(written August 2006)
T. mused to herself, “How much do you genuinely need to live? How many belongings do you ‘really’ need?” As she began packing for our month in Antakya (that is Antioch on the Orontes River in the Bible), she thought about this : “Do I really need to pack 8 shirts?”
She paused and considered, “That’s what I normally pack, one a day for a week and one to wear when the other 7 are in the being washed. But it’s HOT in Antakya, and I know from our experience living in Selçuk for a year that clothes dry quickly. And how many skirts can I wear at once? Surely three is enough, one to wear, one to wash and one for ’emergencies’.”
She carries on, “Once we have arrived in Antakya, I wonder, do we really need more than two plates? We are two people. Isn’t one pot and a frying pan enough?”
And so her thoughts were occupied with the practical and essential aspects and ramifications of our proposed time in Antakya.
We arrived on the third day of our travels from Istanbul, passing over mountain passes, through evergreen forests, across high mountain plateaus and along the side of a huge salt lake. The final day included a trip up over the coastal mountains from Iskenderun (Alexandria) founded in 333 BC by Alexander the Great, and then from a dizzying height, carefully following the road as it snakes down from the high pass into the distant valley floor below. In ancient times part of the valley was a shallow lake where the Seleucid Kings kept their war elephants. Today it is a fertile green plain.
Once the descent was made we turned basically south towards Antakya, going down the valley to the modern/ancient city. The arrangements were for us to make our way directly to the Church which is to be our home for our visit in Antakya.
Thing is, I’ve been to the church twice in the last year and always as a passenger, never driving there. So, I decided to work from known landmarks, I headed off for the road that leads to the cave grotto which is said to be where the early believers first gathered and from whence Paul and Barnabas were commissioned to the Lord’s work and where Paul and Peter had their confrontation (the church most probably meet in homes in the very early days, rather than a cave… But ‘it is said’…). The road I am heading for is at the base of the mountain; thankfully I can the mountain, the base is evident, so it was a landmark I felt I could work from.
Once there, we headed deeper into the town on a narrow, busy road called in Turkish ‘Salvation street’, paralleling the mountain to a point where all seemed right to me and we turned right into a more dense part of the old city. Down this street, and by the Grace of God we found the incredibly narrow street that leads into the warren of medieval lanes that comprise the old quarter full of stone houses, courtyards and our destination – the church. Turning up the constricted lane, I was glad we have both a small and an old car. We drove up a hundred meters or so and parked outside the church.
Now, as this is an old area of town you basically have walls of either one or two stories high with single solid steel doors marking the entrance. We clamoured out of the car, drenched in sweat from our travels and stepped through the open steel door to the church.
Now when I say church please understand that as I use this word in the sense that the Church is made up of people and is not tied to any geographical point or structure or, any peculiar architectural design. The building would not ‘look’ like a typical church to anyone.
In actual fact, as far as the structure is concerned, when we passed through the steel door, we arrived at an old stone ‘house’. It is this rented stone build courtyard house where the church now gathers.
Immediately across the threshold of the steel door to the street, you are in a dressed stone flagged courtyard. To the left is a old stone wing with six high windows crowned with simple stone arches. Two wooden doors one of which is used as a window the other as a door as that wing has been converted into the meeting room for the Church.
It looks wonderful.
On the right is the opposite wing also of stone, but not handsome dressed stone as the meeting room, but more prosaic, simple field stone walls, plastered over and painted off-white. This wing comprises two rooms, a narrow kitchen and a loo.
The first room is for our exclusive use while we are staying here and is our bedroom and my workroom (editing on the film “Joni” continues whilst here). The second room is for the young people to use. The kitchen is basic but sufficient (this is a man writing). The loo is a long narrow room with an ala franka toilet (uh, European/North American style) and an electric shower with the shower head on the wall – it’s a wet room. All rooms open on to the courtyard and so to go from room to room requires a side trip to the courtyard.
Mind you, it is a dressed stone flagged courtyard so it is a nice trip. Maybe not so nice at two in the morning if you must make a nocturnal call and I am told that in winter, in the rain it is even less appealing.
This was to be home for the next month. We are here for a number of reasons: to continue with video editing projects, specifically, the cleaning and renewal of the film Joni, to assist the local fellowship in any way we can whilst we are here and to test the waters to see if the Lord may be leading us to relocate here.
So, as T. faces the practical implications of living in a very old, very small, stone house, I enjoy the beauty, the history, the charm and delights of a stone courtyard house.
Although this is about as far south in Turkey as we have ever been and probably as far south as we can go, and the days are hot, the evenings and nights are remarkably cool. I, for one, not being one who ‘enjoys’ the heat, have been able to work, albeit with a fan blowing on me, during the heat of the day. T. is finding the heat quite unpleasant.
Ah…whilst writing this I am interrupted by the ringing of the bells of the local Orthodox church, not a sound you will hear in most of Turkey. So I must break off now and continue in what the Lord has put in our hands to do… I’m editing, T. is washing clothes by hand and foot.
We, like you press on ‘continuing in what the Lord has given us to do’. Sometimes it isn’t very exciting, nor glamorous, nor great in the eyes of the world but if it is what the Lord has given us, then there is nothing more important for us to be involved in.