In September 2004, I handed the school project over to the School Board and resigned as chairman of the Development Committee. I considered their proposal to continue my involvement as a project manager for another year, but had a strong sense that I had to step away from the project.
With that decision, we faced the reality that our current residence and work permit will expire in February 2005. There was no obvious new role or opportunity that could provide a residence or work permit for us. Although the school was now open and recruiting students and teachers for grade 10, there was no guarantee that the school will be able to offer grade 10 when the new school year starts in August 2005. Hardus was in grade 9 and Thea-Marie in grade 6. Magda was still working as a volunteer librarian.
Magda and I had long discussions and we realized that we were at another cross road. If we stay in Turkey, we would have to invest more time in our Turkish language learning and in our relationships with Turkish friends and families. In order to do that we need a residence permit to make it possible to remain in Turkey long-term and to avoid the challenges associated with monthly exits.
We also knew that it was a good time to return to South Africa. Hardus was entering his senior phase and he could benefit from starting grade 10 in South Africa. But this was also not an obvious choice because we had no obvious place to live or to work in South Africa.
We mobilized our support team in Dutch Reformed Church Halfway House to pray with us through the options. We also wrote about it in our monthly newsletter. Magda and the children were not keen on returning to South Africa. The children enjoyed being enrolled in the new school and Magda found a place where she could serve the community and be close to the children on a daily basis. During that time I challenged Magda and the children to seek guidance from God in their personal devotion time and to come and share what they sense God is saying to them regarding the choices we faced.
One morning Hardus asked to read to us from Acts 14;26-28: “Finally, they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun. The believers there had entrusted them to the grace of God to do the work they had now completed. Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. And they stayed there with the believers for a long time.” He explained that he really wanted to stay in Turkey, but that he sensed that the Holy Spirit was speaking to us from this passage to return to South Africa.
In that time an old friend contacted me and asked me to apply for the position of Operational Manager in the organization he was leading. This was in Bellville in the Western Cape. We always wanted to live in the Western Cape and I applied for the position. We felt confident about my application and excited to think about a move to the Cape Town area. After a fairly short time I was notified that the Board of Directors decided to make an internal appointment and to not consider any applications from outside the organization.
I was very disappointed and felt more uncertain about our future than ever. Moving back to South Africa seemed even more difficult than coming to Turkey six years before! At that time I had a call from a friend who left Turkey earlier that year and joined Pro Christo Global Mission organization in Kimberley in the Northern Cape. They were looking for a person to come and work as their International Development and Support Manager. They were targeting new areas to send missionaries to and they had missionaries in various countries that needed support and mentoring.
Leaving Turkey proved to be a difficult exercise logistically and even more so emotionally as we battled to say our good-byes to the country, the city, our friends and to the Turkish people we came to love dearly during our stay.
At the end of October 2004 we we ready to return to South Africa and to settle in Kimberley in the Northern Cape.