I’m always looking for a reason to celebrate or have a party. This week my family experienced a joyful homecoming. We welcomed our fifth member, a young Turkish woman, back from HER six week trip to America. Two days later we had a great time hosting a birthday party for her.
Bahar surprised me by arriving two hours early the day of the party. Still under the effects of jet lag, she’d left work early to rest before our guests came. When the doorbell rang I was in shorts and a tank top, sweaty from working in a hot kitchen, and I hadn’t put on makeup or combed my hair all day.
In my earlier days, when I was more preoccupied with being Mrs. Perfect and having everything go smoothly as planned, I would have been jolted by a visitor arriving two hours early while I was preparing for a party. But this time I was glad Bahar felt enough like family to come. I set her up in a bedroom to rest while I made dinner, and ironed my clothes. Then Bahar made the salad and set the table while I got dressed. We had a quiet dinner with my husband and the kids at 6:30, followed by the hurry to get ready.
It was a memorable party. The doorbell began ringing at 8:00, and we had about 15 guests who continued arriving until 9:30. My son left three or four times to collect first time visitors from the bus stop. Two guests broke their Ramadan fasts in my kitchen with left-overs from our dinner, the Mslm at 8:10 and the Chrstn at 8:30, while the others had cheesecake and snacks in the living room. One friend arrived with her huge dog, which stayed on our balcony 10 minutes before beginning to howl. I spent the evening between the kitchen and the living room, sitting down to talk with friends when I had a free moment. What I enjoyed most was hearing Bahar’s animated laugh as she talked with friends she hadn’t seen for six weeks.
If I left Turkey tomorrow, the most valuable thing I would take with me would be the friendships my husband and I have cultivated with Turks. It’s easy for cross-cultural workers like us to stay in our own cultural ghettos when it comes to genuine friendship, and in all honesty I am tempted to approach nationals as a teacher or mentor, instead of as a learner and friend. That’s a mistake I don’t want to make.
Let me introduce you to a few friends who enrich my life and consistently teach me new things:
- Bahar, who is 15 years younger than I, continually shows me what faithfulness and loyalty look like.
- Eda is a feisty, free-thinking literature teacher, a Mslm who freely explores all kinds of spiritual systems and beliefs. She has shown me something about how modern Turks think.
- Handan is a pillar in her church, active in discipling others. When I visit her, we laugh and talk plenty, but we always take time to read a scripture passage and pray together. From her I’ve learned about hospitality. Handan is always ready to welcome a guest with a glass of tea and homemade cookies from her freezer, even if her kitchen is piled with dishes and the living room is a wreck.
- Elif is a working mother raising two children alone. She is always excited to share the message with people God puts in her path. From her, I’ve learned about joy in the midst of trial.
These are my Turkish treasures, friends that bring joy and value to my life.