There are Christians in Turkey. Not many. But a few. The country is approximately 99% Muslim. However, when you say that, it's like saying that most of America is Christian. While that is true, people run the gamut on that spectrum. Some are devout. Some go to church twice a year. Some have no idea what the religion they claim actually means.
Our friend Rana is a Turkish Christian. She was born and raised in a Christian community in Turkey. She met and married a Christian American named Jake. We met Rana through Tristan and Shannon -- our friends from Eglin who were stationed here at incirlik the two years before we came. Tristan and Shannon connected us with each other, and what a blessing that has been.
Rana's first language is Turkish, but she speaks nearly perfect English. Jake's first language is Turkish, but he speaks nearly perfect Turkish. They have two young children -- a boy Aksel who a few months older than Isaac and a daughter, Mia, who is nearly one. They are a very down-to-earth and peaceful family. Sitting with them makes me feel that we've been friends for a very long time.
This morning we met our new friends for breakfast at a delightful Turkish weekend buffet. There was a playground for the kids to play at and more tables than I imagine could ever be filled which meant that you are allowed to stay as long as you want (in comparison to having to leave the restaurant as soon as you are done eating in America as Rana pointed out.) We got there at close to 9 which is early for Turkish standards. Their communities really start moving closer to eleven. We lounged and ate breakfast and lunch over the course of two hours while the kids ran and played to their heart's content.
I love watching my boys play with Turkish children. Language is not a barrier for them. They can play together without worrying about not being able to understand each other. It's how the whole world should be.
The food was fabulous. Breakfast in Turkey is quite different than America but there are enough similarities to make me feel comfortable. Eggs are often included and usually some orange juice of some sort. The rest is usually a large variety of cheeses, breads, meets, olives, and various nuts and figs and such. There is much that I do not try and much I cannot imagine eating so early in the morning. But there are also many things that surprise me and feel semi-familiar. Rana helped me with many words and also informed me of one word I should not attempt to say. Saying it incorrectly would be the equivalent of the f-word. So better to not try at all.
After breakfast, we had the opportunity to attend church with Jake and Rana. Their church is small. Just a dozen or so people. Being a Christian in Turkey is not against the law. Leading someone to Christianity is not against the law. However while there are no political implications for changing faith, socially, for a Muslim to leave their faith and become a Christian, they would face tremendous obstacles. Conversion can mean an individual is ostracized from their family and community. It's not a simple decision. It's a life-changing moment.
There actually was a visitor other than myself at church today, and he began asking questions about the faith. That was quite powerful. I speak very little Turkish and that was the only language spoken. I could often infer what was being talked about via a combination of hand gestures, a phrase or two I recognized, or Rana's whispers of explanation.
JB, Jake, and the kids played in a courtyard off the tiny church which was really just a home converted to serve the function of worship. Because I can read the language, I was able to sing the songs and read their Bible with them even if I didn't know what most of the words meant. (I wish I would have brought my English Bible so I could have read along in English.) I did, however, recognize the tune to one song: There is Power in the Blood. I was able to sing this in English while they sang in Turkish. How awesome! Elijah happened to be with me for that song. He danced and clapped in the midst of Turkish people singing as loudly as they could to only a guitar.
I want to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about this country we are living in whenever I can. Rana is wonderful for that. Often times, a Turk speaks English only fairly well. This makes it difficult to ask questions and get answers as to social norms and customs. But Rana speaks English nearly perfectly. This allows me to ask questions and learn fully. She is a beautiful person who laughs easily and shares readily.
Having the opportunity to worship with other Christians in this country is not something I will ever forget. I look forward to getting to know Jake and Rana better over our next two years here!