I’ve always liked to know what to expect. To know what’s coming next. I think I was born that way. Following a schedule and ticking things off a list has always given me a sense of security and calm.
13 years ago, I moved to Turkey. Certainly not something I expected to do.
I remember playing a world flag board game with my brother and sisters when we were little and always laughing that there was a country called “Turkey.”
When I first traveled to Turkey, I literally had to look on a map to see where I was going. I knew very little about the country or the culture. And nothing of the language.
After three short term mission trips to Turkey and 3 years of exchanging friendly letters with a Turkish pastor, God did something unexpected and prompted me to move to Turkey.
Of course all of the unknown was difficult for me, but somehow I found myself taking all the steps needed to move to Turkey.
I finished my bachelor’s degree and went to England to complete a one month intensive course to teach English as a second language. I worked full time while in college and earned a full academic scholarship, so I was able to save some money to get me to Turkey and to get my life started there.
And when it was time to leave, it was like stepping into a dark room without knowing what was inside. I had no idea what to expect.
Looking back, I think the Lord did two major things to get me to give up my nicely organized and perhaps rigidly lived life and push me into that dark room.
First of all, He put in my heart a love for the best man I have ever met. As romanticized as that may sound, it was actually quite pragmatic. Logically, I just knew that I wouldn’t find a man who would give up his life for the Lord.
Then I met Ramazan Arkan and I couldn’t deny that he possessed what I most wanted in a husband.
The other thing that the Lord did was to allow me to be in a sweet state of naivety regarding the obstacles that I would face entering into my new life in Turkey.
It didn’t take me long to realize that the most American part of me would clash with the core values of my new culture in Turkey.
The scheduled, the organized, the unbendable, the tenacious, the disciplined were hard to find in the Turkish culture of flexibility and where relationships are of the highest of priority. And I was soon to find that my whole identity was based on things that didn’t matter much here in Turkey.
In Turkish there is a phrase that is used a lot: “It’s not certain yet.”
When Turks are speaking of their schedules, their jobs, their potential spouses, trips they may take, houses they may buy, kids they may have….you will inevitably hear the phrase, “It’s not certain yet.”
Are you getting married next month? It’s not certain yet.
What salary does this job offer? It’s not certain yet.
Are you coming to our house for dinner this week? It’s not certain yet.
When does the school year start? It’s not certain yet.
I don’t put things on my calendar anymore because things are never certain.
And because Turks are 99.9% Muslim…
Are you going to heaven when you die? It’s not certain yet.
So here I am in the country named after a bird with 13 years of culture pushing and pinching and prodding me into a slightly more relaxed and unscheduled self.
And with a lot more room for further change, I’ve come to develop a love/hate relationship with the phrase “It’s not certain yet.”
It turns out that I can work it to my advantage sometimes! And the unknown calendar is kind of nice in a way.
I’ve had to wrestle with myself over my identity.
The me I took pride in, the values I saw as “right”… well that has all come into question in my new culture.
It’s hard to admit that I had formed my identity based more on being a successful productive person rather than on who God says that I am.
I can see how I have given performance precedence over resting in my identity in Christ.
The truth is that I can plan and schedule until I start to gobble but It’s still not certain yet.
And when all the uncertainty really starts to get to me, I stop and think of the things that are certain…
I’m a follower of Christ.
God created me.
He loves me.
God knows my future.
He has a plan for me.
I will go to heaven when I die.
And indeed those simple certainties provide a security and calm I could never manufacture on my own!
KAREN ARKAN and her husband RAMAZAN ARKAN serve as pastors of Antalya Evangelical Churches. They have built the first modern Christian church in Antalya Turkey, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea which the Apostle Paul visited as described in Acts 14:25 (recorded as Attalia). The Antalya Evangelical Church Turkish congregation by God’s grace continues to grow. This growth has been the fruit of much faithful prayer. Click on these links for more photos and information about Pastor Ramazon Arkan and the Antalya Evangelical Churches.
CLICK HERE to read more Fruitful stories by KAREN ARKAN
CLICK HERE to read about how Ramazan and Karen met and became Mr. and Mrs. Arkan.
CLICK HERE to read of how Ramazan and Karen are pastoring the Antalya Evangelical Churches in the Muslim nation of Turkey.
INVEST IN YOUR GOD-GIVEN GIFTS AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH
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