My work at the Social Center and in the Duzce-valley was coming to an end. It was 18 months since I arrived in Turkey to be the project manager for the Earthquake Relief and Support Committee run by the Protestant Churches in Ankara. The Social Center was officially opened and we held a successful commemoration ceremony. The community was very involved in all of the planning and executing of all the programs and relationships with the authorities and the community was very good.
For most of this time we were making the 36 hour monthly trip to Turkish Cyprus and back to Ankara as a family. It was draining our energy and our resources. In a last attempt to try and find a way to apply for a residence permit, we approached the chairman of the Earthquake Relief and Support Committee to write a motivational letter to support our application for a residence permit based on my work as project manager in the earthquake affected region. He was Pastor of the largest Turkish fellowship in Ankara and with the greater tolerance towards the role Christians were playing in the relief work, he was willing to support our application.
During that time our Iranian friend and co-worker had to return to Ankara. He was refused refugee status and was now an illegal immigrant in Turkey. He could be arrested any time by the security police and deported back to Iran. His only hope was to get a sponsor in a western country willing to provide surety that they will take care of him and provide for him.
He was still living in Duzce and he was helping me to get closure on all our obligations related to the work we did at the Duzce Social Center. He called me one afternoon and I immediately realized that he was in trouble. He told me that he was in hiding because the local police was looking for him. He was apparently reported as an illegal immigrant and he had to flee from Ducze. I responded by arranging with three friends to drive to Duzce and to bring him back to Ankara. That evening we smuggled him out of Duzce where he took refuge in our home for a while.
We submitted our residence permit application, but we had little faith. The church in Turkey had still no legal standing and as such the Turkish pastor was not recognized as a spiritual leader. We were still only volunteers without any legally binding work contract. You can imagine our surprise when we received a favorable response on our application, We were granted a year residence based on our work in the earthquake on behalf of the Turkish Protestant Church.
This was a miracle and everyone viewing our residence permit knew it!