We did not have any support structure in Turkey. We were slowly learning some basic Turkish words and phrases and Tulay was a great help to getting us acquainted with our neighborhood and essential services to get us integrated with our new environment.
Our Turkish was too limited to attend a Turkish church service and in 1999 the Turkish church was still not operating openly. Although the historical churches that were registered during the Ottoman Empire was allowed to conduct Sunday services, the newly established Protestant Churches (since 1963) had no legal standing or official recognition.
International churches catering for foreigners and ex patriate workers were allowed to register as Associations and was allowed to operate. The International Protestant Church of Ankara (IPCA) was the primary congregation for foreign and expatriate workers in Ankara. It was a culturally diverse faith community with a diverse spirituality too. The services were conducted by elders from different cultural backgrounds making it a very rich spiritual experience for us.
This is where we met other missionaries working with different mission agencies, including other South African families working with Operation Mobilisation. One of the highlights on the church calendar was the open day where the community was invited to come in join a day of information and fun with the members of the church. The church building was situated in a neighborhood and was a auditorium build as part of a small shopping center.
When the open day for 1999 was planned, Magda and I volunteered to make sure that the public ablution facilities was clean on the day. We wanted to be useful, but most of the other tasks required language skills that we did not yet acquired. On the day we went to the different public ablution rooms with our cleaning materials and guarded with gloves we started to deep clean all the areas. At one point the janitor working at the shopping mall came to see what we were doing. He was surprised to see how we cleaned the rooms. He was responsible to clean the rooms on a daily basis. His method was to open the faucet and to let water flood the floor and then to wipe it with a rubber broom leaving the floors always wet. Using disinfectant, cloths and gloves was a foreign idea to him!
That afternoon we saw the janitor in discussion with one of the elders. We went up to them and welcomed him to the church building. We learned later that this was the first time he was able to enter the auditorium part of the building. He was interested in our activities at the church due to the fact that we took interest in his work that morning. The result was him converting to Christianity a few weeks later and attending the Turkish language service.
We have fond memories of being part of this faith community in those early days of our stay in Ankara. The Sunday sermons and weekly communion in a multicultural setting sustained us spiritually we took actively part in the activities of this community. It became a spiritual home to us and we also learnt a lot from our new friends that helped us to get more integrated with the Turkish society.