I remember these streets so vividly its as if I know the man selling simit and the one yelling “1 tane, 1 tane, 1 tane!” in the bazar; the cobblestone roads, always torn up somewhere and being relaid with sand; the stench of smoke and the faint smell of coal still burning in the older apartment buildings; the stray dogs and occasional cat. I suspect we’ve seen it all today, right?
When you were coming along, I drove the monstrous black van around these streets. Many times, rounding a corner, I got stuck. A crowd of men always appeared yelling “allahalla” and shaking their hands at me. When they looked closer, they saw I was a foreigner. Inevitably, I would get out of the drivers seat and allow one of them to get me out of the jam.
This is ancient Chalcedon. The most traveled thru port in Istanbul and the country. Two and a half million people come through here every day. We found it fitting to live in the largest neighborhood in the largest city in the largest unreached country in the world. We were committed to making Jesus known as savior to the Turks, not just a prophet who came before Mohammed. All the mosque minarets, the men overflowing into the streets to pray because its Friday, the Call to Prayer we’ve heard all week- oh that they would know Jesus!
The stress of living here as a foreigner and an “M” at that was mixed with daily mercies. Dad was stabbed in these streets, but down the road was a hospital with an American trained, English-speaking surgeon on call that night. We were surrounded by concrete, but they finished the water walkway our first year here and some lovely cafes opened with secret gardens. We had to weave through the crazy bazar I showed you today, the largest in the country, to make it to the hospital in time for you to be born. But the next morning, Dad was able to bring me Starbucks because it had just opened nearby. God’s mercy continually peppered the stress and pain of living here.
We weathered plenty of scares in Moda: 9/11, bombings of synagogues and British banks, the Iraqi war, unrest on the border with Syria. In those times, we holed up in our apartment and watched American TV shows on VHS tapes. But into that same home, you came. Along the water walkway we strolled the day you were born. Back to the same apartment we brought you, little Ela who looked more Turk than American.
This is a place where God saw. El Roi. Hagar's name.
He saw me. He saw our family. He saw you, Ella.