(written November 2003)

My eyes focused slowly on the hand stretched out towards me. The chap was speaking, and I was hearing him, but I wasn’t really listening. My attention was drawn to his outstretched hand and the object he was giving me.

“This was not what we had agreed,” was the one thought that kept recycling around my mind like an endless video loop. I tuned in to what he was saying, “You go right out of this building, to the first street, turn right again and go down the hill and there it is…. ”

“So, older brother, that is where the van is,” he finished. The plan had been that he was going to bring the van which we were borrowing,
over to the Asian side of the city, where we live. Then another brother and I would drive to Bursa to meet some believers and do some research. I liked that plan as I would not have to drive in Istanbul – that ancient mega city with roads laid down two thousand five hundred years ago.

I had not planned to drive in Istanbul. I was not prepared. I had bought an A-Z street map of the city the day before.

It was at home.

Of course it was. I had no plan to drive anywhere when I went to this meeting on the European side of the city. I was not ready. I had no clue as to how I would get from where I was to where we live. The last time I drove on that side of the city was back in 1981.  – I couldn’t remember a whole lot from then. I was not prepared emotionally to take charge of a borrowed van and head into Istanbul rush-hour traffic, on a wet overcast day as it was getting dark and feel my way across the city, across the Bosphorus to the appropriate road that went to my area and finally to our flat.

I asked “What is the licence plate of the van?”. It had been several years since I had seen the van – maybe he had changed it for a new one. “The number is 34, MB and something else,” he replied.

Ah, that is a big help – all cars in Istanbul city AND province begin with 34 – so the vehicle I am looking for is one of hundreds of thousands, nay millions, this is a mega city. The second letters, ‘MB’ – well, all foreigners’ cars have “MB” for the letters. This narrows it some, but it is still fairly general. The last numbers, the ones that would make it all clear – well, he couldn’t remember them.

So, with fear and trepidation, I took the key from his hand, smiled a thin smile of acceptance and made my way for the door, and the turn, and the next turn, and the descent and the search for the van.

Lord help!

“He hasn’t bought a new van,” I almost shouted with joy. I recognised the vehicle. Indeed the licence plate did start with ‘34 MB’ and I can’t remember the rest.

Now, how do I go from where I am to where I need to be? It is getting dark. The bridge will be chock-a-block and I don’t know how to get to the bridge from where I am nor once across the bridge how to get to the road that I knew as the ‘E5’.  Road signs would not aid as I understand that in the Intervening years the E5 has been christened with a new name.

Then I thought, “There is a car ferry near here which goes to the other side.” I asked, got directions, found myself in the midst of road construction, made the turns, left, right, bump up and down, to the lights and behold I can turn the way I want to!

I’m a happy man.

One more turn and there is the ferry terminal on the other side of the road – with a massive concrete barrier designed specifically to keep me from my desired destination. I drive past the ferry terminal going absolutely the wrong way and there is no place to stop or turn – just onwards…

But there was a place to turn around and soon I found myself heading back towards the terminal, and now on the correct side of the road.  Finally I drive into the terminal, past the man in the booth that sells tickets and I parked up, waiting for the next ferry.

“Ah, this is the way to cross the Bosphorus,” I thought, sitting at the steering wheel as we sailed sublimely across the dark waters of this international waterway, the ferry gently rolling with the waves.  Ferries to the right, ferries to the left and ocean-going ships ploughing through the middle.  For me there is no stress, no strain and what a view.

Fantastic.

We arrived and are frenetically piling off the ferry. “But where am I?” is the one thought swimming through my mind as I turn right – well I ‘know’ that left is wrong. Down a road, through some more construction and onto a four lane divided road – the road once identified as the E5.

Wonderful.

In my heart, a truly heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving, “Thank you Lord”.

I’m on the road that I know, albeit twenty-odd years ago.

Down the E5, I  turn at the turning for the area of town known as Bostanci. Down to the right, past the ‘Luna Parka’ (children’s fun fair), take a left, go until you see the pedestrian overpass, take a right, past the mosque, another right, immediate left and I’m home!

Another heartfelt “Praise the Lord.”

Didn’t want to do this. I wasn’t excited about it. I, didn’t know the way. And yet it had to be done. By God’s Grace, it was done.

There are many, many things, in life that are new, that don’t go according to ‘plan’. Often we don’t know the way forward, sometimes feeling intimidated, sometimes apprehensive. New things that ‘must be done’ – things we may not feel prepared for.

We step out in faith, not knowing the way, and yet trusting our Sovereign God will ‘show the way’ and bring us safely to our destination we press on.

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