help raise awareness of the tremendous things God is doing in Turkey and how people can become involved.
So, consider this your own call to prayer.