Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Playing in Palo Alto

When I was little I loved to see magic shows. Until I was about 31 I thought the magician was doing real magic, and not just using sleight of hand or other tricks to fool my mind.

I had a similar experience yesterday. We are near San Francisco visiting our friends Rick and Diane. Jim has a job interview, and I love Rick and Diane enough to sit through 12 hours of driving to spend 12 hours of quality time with Jim to get to see them. Once, Rick fixed my microwave by taking out the thermostat, and throwing it on the floor. The thermostat had gotten stuck (perhaps because I cooked rice in the microwave for 45 minutes without any water!), and Rick “unstuck” it. He always does things that I could do myself if only I knew whether to throw it on the floor, drown it in vinegar or put duct tape on it. I guess that’s where years of engineering education come in. (And to think at UCSB we used to laugh at those nerds, carrying their piles of books!) Rick is even more brilliant than most engineers. He’s more practical, and certainly funnier.

My camera broke days before I left for Turkey, and last night Rick worked on it. First, he takes out two pairs of inexpensive reading glasses and put both on. At the same time. Then, Diane hands him a pair of old wire-rimmed glassed to which he has glued an eye loupe (a magnifying lens). It is quintessential Rick and we about die laughing. It’s genius! It’s not very attractive, but it is hilariously funny, and extremely practical. (And did I tell you about the time he needed light under the house while fixing pipes, so he strung Christmas lights in the crawl space?) In about five minutes he has fixed my camera. One of the pins in the memory card slot looked different than the others, so he bent it. With a PAPER CLIP! Now that’s REAL magic.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Three Girls. Three Transitions.

Kelly Brenna Molly

While I am still a little fuzzy from the Turkey trip, my head is also spinning because of all the transitions my girls are going through. For many years I felt like I always had one doing something amazing and outstanding, one doing fine, and one that I worried about. Their roles shifted, and when one got back on track, someone else took their place and made me worry. But today, they are all three in good places. They are making fabulous choices and accomplishing great things with their lives. While I was on the plane home, Kelly graduated from her Masters program. She is in the process of looking for a teaching job in San Diego, the city where they have laid off the highest number of teachers in the nation. (Thanks, Arnold.) She is answering hard questions on job applications like "How would you use technology in the classroom to create a culturally responsive environment?" Huh?

Brenna was commissioned at church last Sunday to spend a year in El Salvador with Campus Crusade. The young people there have asked for someone to come organize on-campus groups for Christian students on their college campuses. I'm very supportive of her and proud of what she is doing with her life. I've also experienced the girls living in foreign countries, and it's very hard on my stomach. I will worry about her, and I will be very sad that I won't get to see her until Christmas. It's not the same as having a child in San Luis Obispo. I worry from the time they go to LAX to the time they land back in California. (And since Brenna was missing for 30 hours on the way to Thailand, I have good reason to worry! And that Karaoke post didn't reassure me, either! )

Molly's orientation at San Diego State University was Monday. I am also very proud of her, not only for getting into an institution that only accepted 10% of its applicants, but for making a choice that I think is an excellent match for her. I can picture her attending class at this beautiful campus, and I have every expectation that she will enjoy her studies and do well there. It's a difficult transition for me, losing my last child. Things really do change when they go away to school. The dean yesterday said "Raise your hand if you are sending off your first child and you are a little sad and apprehensive." Then he said "Now, raise your hand if this is your last child and you are relieved." Jim's hand immediately shot up, and he told me to raise mine, but I can honestly say I am NOT relieved. I am a little sad and apprehensive. Sad for me. Happy for her.

Summing Up the Last Days

IMPACT plans some time into the journey for personal reflection, debrief as a team, and sightseeing. Our last days were full and productive. The most meaningful day for me was in Ephesus. Scripture came alive as I pictured the riot in the stadium described in Acts 19. When Paul tells Timothy to stay in Ephesus, I can now picture where and how Timothy lived while he was there. Just to walk on the same ground as the apostles gave us new insights into what their lives must have been like. I can imagine Paul having to deal with the blistering heat there in the summer, and I can visualize him delivering his inspiring messages to the early believers.
the stadium in Ephesus (you may need to click on this and enlarge it to see it properly)

Main Street, Ephesus

Me in front of the library in Ephesus.

As we thought about Paul’s journeys, we reflected on our individual journeys, and wondered how Turkey had changed us, and how we would bring those changes forward into our “ordinary” lives. This time was definitely a gift from above.

Our time in Istanbul was spent taking in the sights and sounds of this culturally-rich city.

View from Tim Fearer's roof.

To me, it felt partly like Europe,

(The Topkapi Palace)

(The Flower Market)

...partly like San Francisco,

...and partly something uniquely it’s own.

Inside the Spice Market

Once the capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople was conquered and re-conquered. Churches were turned in to Mosques and back again.

Tim Fearer, former pastor at Westminster Presbyterian, but currently living in Istanbul, was our excellent tour guide, and gave us great insight into his work and the city. He knew great places to eat and told us stories of Hemingway, attacks on the Russian embassy, and showed us where the Orient Express ended its fateful journey. He shared some of his frustration in going from giving complex and interesting sermons, commanding the attention of congregations each Sunday, to conversing at the level of a five year old. He’s obviously brilliant, well-versed in Turkish history, and a joy to be around. He is connected with the Bible Society, and his passion is educating and training Turkish Christians.

We also met with Sue Simms who is working with refugees in Turkey. People come to her tiny office from all over the world (Mongolia, Eritrea, Tanzania, Costa Rica, and wherever). Many pay human smugglers to get to Turkey, mistakenly thinking that they can get a job and work once there. Because these immigrants can’t obtain a work permit, they become stranded, not able to return home, and not able to afford food and housing in Turkey. They have no passport, no papers, and in many cases, no hope. Some arrive pregnant, creating a range of new problems. Sue provides a life raft for these dear, struggling people.

We had time for team discussions about all that God had accomplished in us and through us. These were precious times for me. I was able to see how my team mates had grown and how He had been with us on the journey.

We are especially grateful to Ken Vodraska and Jim Peters, our heroes on the home front, who spent time on the phone in the wee morning hours to get us good seats on the flight home.

Susan happily reading Turkey, Forgotten Land of the Bible

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Day in Bible-land

This was an amazing way to spend the Sabbath. I walked where people from the Bible walked. We set out from Antalya, the very harbor where Paul left from on his journey.

We traveled to Laodicea, where John accused the church of being “lukewarm”. At Laodicea they had an advance water system, with cold water coming from Colossae and hot water coming from Hieropolis. But Laodicea was neither of these—hot nor cold. They were just lukewarm. And, as predicted, the city was destroyed. (In this case, by an earthquake). He wanted them to have a fervent faith, and not take their relationship with Christ for granted. They were wealthy, and didn't think they needed God. But the city was destroyed by an earthquake, and abandoned until just recently. They are in the process of restoring the city, and we were told that if we had come during the week, the archeologists would not have allowed us to take pictures or touch their finds. Much work has been done in the last year, and we felt lucky to be able to see the city where Paul wrote at the same time he wrote the letter to the Colossians.

You can see part of the amazing Roman road that was lined with these tall pillars.

There are amazing things to look at wherever you turn. (This is Anton)

Then we went to Hierapolis, also called “Pamukkale” , which means “cotton castle” in Turkish. The limestone here makes the mountain look like a cotton, and beautiful pools have been dug out. I wish I had been able to get a picture of the woman in the bikini bathing next to the four women completely covered in conservative Muslim dress.

I loved these beautiful pools.

This is the amazing restored theater at Hieropolis. You can see the lion's cages at the bottom of the stadium. (The little squares).

I had the same feeling I do when I walk into gorgeous old European cathedrals, and they are used mostly as museums. Seems sad that a city that once had a vibrant city life, and a strong faith, is now just a pile of ruins.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

We've Been Playing Hard

The owner of the school invited the team to breakfast at her house. She has two stories on the top floor of a beautiful building with a view of mountains and ocean. She fed us and fed us and then fed us some more. Sort of reminded me of our first trip to Ireland, when all the relatives wanted us to eat more. So when we were so full we couldn’t take another bite, she served chocolate. (Always room for cold chocolate, isn’t there?) And then we had Turkish coffee. I’m getting more used to it. In Albania I didn’t let the grounds settle, and it tasted like, well, grounds. Then we couldn’t go home without having a Coca Cola. We are Americans, after all, right? She kept telling us how wonderful we were, and couldn’t we eat more? We gave her a present. (A Threads of Yunnan plaque, but we changed the words to read “You are a bright and shining star to all you meet”.) She loved it. She’s going to hang a huge picture of us in the new school. Then she brought out presents for US: Pants!! I wore my pants today, and several Turkish people a) assumed I spoke Turkish, and b) wanted to know where to buy them. Very fun.

Later we went to the Turkish Bath (the Hamam) together as a team. We took pictures, but for some reason the team won’t let me post them! We should have done this bonding experience as a cross training exercise…it brought us closer than the ropes course. Here you are completely naked, at the mercy of someone massaging your body and roughly scrubbing you, and YOU CAN’T COMMUNICATE AT ALL!!! Very humbling. They put huge mounds of soap bubbles on you, and I got some in my eye. So I pointed to my eyes. Big mistake. For the next three minutes they poured cold water over my face. I couldn’t catch my breath, and almost drowned. They just laughed at me sputtering! And they say water-boarding isn’t torture!

Verna, Cindy, Patti, Jenn, and Marsh in Antalya

We leave Antalya tomorrow. It will be sad to leave. I don’t know if I’ll have Internet at Ephesus, so don’t worry if I don’t post.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Where in the World is Anton?

In case you are Anton's friend or mother, you may be wondering why I never write about him. It's because he is off doing incredible wonderful things with other people. He checks in with his five moms, tells us great stories, and then tries to act interested when we share ours. So today's post is about his time, from my biased viewpoint. He's not suffering, except for the time spent with us. He's traveled around meeting different people-both Turkish and ex-pats--learning from them and sharing himself, too. He's helped others with computer stuff, and graphics, and played with children at the Pre-school.
Today he's para-sailing with YW-- people. (Updated 7-12-It didn't work out for him to go para sailing.

He loves to shop, and took better pictures than I at the market.

This is a picture at the Pre-school, where they are learning the traditional American dance, the Hokey Pokey. (Why do they love this in EVERY country?!)

I'm glad he has people his age serving with him at the Pre-school.

The women saw how God took our talents and used them here. (Photography, language skill, crochet talent, being a good listener, crafts, etc.) We know that all five of us were called to this service, and we made connections with the moms and children in amazing ways because of who we were. The same happened when somehow they found out that Anton had art talent. "Could you make a mural????" So he took this wall...

And is making a mural! (The leaves will be the children's hand prints.)

Although it's sometimes difficult having the team split up, we are all effective in building bridges where we are. Anton is learning a lot about Turkey, and says he will be back to serve here next summer and is thinking about being here even longer term.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

In Which This Turns into a Food Blog

Turkish food is amazing, so I thought I’d dedicate a post to it. Yum!
The best bread in America tastes like cardboard compared to the bread in Turkey. There's nothing like the variety and the flavor of the warm, soft, flavorful bread.

Pide-Turkish Pizza

The spices are beautiful and fragrant.

More nuts than on Venice Beach.

A typical Turkish breakfast is fruit, yogurt, cheese, and several breads.

Tavuk shish- Shish kebab

Their plates are always beautiful

This woman is making fresh flat-bread.

This one made me help. After she finished this chocolate Guzlime, she made these little raviolis. Very time consuming!

These little raviolis are a regional dish, and they were delicious.

And then there's dessert!

They have beautiful bakeries.

Colorful ice cream--like gelatto.

Chocolate pudding with pistachios and coconut garnish.

And, of course, baklava. :- P

We See Your Hearts

Today we made friendship bracelets with the mothers. One of them said “These bracelets mean that the Turkish women and the American women are friends.” Susan said “Yes, and don’t listen to what they say about Americans on TV.” “No, we see your hearts.”

Another Turkish woman said to me “That woman wearing the Burka thinks she’s better than us. But God doesn’t care about what you wear. He only cares if you’re a good person.” (Then she elaborated on what a “good” person was.) I said that Christians believe that no one can live a “good” life. We are self-serving, and we make mistakes. We aren’t always kind, but that through Jesus we are forgiven and He puts His Spirit in us to change us from the inside out. She said “I see a different Spirit in you. I never thought about that.”

This woman brings us chai (the Turkish word for "tea"), and wanted to be sure we took her picture. I am in heaven...tea and people who love their picture taken.

We had such fun today when one of the women spontaneously got up and danced and the rest of us clapped, sang and laughed. She urged others to join in. Later, someone said “The Roma women love to dance.” Ah. We connected so much with the Roma people in Albania, and our people have pointed them out in their horse drawn carts, calling them “Gypsies”. I said “Ask her if she calls herself ‘Roma’ or is it all right to call her a ‘Gypsy’. The woman said “Oh, no! We would never call her that to her face. It’s a very bad term.” Great. We only use the bad term when they can’t hear us. Although the Roma are more accepted than in other countries, there is still a lot of prejudice against them here, but the Roma do send their children to school, and fit into society. Often there is prejudice against the Kurds, too, who are often considered terrorists in this part of the world. A small group of violent Kurds have given them all a bad name.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Another Day in Paradise

I am having an incredibly wonderful time. I can see God working through me. I am trying to give in three different areas: to the Turkish people who have welcomed my team with open arms and established deep relationships far beyond my imagination, and to our dear hosts who are helping us navigate Antalya (again-kinder to us than I had predicted), and to my team. The team leadership is by far the most difficult for me. Please pray for me in this area.

Ramazan and Karen

We had dinner at Karen and Ramazan’s house last night. He is the pastor of the Turkish church, and he’s coming to the US to live for awhile. I’m hoping he’ll end up in Ventura, which is one of the possibilities for him. (If you have any say in this, call me if you’re open to taking bribes!). Karen met Ramazan when she was on a short term journey to Turkey, and they are a really neat couple. They are really living out their faith, and are doing such an amazing job under incredibly difficult circumstances. We could learn so much from them.

Right now they are like Abraham when God said “Go to a place I will show you…” They don’t know where they are to go, and are waiting for different churches in the US to make decisions. Additionally, although the church will go on without him, I imagine it is very difficult to turn over his leadership of the Turkish church to others. Ramazan cares so much about the people in his congregation, and knows all their troubles and needs. I pray that the Turkish leaders in the church will step forward and take on new roles, just as people did at CPC when Paul was in Albania.

Another highlight today was when I gave this little girl, who has autism, Play Doh. She doesn’t talk much, but whines instead. You would have thought I had given her a new pony the way she reacted to the Play Doh. She said “Tesekur ederim” (Thank you), and stole my heart.