To tell the truth, I do not travel well.  Rather than enjoying the travel experience, for me, it is more the ‘price you pay’ to arrive at your destination.

Our trip down from the UK via a Turkish budget airline was uneventful.  However, once landed, we pass through passport control and retrieved our baggage, the official bit of travelling is done.  Then the question of how to get from the airport to our accommodation for the night I could put off no longer.

Of all the various means before us, being met by friends, taking the city bus, the airport service bus or a taxi to our destination, choosing was difficult.  The city bus runs an express service to the centre of Kadıköy which is near, but not actually that close to our destination.  The Airport Service which is more direct than the city bus, but also does not go genuinely close to our goal.  Taxis go the most direct and quickest route, but this is offset by the cost.  Maybe it was the time of day, the darkness or just being tired… we opted for a taxi.

We bundled into the conveyance, I got in beside the driver and we headed off.  Unlike in London where Black cab drivers must pass the “Knowledge”, here taxi drivers rarely know exactly where you want to go but will figure it out along the way.
  Our driver first opted to avoid the E5 dual carriageway as it would be the definitive illustration of congested traffic.  I observed that as the plane landed and we crossed the E5, it was a panorama of traffic, standing still or creeping along.  I did not object to his choice.

From the airport we joined the TEM motorway, which is a road I know and would have used if I were driving.  However, our driver, feeling that traffic would be too much, opted instead to turn onto a new motorway which goes to the new third bridge over the Bosphorus.  This bridge is on the coast of the Black sea, quite a ways north of where we were and where we intended to go.

I bowed to local knowledge and raised no objections.  So we departed the road I knew and headed into terra incognito.

Mind you, I am curious regarding the new bridge and the new motorways connecting it….  I wasn’t wanting to cross back into Europe on our first night in….  This was especially true as our friend’s home is on the Asian side of the city, the same side as the airport and the motorway we were travelling on.

The driver was correct, traffic was light.  He was flying along.  I must admit I was feeling like we were being driven by a descendant of Jehu the prophet.

Our direction of travel was north, north-west.  Our friends live basically westward.  Hence, we are travelling in a negative direction, and for every kilometre north there will be a corresponding kilometre south.  I am not worried.  I trust the driver.  But… but… we are going out of our way, and at great speed….

I admit to enjoying the forested hills and travelling over impressive concrete via-ducts.  There is something impressive about being transported high over valleys.  Then I spot a motorway sign showing an exit for Umraniye.  Now, for me Umraniye is meaningless save that is where we could turn south, south-west and be really heading towards our goal.

Our driver is making excellent time, racing along in lane four – the furthest from the exit.  The first exit sign has come and gone, and still he continues thundering down lane four, traffic occupying the three lanes to our right.
Now, honestly, I am quietly concerned.  I really, really want to see the third bridge, but NOT tonight.  I keep quiet… either your trust your driver or you do not….

The exit is nigh, and dare I say at the last moment, the driver begins to ‘power over’ to the exit.  Room or no room, cars and such, are all immaterial, he is shooting for the exit…. Which we duly take.

This new road is also a sparsely utilised eight lane motorway.  With the road wide open, our driver speeds up and we take up our position, once again, in lane four.  I am much happier in myself as we are now heading directly towards our goal.  But, naturally, as we draw near Umraniye area, the traffic increases immensely.

Soon we are in a long, never-ending parking lot like experience.  Traffic, that is standing traffic, is everywhere.  The dual carriageway is no longer eight lane but six; we have road markings for three lanes, but we have four lanes of traffic jostling for position and advancement.

We are near the high hill called “Çamlıca”.  Near the top the Turkish state has built a brand new massive mosque which dominates the skyline and is visible from many miles away.  It is a glorious testament to power and influence of the government – just like the grandiose buildings that grace so many cities in the UK.  Those impressive stone edifices built during the time of the British Empire and are a lasting testament to the power and wealth of that era.

The city of Istanbul is likewise graced with many extraordinary edifices which the Ottoman Empire erected over the course of 600 plus years.  They stand as a clear and lasting testament to the power and might of that immense empire.

This latest mosque is on that scale.  But it speaks not of the past but the current state of the Republic of Turkey.
Traffic being what it was, we had ample time to appreciate the massive complex.

IMG_0327In contrast, on the back side of the hill and nearer the summit, a massive concrete pillar soars into the sky.  Still under construction, it is to be a new communications tower. The goal is to replace the rather ugly cluster of communication and television towers on top of Çamlıca, moving them to the top of the new tower.  That will be a marked improvement.

However, the tower, in its current unfinished state, looks like a unimaginative phallic symbol thrust impossibly high into the sky.   Standing without the communication rigs secured to the pinnacle nor the viewing platforms and restaurants completed, it is merely the carcass upon which the tower will be built. Yet, when it is finished, it will be a wonder to behold, soaring 365.5 metres and this from on top of a hill.  It will the tallest building and a landmark in Istanbul.

This dual carriageway, thronged with crawling traffic goes under the skirt of this hill through a tunnel.  On emerging from the tunnel, the overhead signs declare a division in the roadway;  straight ahead to Üsküdar, our destination, or right to the second bridge and Europe.  Traffic is inching along towards Üsküdar; I am happy-ish.  At the least, we are travelling toward our goal.

Our driver manoeuvres, with difficulty, to the right.  This is the exit that goes, according to the overhead sign, and to the best of my knowledge where I do NOT want to go.  I have absolutely no desire to go over the second bridge – none.

Traffic is not moving, it is stop and go with the emphasis on stop.  As I observed, our driver has, with difficulty, left the Üsküdar bound lanes and now we are estranged from them, from the lanes going where I want to go…. And by separated I mean with a substantial barrier – there can be no repentance now.

Either you trust the driver or you do not…  I sat silently.  Inside I was in a roiling turmoil.

We slowly crawl along to a road jutting off to the right – well it couldn’t go left could it, as that is where the standing traffic is.  Our driver, with purpose and direction, turns on to this road and leaves the masses behind.  The road is much narrower, only a two lane passage.  But, there are far fewer who are using it, so our speed has increased immediately.
Down we fly, following the meandering path of this residential street.  We come to a sharp turn and it is an acute turn up the hill.  We take that and are shortly going over top of the motorway that is going to the second bridge.  This driver knows his stuff.

We turn right and I am surprised at the good time we are making considering the time of day.  We are now in Üsküdar proper and heading towards the banks of the Bosphoros.  The road crested the summit, and we plunged down the narrow road towards the shore below.  We come to a ‘Y’ junction and the driver, decisively and with purpose takes the left arm.

Now travelling on a steep, narrow, cobbled road there is just enough room to pass the cars parked on one side.  Down we go, the road turns to the left sharply down until we come to a sign strategically placed across the road declaring the road closed.  There is nothing for it.  With absolutely no room to turn around, the only action is to reverse back up whence we came.  I am glad I was not driving.

Now the driver took this in his stride.  He did not throw a wobbly, nor curse the city council nor any other emotional diatribe.  He put the taxi in reverse and cautiously reversed back up the hill between the parked cars, the edge of the road and back to the curve.

Well, before we got there, another vehicle came down the same, narrow, cobblestone passage.  The descending vehicle came to where we were.  Naturally we stopped.
After some mutual stopped-ness, our driver energetically gestured to the descended one to reverse up the hill.
He did.  We did.

Finally, we arrived back at the ‘Y’ junction and this time took the right arm, quickly descending the last bit of the hill.  Once on the sea-side road we passed by the end of the road we had attempted.  The workers had not yet laid the final stretch of cobblers, the road was impassible.  Added to this was a massive pile of sand blocking the exit.

We travelled along the side of the Bosphoros coming to the major square of Üsküdar.  The city council has redesigned this square many times over the years we lived there.  Once again they are redeveloping it…  the last time for a long while I hope.

Whatever they have done, traffic was manageable, and we made it through the maze expeditiously.  There is a one-way road at the bottom of the hill to the south.  Sometimes it is a one-way up and sometimes it is a one-way down.  It too has changed many times over the years.  On that day it was a one-way up, exactly what we needed.  Up we went.

Then travelling up Doğancılar street, we passed all the roads to the left which are all posted ‘Do Not Enter’.  Then we come to the one we want, a one-way, and going our way.

We power up the road, over the summit down part way on the other side to our destination.  We have arrived.

Mind you, going this way and that, up, down and back, it all has a cost.  It came to ₺150 which is a lot of money.   Shocked me it did. Works out to about £25 or $37 USD.

Through it all, we were at the mercy of a complete stranger.  We had to trust him.  We had to have faith he would convey us to our stated destination.  We encountered difficulties, struggles, barriers, and we were not driving.  It very much affected us, but it was not ours to solve.  We were to sit there and let the driver handle and sort it.  He did.

For me, this speaks of the Christian walk.  We must trust and have faith in God.  Whatever the barriers, struggles or troubles, letting Him sort it and carry us on to our destination.  Importantly, He is not a stranger, He is not ‘sorting it as he goes along’ like our driver.  He never makes a misstep nor takes a wrong turn.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, either I trust the driver, or not…

It was in the autumn of 2003, the weather was still very pleasantly hot in Istanbul. I needed to go somewhere new in the city and I had never been there before. To complicate matters, I was not really sure of the directions on how to get there. Istanbul is a huge city – it has great communications, bus, mini-bus, underground, ferries – large and small, cable car – it is really well serviced… but, there is always a ‘but’, the population has expanded beyond the capacity of even this broad, rich and varied public transportation system.

On this day I headed out to the banks of the Bosphorus Straight – that international water-way that divides the European side and the Asian side of the city of Istanbul, that salt-water passage that connects the Black Sea and the Marmara sea – near the harbour in Kadıköy (formerly known in ancient times as Chalcedon).  I entered the man-made maze created by the multifarious lanes and a myriad of bus stands, all filled with a teeming swarm of buses that make up this, one of the multitude of city bus stations in this mega-city.

This open air station is a continuously surging shoal of city and private buses, disgorging their human cargo and reloading for the next foray as they power forth into the maelstrom of Istanbul traffic. Each bus, council or private, is prominently proclaiming the name of their destination and their route designation on the front, sides and rear of the bus.

The problem for me is I did not know nor recognise any of these destinations nor did I have any idea of where they are located in the city nor what the numbers of the routes mean. All this very valuable information, which is full of meaning for the many and yet, sadly, devoid of any practical meaning to the uninitiated such as I.

I had been instructed and was diligently searching for the ‘14Y’ designation. My problem was, I was finding a significant number of buses with destinations beginning with 14 – but, alas, none ending in all-important ‘Y’.

Finally, I caught sight of ‘my’ bus, standing at its appointed spot, across the many lanes from where I was. On seeing it, I carefully, and yet as quickly as I could, made my way, doing my best to avoid the buses powering away from their stands and heading out into traffic and other buses prowling through the narrow lanes to arrive at their appointed resting places.

On attaining the correct stand, I entered ‘my bus’ and pressed my ‘Akbil’ (a Turkish name representing ‘White Ticket’) to be rewarded with the satisfying ‘bee-boop ’ which indicated that my ticket had been accepted. This ‘Akbil’ is kind of like a key fob, but the electronic head had been charged with some money and on every use the cost of the ticket is deducted from the total. Every time you press the key fob, you hear the comforting ‘Bee-boop’ and you know you have paid the cost of the ticket – no hassling with correct change and such, it has simply been deducted from my device – what a wonderful system!

As I sit waiting for the bus to depart, I ponder the fact that I had been rushing to find the bus as I absolutely abhor being in the position where I would arrive at the appointed spot in time to forlornly watch the tail-lights of the bus powering out of the station – I dread missing my bus by a minute. My motto – ‘better a half hour early than a half minute late’.

This day I was happily early. However, in my haste not to miss my bus, I had successfully missed my lunch. In fact, I hadn’t even brought a bottle of water to quench my thirst and there was no way that I was about to leave the bus to find water.

Then I observed man boarding the bus – he didn’t purchase a ticket – in his hand he was carrying a blue pail and in the pail, proper, sealed, bottled water which he was offering for sale. Once he has visited our bus, looking for custom, he would exit and board the next bus. This water seller isn’t sitting somewhere waiting for custom to seek him out or to go to him, he is proactively out, he is diligently searching for buyers, wherever they may be hiding. He is bringing his service to wherever custom may be found.

Now, on another day, at our flat in Idealtepe in Istanbul, I heard a strange noise emanating from the street outside our home – some kind of power machine making an unfamiliar and rather unusual sound. I looked out my window and there was a flat-bed lorry standing in the street. On the back was a large table and on one side was a machine. A man and a boy were manhandling a large runner type carpet onto the back of the lorry. They twisted and turned their awkward burden, to line it up and put it into the machine and then carefully they guided the edge through the machine. Two balls of cotton or twine or some other material magically spun and twirled as the thread was pulled off and into the machine. Powering all this was a small petrol powered electrical generator. The machine itself was stitching a proper, finely finished edge to the carpet.

Not leaving any opportunity ignored, this industrious individual has taken his lorry and offers not only repair work, but people can purchase a hall runner from him and get it cut to their own, unique specifications, and then have it machine finished, right there on the lorry, outside their home.

The carpet finisher isn’t in a shop, somewhere, waiting for you to come to him, rather, he has chosen to go out onto the streets and is actively seeking for custom.

Have you ever found yourself out and about when you remember that you need something photocopied?

That is not a problem here in Turkey. Of course you could go to a copy-shop and have it done there, or you could simply pause on the street corner where a man has a photocopier and a small electrical generator, both mounted on a small cart – he stands ever ready to do your photocopying right there on the street while you wait.

And if, by chance, you want it laminated, well, there is another chap standing nearby with a cart, generator and laminator – waiting to serve you.

They are out, pro-actively seeking custom.

Sitting in your home you become accustomed to various calls resonating through the streets. The dulcet tones of a lady singing “SeeepPPPpet VaaaarrrRRRR” and you know the lady peddling plastic kitchenware is making her way down your street.

Once or twice a day you will hear the sing-song call “EeeSSssskkkiiiiJJJJJiiiiiIII—ahhhHHHhh” – the rag and bones man is making his presence known.

Sometimes the caller has a distinctive call which I have been unable to distil down into recognisable words – but everyone recognises his call and everyone knows what he sells.

The call rings forth, sounding like “SoooOOOOOooootTttt” – ah, you say to yourself, the melon seller is going by.

In fact, the sound distils down to resemble the Turkish word for milk and bears no likeness that I can discern with the Turkish word for melon, but everyone understands his unique call and instinctively knows what he is peddling.

Another variant is to change the word order. For example normally you declare the equivalent of ‘Fresh Bread Rolls’ but what a local seller declares as he walks the streets is ‘Bread Rolls Fresh’. He has made it different to catch your attention and becomes his own unique, differentiating catch phrase.

This is true for virtually everything you will need. Everything may be a bit more expensive, or there may be less selection or it may not be as fresh as you would like, but, you could practically source everything you need from your own door step.

Bottled water, plastics, cleaning supplies, clothes, cloth, blankets, shoes, sheets, vegetables, cleaning supplies – and more than I can currently recall.

All brought to your door. Full service, and with a smile.

The Turkish attitude to employment is very pro-active. If someone hasn’t or cannot find a ‘normal’ job, they may be able to create a job, to meet a need, to fill a gap; to earn a crust. As it says in Proverbs: “The appetite of labourers works for them; their hunger drives them on.” Proverbs 16:26 NIVUK

For the rest of the population, yes, they can go to shops, malls, markets and other places to buy various things – but at the same time, there is a whole army of people bringing their goods and services to whomsoever, wherever they may be.

 

(written March 2004)

When darkness fell, from deep within came a desire to be home, tucked up and comfortably resting. It had been an exceptionally fine day for February.  

J. and his fiancée, L., and T. and I had been to the old city, – the ancient city of Byzantium also known as Constantinople from the mid 4th century.  Regardless of its name, we had spent the day in old Istanbul. We had finished the day with a tour of the TopKapı palace, the seat of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years and now the repository of a fine porcelain collection; the treasury containing every form and description of gold, jewel encrusted ornamentation, decoration and furniture; a portrait collection of the Sultans and the leading men of the Empire; and of course the room with the artefacts from the Prophet Muhammed; an extremely old copy of the Koran, reportedly a footprint of the prophet, a sandal, some of his hair, his sword and other artefacts. 

That particular room was packed with the faithful; women in a variety of head coverings, men with the small white skull cap, and  a multitude of children, all doing a sort of pilgrimage; parents showing the artefacts to their children, adults staring at the artefacts that confirmed the historicity of their prophet; in the corner, in a booth, a man in a long dull-coloured robe with a squarish hat on his head, a clean close-cropped beard, his eyes closed, as he sat before an open Koran, rocking gently, chanting verses from memory, the sound filling the room and invading every recess of the mind.

It had been a good day. With my smaller, but good quality video camera, I had taken some, what I felt was ‘good’ “stock footage” – you never know when you may need some footage from Istanbul, the Palace or the general environs. As always the camera bag was slung over my shoulder, and as always, at the ready for that important impromptu shot. We were tired and slowly trudged back to the ferry terminal for the half hour ride across the Bosphorous, the strait joining the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmaris and ultimately the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. 

The Bosphorous … which divides this city of 12 million into two halves, the European side – where the ancient, historic city is, and the Asian side– where we live. As always, there was a crush of people waiting in the departure lounge and when the ferry arrived, there was a mad dash to board and hopefully get seats. In one sense it is unnecessary as the ferry will take all who wish to board and there are an abundance of seats – so in all probability, all passengers will have a seat. We desired seats together, and me being me, I desired a certain part of the ferry.

The “no smoking” winds have blown across Turkey as they have across Europe and North America and so the interior of the ship is all “non-smoking”. Those who wish to imbibe must go to the open deck to engage their addiction. We settled nicely on some wooden benches, grateful for the opportunity to rest.

Normally the ferry goes straight over to Kadikoy, – ancient Chaceldon – and my plan was that we would walk the ten or fifteen minutes over to the train station at Haydarpaşa (which is also in Kadıköy but opposite the ferry wharf). It is from there that we would take the train to where we were staying (this was before we bought the flat in Üsküdâr). 

Suddenly I became aware that the ferry was slowing as to stop, not going directly to Kadıköy, but possibly stopping at the train station. To validate what I assumed was happening, I leaped up from the bench seat, left the others wondering what was causing my sudden burst of energy considering how tired we all were and I moved through the crowd to the middle door to see if we were indeed stopping at Haydarpaşa. 

Indeed we were stopping and the crowd at the door indicated that the regular commuters know that at this time of the day there the Kadıköy ferry makes a stop at the station. As the ship is nigh on docked and as it probably will not remain long at the wharf side, I hurried, through the crowd to my party.

““Quick, quick!”” I urged the others, “”we are getting off now.”” Everyone leapt to their feet and in a rushed blur of activity hustled to the departure point and the people crowding at the door. The ferry gracefully sidled up to the wharf as if the captain was parking a Volkswagen and not a massive ship several hundred feet long and carrying hundreds of passengers.

Trying to stay together amidst the turmoil, we hurried across the wharf and scampered up the stairs to the famous and historic Haydarpaşa train station. We made our way through the cavernous departure hall and out to our departure platform. 

Twenty minutes down the line we collected ourselves and disembarked at the station nearest where we were staying. As I was climbing the stairs of the underpass in the train station it struck me.

Something was missing. 

Something wasn’t right. 

What was it? … What was it? …

I stopped in the middle of the stairs and turned, a puzzled expression clouding my face. You know the feeling – something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on it. 

Then it dawned on me. 

I flapped. 

I patted my body. 

I looked anxiously at my fellow travellers.

Frantically I examined each of my companions; did T. have it, did my son, his fiancée? 

Alas no…..

My video camera – the one that went with me wherever I went, had now gone somewhere without me. More likely I had gone somewhere without it. Whatever the event that transpired, it was most definitely no longer wiht me. 

No more to be said. Did I leave it on the ferry in my haste to depart?  Most likely. 

Was it turned in to the ferry terminal?  Unfortunately not. Someone received an early holiday present – an expensive, quality camera, complete with batteries, unused video tape and some wonderful stock footage.

Regrettably, for me it was gone. And boy, have I missed it. It was so handy. It didn’t draw attention in a crowd, and yet it recorded very good images. I took it when I travelled and it allowed me to “load tape” onto the computer for editing on-the-fly. And it was gone.

 Not a cheap video camera – cost £1550 GBP or roughly $3,000 USD or $3,600 CAD (all 2003 values). It was not something that I was going to replace easily or soon. 

Ahh…

“But God”. 

I love the passages in the Bible that begin with “”But God””. Although I did not have the resources to replace this camera and as I had nothing to sell and no way to “raise” or “earn” that kind of money, “God”, who can do abundantly more than we can ask or think provided and now we have been able to replace the camera. 

Wow ! God is Great ! God is Gracious !

Gracious because it was my own haste and lack of attention that resulted in it being left behind. Grace – undeserved, unearned favour.

God is many things, all knowing, all powerful, Creator, Sustainer, Judge, Holy but maybe the two most powerful attributes of God are His is Love and His is Grace. 

 Without these two, where would we be….where would I be?

(written April 2006)

The blue screen – essential when you shoot video with the plan to put a different image behind the speaker – was hoisted to its full height, towering from the ceiling and falling like a blue wave to the floor. I had set the lights, and after a few adjustments, it seemed to be set right.

Our speaker was collected from the airport the previous day and today was to be the first day of a four day shoot. Planned was a series on Spiritual Warfare from Ephesians, a two part series on Servanthood from Timothy in addition two special programmes, one about Christmas and another on Easter.

Our living room was turned on its head to become our makeshift “studio”; we shifted the furniture out of the way, hung jet black curtains on the window to exclude the powerful spring sunshine and took a monitor off my edit suite so it could do its duty as part of our “teleprompter”.

The teleprompter is a marvel, sitting as it does in front of the camera – the monitor, laying on its back, is up facing and a two way mirror is placed at an angle above, catching the reflection of the monitor and so while the speaker is looking directly at his notes (the image in the mirror) – the camera remains concealed behind – looking through the mirror and not detecting the image. This is much easier for the speaker; staring at the ‘one-eyed monster’ is not easy. The result is that he is always looking directly at the camera and is always on track with his message.

Everything was ready. The speaker had spent time in prayer and reviewing his notes. All that was left was to bring our trusty laptop out to the “studio”, hook it up to the monitor that is part of the teleprompter and we were ready to shoot.

At first it was a curiosity. The laptop seemed a bit testy even uncooperative. Things it would normally do with a ‘click’ it wasn’t doing. Things it would do “automatically” it was refusing to do. I would say it was behaving rather erratically.

What do you do when a computer misbehaves? You re-boot it. You may feel like literally “booting” it, but, no, you “re-boot” it. It is almost a mantra; problem with your computer, turn it off and back on again. This action fixes a myriad of problems, a panacea for most things Windows.

So I turned it off.

I turned it back on.

However, it failed to turn back on. Well, the screen came alive – the electricity was flowing, but almost immediately, up came an error message, a new error message, an error message I had never seen before and that was as far as it would go. This was an error message before the dreaded Windows “Blue Screen of Death” – the normal kind of message you get when Windows is in the terminal throes of a software crash. It never got that far. Black screen (not blue) – error message. That was it. This was new. This was uncharted territory. This was scary.

There it sat.

There I sat.

I was staring at the screen.. the words of the error message staring back at me. I was speechless. I hadn’t anticipated this. This had never happened to me before.

There we sat, my laptop and I.

We were ready to shoot.  Our Turkish speaker had travelled from Germany where he is based.  He had made a special trip for this shoot. He is prepared. The room is readied. The Blue Screen (for video) is set. The lights are set. The camera is primed and ready to shoot. But the teleprompter can only work with a computer – no computer no teleprompter, no teleprompter no shoot, no shoot no programme, no programme then no encouragement for the saints. This is not an inconvenience, this is serious.

Now I don’t know a lot about computers, but what I know I tried. I am inclined to be, hmm, what is a kind word for “stubborn like a mule”? maybe it would be, er, “steadfast”? Okay, I steadfastly tried to restart the computer. Again and again, over and over. But it was determined not to respond to my machinations. And respond it did not do.

Whatever I tried it returned the same response, fell at the same hurdle, refused to alter its chosen course. Well, the laptop earns full credit for consistency, for it was consistent in its refusal to move beyond that first error message.

In my, uh, steadfastness, I tried every variation on a theme I could image to coax the laptop back to a semblance of health, but to no avail. The laptop was not going to be so easily cajoled into compliance.

“Plan ‘B’, we must go to Plan ‘B’ – er, what is Plan ‘B’?” I muttered.

The only Plan ‘B’ that came to mind involved dragging the PC out, hooking it up and then, at last, getting down to the real work.

Great, wonderful, a way forward, light at the end of the tunnel, a solution…

Except that the PC is sick.

When we returned from the UK a hard drive had failed in the PC. The main hard drive had failed. So I fitted a new hard drive, re-installed Windows and got everything nearly back and nearly working.  Nearly….

This is a happy story so far, isn’t it?

Then the new hard drive began to fail. Error message upon error message, fault upon fault, cascading together into an avalanche of ill tidings. I threw Norton System Works at it, and it found and repaired problem after problem after problem… and every time I ran it, it found more problems. The drive is sick, very, very sick. However, it was still working, just.

So, we installed the teleprompter software – which T. that very morning, in a fit of responsibility and resourcefulness had copied off the now immobile and uncooperative laptop and safely squirrelled it away little realising that in a few hours that one act would be key to Plan ‘B’. We moved the PC and got it all set up and ready to go – hey not bad, we wanted to start shooting in the morning, and by early evening we were ready to go. That evening we shot two messages.

And so, over the remaining days we shot video, whilst trying to prod the laptop back to a facsimile of life, and load tape on to the edit suite to ensure that what we shot was good. A bit of a three ring circus trying to be in two places at the same time and keep three or four tasks going simultaneously.

Whilst in the midst of this somewhat frenetic activity, one of my ‘wisdom teeth’ decided, in its wisdom, to rear its ugly head and announce its presence in my mouth. Now I’m too old for wisdom teeth, and hey, I knew it was there, it did not have to make the effort to remind me. Up late trying to sort out the laptop, not much sleep courtesy of my wisdom tooth but the shoot goes on…

Well, the laptop is finally, hmm, let me say “working” again, but after a fashion. It does bizarre and unexpected things – I guess, contrary to the saying, that an old dog actually can learn new tricks – but some of the tricks it has learned are really weird. It remains not only very ill, but, I fear, terminally ill. The solution to its ailment will involve having to copy all the data off the hard drive, wipe it clean and reinstall Windows from scratch, then bringing it up-to-date, then reloading all the programmes and bringing them up-to-date. Ooph, I feel worn out describing it all. All-in-all, probably two or three days worth of work – just to be able to ‘get to work’.

As a friend recently wrote with regard to the saga of my laptop – my digital servant:
“”Your servant is in bed, sick and terribly tormented. I can only have compassion on you, not your servant, because just as one must never get angry at an inanimate object, it stands to reason one must not pity it either. I am afraid it is hard to expect miracles for this soulless servant of yours. It can neither be damned nor blessed…..only put into order or chaos.””

Well, to put it into ‘order’ I need two or three days and I don’t know when I will find those days.

However, for now the shoot is done, the programmes are in the bag – on tape – loaded on the computer – ready for editing.

As the new series title “Spiritual Warfare” suggests – life has its share of struggles, it can be a battle to get even simple things done. But we can rest in knowing the battle is not ours but His, even if we feel the struggle and have to deal with the aftermath. Often it is not “Spiritual”, but it is still a struggle.

(written February 2004)

The light blue mist caused by the smoking drifted lazily in the air as I focused on the man opposite. He was expounding forcefully on some point that my Turkish had failed me to even begin to comprehend, so I was in the dark. He was speaking quickly, with purpose, hands flying into the air or shooting out at right angles to emphasis or punctuate his harangue.

There, opposite me, these two brothers sat, the men who had strengthen the apartment building to make it resistant to earthquakes and had received as payment for the materials and labour, two flats that they had added to the top of the building.  It is from the sale of these two flats they would pay for the materials used and make a profit.  The first price they had put on the flat, an airy-fairy price of near on $250,000 USD – but there were no ready buyers at that price, and they needed to sell one of the flats….soon.

Üsküdâr is a conservative area of town, not the most, but it is listed near the top of the rather religious or devoted areas of the city. These men were religious. They were not ‘nominal’ but practicing; and the one brother, fully practicing.  This is the brother who would not shake my wife’s hand – for him, that would be sin to touch a woman, even to shake her hand. He is a ‘hafiz’ – a person who has memorised the whole text of the Qur’an – in Arabic. His mother tongue is Turkish, nevertheless, he has fully memorised the Qur’an in Arabic.

Although I was a key player in this meeting, it soon became apparent that it wasn’t important for me to know the details or nuance of the situation as we had an intermediary, a representative, someone whose Turkish was impeccable – uh, he is a Turk, and whose knowledge in this area was unequivocal – he was a building contractor, and he is acting on our behalf.

The conversation was primarily between our emissary and the man opposite me – the other people in the room were following the proceedings with care and interest. A question was raised and a man at the desk opposite me, the Estate agent, immediately picked up the phone and rang the appropriate official for a definitive answer.

T. was sitting opposite and to the right of me, against the wall, thinking that things had gone badly pear-shaped and it was only a matter of time before the debate and verbal sparing would end in abject failure. Whether you understand the fine points of the language or not, the gesturing, the emphatic declarations, the strident expressions all lead to one, rather inescapable and negative conclusion.

Finally, and to our eyes, rather abruptly, our negotiator sprang to his feet, crossed the room to the man he had been waging single-handed verbal combat with, grasped his right hand and with mighty strokes shook his hand as one might pump water from a well.

He then crossed the room to the man’s brother – the hafiz, the other major player in the room and repeated the gesture.

Then he crossed to me, grabbed my right hand, put it in the hand of the man he was just shaking hands with and again in the same exaggerated style had us shake hands.

It was done. They had just sold and we had just bought a flat in Istanbul or at least we had agreed to – the process was rather more drawn out and Byzantine in practice with the sale to be referred to the military as I am a foreigner, and then the payment of the funds via bank account – a new legal requirement and a bit of a stumbling block to the hafiz who believes it is sin to have a bank account and finally the essential paperwork at the Land Registry Office which is the final step and still over a month, nearly two before we can actually call the deal ‘done’.

Without our intercessor we would not have been able to agree the purchase of the flat. He had worked them down from their asking price to their “final” price and then below that – requiring them to be responsible for any fines that may have been incurred in the construction of the flats (and there were fines) and to installing radiators. Our legate had brought us to the place where we, with some essential help from our friends were able to agree the purchase of it.

Our friends would be buying a 13% share of the flat thus making the deal possible. Our surrogate negotiated, cajoled, encouraged and understanding the culture and the process, brought the deal to completion. We couldn’t have done it without the Lord’s provision of these two parties.

This is a story of God – God providing the funds from the sale of the house in England, God providing a local commissary who, without charge, has helped us find a place, counselled on the suitability, durability, safety and engineering qualities of the flats we looked at and negotiated the deal and God providing friends who were ready and keen even, to become part-owners with us in this venture.

It is never the story of one person. It is the story of the “many” that God brings together to accomplish His purposes. In the above account, my job was to sit and say nothing – and to shake hands when the time came. Our friends’ job is to come in as part owners. Our factor’s job was to advise, counsel and close the deal.

We each had a part to play….

(written March 2008)

There is that moment, when the knowledge descends upon you, relentless and final. The deed has been done, there is no repentance. Not a feeling of foreboding but rather that stark and brutal realisation that ‘it has happened’ and you can not undo it.

My mind immediately rehearsed all the actions of the past few minutes and then stretched to all the alternative solutions to undo what was done.

The act was final. Obvious solutions – none.

Here we were, barely back in Turkey, a mere few days, beginning the process of settling in to the flat, and had just left for Church. We stood there, outside our front door, me bent over, trying futilely to turn my key in the lock, knowing full well it was impossible – there was another key on the opposite side barring any movement. I could neither fully lock the door nor, on our return from Church, unlock the door, which was more the point.

A Turkish flat generally equals to one door. True we do have two doors on the terrace, but I know they are locked (they always are) and the front door has a key in the lock (bad habit, yes I know – I really do know that now).

What to do?

No simple solution.

Actually, no solution whatsoever came to mind.

Nothing for it but to lock the top lock, and leave the door and the problem and go to church.

Which we did.

By the time the meeting was over, I had an idea. Overhead transparencies. When in Diyarbakır we experienced a similar, uh, event.

We were staying with some friends, and as we all left the flat, the door was closed – but the keys, er, all the keys, were still in the flat. Oh, I should mention, our hosts were not the ones who shut the door – some lessons, it seems, are slowly learned.

One door, all the keys inside. What to do?

Well, the building has a “doorman” cum “cleaner” and as I was about to learn, cum “door opener”.

After we explained the problem, he went and got an x-ray – I assume an old one they didn’t need any more and he met us at the door. He slipped the stiff x-ray film between the metal door frame and the metal door, wiggled it into place, and shuffled and banged and shook the door and it popped open.

I had visions, or at least hope, of being able to do the same with my improvised x-ray (three sheets of acetates). My friend also had an idea of getting a wire and pushing the key out of the lock so we could use the key normally. So, with two strategies in mind, it was with more hope that we, after church, strode down to the quayside and boarded the ferry that would take us back across the Bosphorous Strait and home.

On disembarking, we made our way through the crowds, around the construction site for the new Underground system that will stretch beneath the placid waters of the Bosphorous and up the hill to our flat.

At the door we immediately prepared our copper wire and threaded it carefully into the lock. At about the depth of a key it hit a firm surface. That must be, or at least, could be, the offending key. I push and prod and wiggle the wire this way and that. Being copper, it bends rather smartly. However, as a forceful probe, it bends far too smartly.

We try one end of the wire and then the other and then both ends at the same time. I can not discern the slightest movement or advancement. If the firm surface we have encountered is the key, we have been unable to persuade it to budge.

Time for plan “B”.

I took the first sheet of acetate and started wiggling it about and it felt like it made the turn and found the mark. I was able to move it down to where the lock was. No effect – but I wasn’t done yet.
The second and third sheets of acetate followed the first and made a laminate-like body of three sheets prized between metal frame and metal door.

This door was tighter than the one in Diyarbakır and there wasn’t much slack to allow it move.

I huffed and I puffed, pulled, pushed, banged and generally made my face go red and the door rattle. There was no discernible effect on the locked door.

The wire didn’t work. The x-ray look-alike, three sheets of acetate, didn’t work. Time for plan “C”.

Oh yes, we had a plan “C”.

My friend had told me about plan “C” but we had tried everything else first because plan “C” meant getting a locksmith to come to the flat and do the business – for a fee. We were trying to avoid paying a fee needlessly.

Now if we had been in the UK, Canada or the US, it might have been difficult to find a locksmith on a Sunday, or to encourage him to come out to the flat. And if this had been the UK, Canada or the US, there would have been a formidable charge for a Sunday call-out.

But this is not the UK, Canada or the US.

A man was quickly found, and the fee he would charge is the cost for doing the task as on any other day of the week. He was simply glad for the work.

My friend had volunteered to collect the locksmith and so T and I were waiting at the top of the stairs as they made their way slowly to the summit.

The locksmith got right down to work, extracted a special implement, slipped it between frame and door and the lock snapped and the door rocked open a wee bit and then returned to it’s start position.

He tried again – to the same effect. He would do his ‘thing’ with the special ‘tool’ and the lock would audibly snap open and the door would shunt a wee bit only to pause briefly and then return to its former state.  Multiple times he tried and multiple times the process was repeated – always ending on the same sad note.

Then he queried if I had unlocked the upper lock. “Yes, of course” said I extracting my keys to demonstrate the unlocked-ness of the upper lock.

Now you have to bear in mind that a Turkish lock doesn’t turn once and lock. You rotate the key once and the bolt goes into the frame an inch and a half, you rotate a second time and the bolt goes further into the jam, and finally, a third time and the bolt is driven further into the door jam. Then the door is truly locked. That is true for the bottom lock and for the second, upper lock (this, too, has three turns).

I confidently put the key in the upper lock and turned it, and the bolt was withdrawn from the jam and the door popped open.

I had indeed unlocked the upper lock – but it seems, only twice. Patiently, the lock waited until the third turn to release the bolt from the confines of the door jam.

The locksmith smiled, his talents had been vindicated – the problem wasn’t with his skill or special tool; it lay elsewhere. He collected his fee and went smiling on his way.

I, for one, was glad to have paid the fee, to gain entrance to our flat and to be able to enjoy it far out weighed the cost of having a locksmith do his magic. Our stairwell is nice, but our flat is nicer.

Kind of reminds me of life in Turkey really. I had thoughts and ideas on how to get the door open. I tried, diligently, with tenacious effort, full of hope and faith. To no avail.

I needed someone who knew what he was doing and had the right tools for the job. Even then, I was able to hinder his work.

So, please pray with us that the Turks, who diligently and with tenacious effort seek to please God, will avail themselves of the locksmith – the Holy Spirit using local and foreign saints and receive the ‘key’ – the Good News – that unlocks the door – pray that they will not hinder the work and be released to enter in and enjoy all God has for them.

(written September 2004)

The journey started as so many do, with one form of transport to take us to another form of transport to be able to go where we want to go.… We took one of the small motor-ferries to cross the Bosphorus to the wee port of Kabataş where we would board the much larger ferry that would, well, ferry us to our destination.

On arrival, the ferry disgorged its cargo of day-trippers like us, except I suspect, they had an idea of what they were doing and how to go about doing it. I can’t confess to knowing what or how to do what we were doing.

It was our first ever foray to the Princess Islands, a string of islands nested under the wing of Istanbul in the sparkling azure waters of the Sea of Marmara. The next major earthquake, I mused, is to occur on a fault somewhere under these islands with the projected epicentre somewhere near where we were. Well, so they say.

Oh, and they say and sometime within the next 30 years.

The only motorised transport that is available on “Big Island”, the largest of the Princes Islands, is motor boats as private cars, buses, shared taxis and taxis are all banned. The only other main form of transport on the island, and not motorised, were horse drawn carriage. It makes for a gentle, quaint and quiet environment – quite desirable and compelling.

But on this day we were on a quest of a different sort. Y. had expressed his wish for the day “All I want is a nice beach”. Fair enough desire. Reasonable goal. The sign at the small motor boat tied up at the quay declared that it’s destination was a beach – the boat ride was free, but there was an entrance fee for the beach which included the lounge chairs, umbrella and showers. The fee was negotiable – and yes, sight unseen. This means we pay whatever I can barter the price down to – how would I have a remote clue as to the “going rate”?

So I barter and haggle trying to find an agreeable sum that will be in the right ball park – not too high and we feel ripped off, not too low and we are left standing on the quayside. Ah.

The price agreed, we boarded the boat, reclining in the aft section – and wait. It is a lovely day, the island rising before us, the stretch of Istanbul across the water filling our horizon. The gentle slap of the waves against the side of the boat creates a soothing sensation so we are not too bothered by the opportunity to exercise gracious patience in the face of circumstances not quite of our choosing.

Then, we’re off….

The boat heads off, we do not know where – we’ve never been here before – and it ploughs it’s way through the sea, doggedly, reluctantly it seems, around the island. Gradually the town clinging to the edge of the island falls aft of us as we make our way around the island sailing sou’ sou’west. The sea is quite calm and there is very little rocking motion. The island slowly passes off the port side as we are – uh, serenaded, by the dulcet throbs of the marine diesel chugging away beneath our feet.

As we progress ’round the island I note with growing concern the lack of “beaches”. The rocks tend to plunge down rather abruptly into the sea offering rather picturesque bays but frightfully few beaches. My son reiterates his simple desire for a plain beach. I know we are going to a beach – but I begin to wonder… the word that I am translating as “beach”, Turkish “plaj” – well, maybe….

We round the corner and the boat noses into a broad bay, swinging by large fishing trawlers at anchor and sailing past some rather expensive looking pleasure craft. I note with interest two things. A large boat, larger than the one we are on, a passenger boat, which is moored and people are swimming off the deck. The second thing I note, is the final destination of our boat. I see umbrellas. I see lounge chairs. I see a restaurant. I see a place to dock the boat. I see water. What I do not see is “sand”. The lounge chairs are on a concrete pad, which comes to the water and ends in a concrete wall.

Now it never occurred to me to ask the chap I had so patiently negotiated our entrance fee with, if the “plaj” had sand. I “assumed” that beach means sand – not a place to swim with shore facilities to lie in the sun or shade according to ones tastes.

This was a “beach” but of the “sand-less” variety. Words can mean one thing to one person, and carry a different meaning to another.

Likewise, as we seek to communicate Good News, we must be aware that words may mean one thing to me and another to our hearers… if something as simple and mundane as “beach” can be misconstrued, then how much more carefully need we be when the subject is the Good News.

(written March 2006)

It had to be done.  And no one else could do it.

I was thankful that the bitterly cold wind that had spent the previous four days howling down the Bosphorous has been replaced by still sunny skies. Albeit still cool – I was no longer feeling smitten by stinging arrows of ice flung from the whirlwind of northern fury. And to think, growing up in Canada doing daily battle with the winter elements was once normal and not at all noteworthy. I guess I’m getting soft in my old age.

I gathered up what I thought was required, descended the stairs and turned left out the front door of our building. At the end of the street, I turned left again and up over the ridge and began the descent down the rather steep cobbled street. We call this the “Post Office hill” because the Post Office is at the bottom of the hill. Makes a handy landmark for people coming to our flat, although the hill is so steep as to discourage all but the truly dedicated from making the ascent.

As I neared the bottom of the hill I could hear the sounds of construction –or maybe more to the point, destruction. The Post Office was gone. Well, the function of the Post Office was gone, the building was still there, now filled with the sounds of jack hammers and workers bashing and thumping and carrying on the task of removal and demolition before beginning the restructure and renewal. Don’t know what it will be, but it will most likely look very nice when it is done.

I wonder where the Post Office has gone to…. oh well, that is not where I was heading. The task for this afternoon is far more daunting than a mere trip to the Post Office.

I turned right past the former Post Office, a bit furtively, for as I went by, the crashing bits of debris were falling against the glass of the main window. At any moment I expected the glass to give way in an avalanche of glass and broken bits of masonry  inundating the street and entrapping any unfortunate who at the moment would be attempting to cross in front. Thankfully, now was not the time, although I dare say it was not far off.

Up to the corner, first door on the right, up some narrow stairs, nicely finished in marble and into the office of the Noter (Notary Public), a crowded, grimy little room. The ceiling seemed low and the room was full of people sitting on chairs waiting and groups of people clustered at a long high table. On the opposite side of the table, ladies at computers and typewriters were preparing a vast range of documents. Almost everything, it seems, requires something to be notarized.

“Where do I start?”
“Where is the end of the queue?”
“Is there a queue?”
“What do I do?”

Aghh… is my feeling.

I move to the table and wait near one of the ladies. People leave, people come, some move in front of me. I really don’t know how this works….

Finally a lady bellows “next in line…”

“Uh, what line?” I query. She looks disdainfully at me.

But as there wasn’t a rush of people to the spot in front of her, I moved over.

She ordered her papers on her desk and did other tasks for which I couldn’t determine any function and then she finally turned to me….

“I need to make a Power of Attorney,” I began, holding out the sample I had brought with me…

She snatched the paper from my hand, glanced at it and barked, “”Are you giving the Power of Attorney, or the company?””

“Me…” spoken hesitantly as the question seemed rather pointless – how could the company be giving me a Power of Attorney – but my hesitation was enough… and there quickly following a barrage of questions in abrupt succession ending with a demand to see my ID.

Well, that did it. A foreign passport – no, no, no, this was not going to do. I would need it translated (by an official Translator, and no doubt notarized) before I could progress this any further.

“Go see the lady over there” she said, gesturing towards a rather large cluster of people. Somewhere beyond the hunched shoulders of middle aged men, there must be somebody who would be able to shed light on my dilemma.

My heart sank as I made my way towards the knot of men, and not really knowing who it was that I was supposed to talk to. I stuffed my papers back in my pocket and slunk out the door and down the narrow stairs to the peace and tranquility of the street.

Peace and tranquility of the street ?!?

Back I passed by the former Post Office, bits of debris continuously raining down, clattering against the glass,– any time now it will explode outwards I thought.  In the next block was another Noter. You know the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, go to a different Noter” or something like that.

I made my way gingerly up the stairs and into a room quite similar to the previous one. Clusters of people, chairs full of people, the sounds of fingers flying on keyboards. Mind you, no smoke – it seems that most official offices are smoke-free now. That’s nice.

Still I didn’t know where to start, so I shuffled up to the desk and the lady looked up, I said what I wanted and showed her my dreaded foreign passport, gasp.

She said, “”Go talk to the lady in the corner.””

Now, I didn’t know who that was, but there were only two ladies in the corner, so I had a 50-50 chance. I got it right on the second try.

She asked if I had a Residence Permit to which I replied I did, and she said that I could do the Power of Attorney with that (and no need to get my passport officially translated and notarized).

Great !

Except I didn’t leave the house with my residence permit. So, thanking her, I left the office and made my way back up the hill to the flat, back up to the top of the building (no lift in case you are wondering), picked up the residence permit and back down the hill to the Noter.

Well, my doctor told I needed more exercise.

She took the papers, told me sit down – which I would have done if there had been any empty chairs. So I leaned against the wall and commenced the main occupation of people in a Notary Public’s office, –waiting.

And I had ample opportunity to practice the art of waiting. After a while a chair came free, so that eased the task somewhat.

“Should have brought a book” I mused. Could have written a book.

In the end, the crowds lessened, and then the lady held out my papers (when did she do my paperwork?). Then she told me to go to one of the ladies behind the desk who would now commence to do it. My task far from being finished, was just now beginning.

I had a sample Power of Attorney, with just one change, a date. She looked at it,– it was rather long. And then she took a pair of scissors and cut the offending date out. She then photocopied the page, put the photocopied page in a typewriter and typed in the new date.

Much faster and easier than retyping the whole thing out.

Filled in, off to the Notary Public himself, well, after waiting a bit. He signed the front. Turned the paper over read the text and then asked to see my ID. He knew enough that my English given name is more often than not abbreviated from the long to the short form, and so had to make sure it was done legally and correctly. Alas, I was given only the short form at birth, so my short form given name was accepted.

With that confirmed, he signed again and gave me the papers. Off to the lady I started with, who did something or other, then to the last lady to whom I paid the fee.

Half a day, and one aspect of trying to import our boxes of “keepsakes” into the country done, and yet the task barely begun.

Next week promises to be equally exciting. Monday we are off to the main Police building in Istanbul and begin the process of applying for an extension of our residence permit AND then I need to take the Power of Attorney, done today, to the agent who is importing our boxes.

Things change, – activities come and go, –the Post Office moves (but the function of Post Office carries on – somewhere),– tasks have to be done; some are pleasant, some are not. But in it all and through it all and in spite of it all, our God remains our faithful solid rock; come what may, all changes notwithstanding; He is our solace, source and shield – in all we do.

(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.

(written January 2004)

I crack open the window and feel the immediate force of the cold wind as it attempts to force the window fully open. I lean forward, straining to see through the slats of the shutters making out ghostly white images, indistinct and clouded by the overpowering darkness and the fresh blanket of snow. There is no movement other than that caused by the violent gusts of wind – no light just a pervading darkness in every direction.  It is after sun set, it is snowing, and the electricity supply has failed.

I push the window shut and turn into the pitch darkness of the house, moving carefully towards the stairs. Our home consists of two floors, the main floor with the living room, bathroom, spare bedroom and kitchen. The lower floor with a toilet, bedroom and work room. As I move towards he stairs the light of the candle that we have placed in the lower hall shines brightly before me, making things clear and distinct, I am able to tell steps from shadows and I move forward with greater confidence.

It is amazing how much light a single candle can give. The tiny flame on top of a slender tube of wax shines and fills the corridor in an amazing abundance of light – providing safety in negotiating the stairs and the curve at the bottom and bringing cheer and brightening the heart with its glow. We have positioned candles in the hall, toilet and work room, three small seas of light in the winter darkness.

As is often the case in our modern world, the house slowly chills with the absence of the central heat system which is lying still due to the deficiency of electricity – silent and still.   The phone ceases to work and the computer, well the lap top will work as long as the battery lasts. There is no danger. We will not freeze to death – there is snow, but it is not that cold and these houses are like modern caves against the elements. This represents minor discomfort, certainly, but no more.

This small candle beside me, providing me light and comfort and reassurance as I type these few words reminds me of something that happened just a few days ago.

T. and I had just returned from the UK, rejoicing in the Lord for the completion of the sale of our house – and as our journey was nearing an end, we were looking forward to getting “home”. We took the service bus from the airport to the sea bus terminal. There was quite a walk from where the service bus dropped us and the sea bus and this walk was made more difficult as we had made a small, but significant error.

When travelling your life is reduced to 23 kilos each, and weight seems to be the most important issue, and it is an important issue, but it is also important to remember that we have only two hands each and the total number of bags must be no more than four.

We had five.

Now it wouldn’t have been too much of a problem – manageable, but a new bag, a gift we received in the UK, suffered in its maiden flight and all the wheels had been torn off the bag – it was large, it was heavy and now it would have to be carried and not dragged.

By the time we reached the sea bus I wasn’t going to lug the luggage one foot or centimetre further than I had to, so, once on board we collapsed in the nearest seats – at the front of the boat. There was but one row of seats facing the back the remainder all faced forward. As I sat there, looking towards the back of the boat, before me sat some two or three hundred fellow passengers. Some were reading, others in discussion, the obligatory individuals chatting loudly away on their mobile telephones, others taking the opportunity to catch a few winks of sleep and still others staring into space. Two or three hundred people just like you and me. They have fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, they work, or go to school, they have dreams, fears, problems, struggles, aspirations, encouragements and discouragements – just like you and me. People who laugh at funny things and cry at sad. People who want to have a full and happy life. People who face the same, everyday problems of life that you and I face.

But what struck me as I sat in my seat, surrounded with the lugged luggage, catching my breath and feeling new muscles speaking out against the journey so far, the thing that struck me as my eyes raised from my petty complaints and bags to the faces of the people before me, was these people have never heard the Good News of “abundant life”, of “new life”, of “being reconciled with God”, of “knowing Him”.

They are doing their best to live their lives, but they have never had a single opportunity to hear and understand all that is, in Christ. This is what it is all about. Giving this lovely people, with their dreams and aspirations, disappointments and discouragements their first opportunity to hear the good news. Currently, it is said, there are somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 Muslim background believers in the whole country (this number was accurate when written in 2004 – today in 2015, the number is considered to be between 4,000 and 5,000).

My little candle makes all the difference in the house. Without it, I would stumble, even though I know the house well. Without it I would have difficulty with the basic tasks of life  that must be done. Without it there is very little I could do – and that which I may attempt to do would be difficult and fraught with hidden dangers. My simple little candle makes a fantastic difference in this great darkness.

So, we, feeling feeble, unworthy and insufficient to the task can be a “little candle” shining in darkness. Likewise, you, wherever you are, in whatever situation you find yourself, whether you feel great or small, can be that “little candle” in the darkness you find yourself in.

Our task simply is to let our little light shine.