Hope, Peace, Joy and Love

When I arrived in Turkey at the beginning of February 2000, I was allowed on a 30 day tourist visa. At the end of February 2000 we could not find a way to apply for a residence of work permit. The Turkish Protestant Churches had no legal recognition in Turkey and the International Protestant Church of Ankara could not employ me as a project manager. This meant that I had to leave Turkey and to enter again.

It was still possible to exit Turkey within 24-hours by going to Turkish-Cyprus in 2000. It was a nine to twelve hour bus trip to the harbor city on the Mediterranean shore in the South of Turkey. From there an overnight ferry ran to the island arriving the next morning. The same officials checking one in on the island were checking you out an hour later, allowing one to return to Turkey mainland where another 30-day visa was issued.

In the beginning of March 2000 the Duzce volunteer team started services at the General Activity Center. The Center was named “UMUT” meaning “Hope”. English conversation skills training for adult ladies and a children’s program was ran from this center. We soon realized that we were running out of space. Three more containers were bought to be used as Computer Skills Training Center, Library and Study Center and a designated space for the children’s programs. These rooms were named Sevgi (Love), Sevinc (Joy) and Baris (Peace), respectively.

A Korean church donated 4 computers for the Computer Skills Training Center and a donation from England allowed us to add 4 more computers. A School in Pennsylvania raised US$4500 that enabled us to buy a beautiful playpark for the 400 children in the area. Volunteers from the churches in Ankara came regularly to Duzce to help clean the terrain and to turn the area around the Service Center into a beautiful lawn and flowerbeds. It soon became a place where the people could escape from the harsh container environment to experience Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.

My 30-day visa ran out at the end of March 2000 and I had to make my first exit run to Turkish-Cyprus. I was travelling alone and the bus was comfortable. Arriving at the harbor city I had to wait 3 hours for the departure of the ferry. I bought my ticket and when the passport checkpoint opened I approached the official on duty. He looked at my passport and visa and then he pushed my passport back. “You are late” he said. I was surprised. How is this possible. “Your visa expired” he said and pointed to the calendar against his wall. “You stayed 31 days”. My heart sank to my feet. He was right! I calculated a calendar month and March has 31 says! “Bring US$100”, he ordered me. I left and draw the money from the nearest ATM and returned to the office. The official took the money and stamped my passport with the exit stamp. He also gave me a receipt for the penalty I paid.

After finding my spot on the ferry I looked at the receipt. It was reflecting only US$50!