In April 2016, we arrived in Istanbul to spend two years focusing on learning the Turkish language and culture with the longer-term plan of working alongside a national church in a smaller city elsewhere in the country.
Our time in Turkey so far has stretched us in ways we never anticipated but throughout all the ups and downs, God has continually shown his faithfulness to us.
Faithfulness through challenges
One of the biggest challenges for us has been navigating bureaucratic systems and new processes with minimal language ability, at least at the start. Just to live in a foreign country seems to require significant time and effort – and the type of effort that does not make fascinating reading in a prayer update. Sometimes we haven’t been sure whether to laugh or cry! But while we’ve been learning (and re-learning) patience and humility, God has provided for us throughout every single bureaucratic process we’ve gone through.
A different type of challenge has been living in a country that has been under a shadow since the attempted coup in July 2016. We continue to hold on to the truths that our God is a God of justice, that the nations are like dust on a scale to him and we pray that God would use recent and ongoing events to bring many Turks to Christ.
A growing love for Turkey
Missionaries are not super- humans either and some of our challenges have been the exact ones that many Christians in the UK face, albeit we experience them while living in a different culture. For example, finding uninterrupted time to read the Bible and pray when you’ve got small children who don’t sleep through the night, or living in a place that would not have been your first choice.
And yet, without over-romanticising it, we have come to love Turkey and the Turkish people. Somewhere between a serving of homemade içli köfte (meatballs encased in a bulgur wheat dough) and a teenage boy in an underground metro station warning us that our baby would get cold without a hat, we have come to care very deeply about this country. We’ve been excited to hear reports of more Turks investigating the claims of Christ and some deciding to follow Jesus and be baptised, and of churches being planted and growing. There’s a lot more to be done but God is at work here!
We’ve been encouraged in our language learning too. While realising that we will never finish learning Turkish and still feeling hopelessly incompetent sometimes, we’ve made sufficient progress that L has been able to start preaching (using a full script) in Turkish and H has been teaching Sunday school.
Knowing God’s sovereignty
We have seen countless answers to prayer – some big, some small, some very practical, some more intangible. A few examples include: being able to make good progress in language learning; a Turkish-speaking church to worship with while we’ve been in Istanbul; good physical health and safety; clear guidance from God when we were considering where to move to; and a peace and contentment that, despite uncertain times in Turkey over the last couple of years, we are where God wants us to be. We’ve come to appreciate God’s sovereignty in a deeper way; if we didn’t believe that God is sovereign over every circumstance and every detail, we wouldn’t be able to survive living in Turkey.
The next phase
Our ministry is entering a new phase now as we move to a much smaller city in the middle of the country (with a population of ‘only’ 1 million) to work alongside a national church, while L also finds secular work. The church is relatively small, the only Turkish-speaking church in what is a fairly religiously conservative city, but the Turkish pastor and the church have a deep desire to see the church grow and the gospel spread. We are sad to be leaving Istanbul and the friends and community we’ve enjoyed but ready and excited to be moving on to our new city and partnering with the church there.