Soon after my parents returned to South Africa, I had a call from a director at Carewell, South Africa. The news was not unexpected but never the less unsettling. Carewell decided not to invest in Turkey and will terminate my employment as project manager at the end of October 1999. They were willing to employ me in South Africa but will respect our decision if we wanted to continue with our work and presence in Turkey.
It was like being back at square one. Without Carewell, we do not have a basis for a residence permit in Turkey and we have no source of income. Our hearts were in Turkey but, we had to find a reason to stay and a source of income to sustain us. We shared the news with our support group at Halfway House congregation and with interested family and friends.
It was close to the end of September 1999. We were still having Turkish language tutoring at home and there was always the earthquake relief work that was still continuing to consider. We realized, however, that our options were very limited.
During that time, we met an Iranian refugee at the International Protestant Church of Ankara. He spoke English and he was working as the janitor at the church. He was waiting for his application, to be accepted as refugee by the UNHCR, to be cleared. He was a business man and married. He had a 3 year old daughter and he studied at a University in Iran. He became interested in the Bible after receiving a Bible from international students doing campus ministry at his university. He started reading the Bible often and he started to share with his wife. His brother in law was working with the security forces and one night he was captured and kept hostage. His captors interrogated him about the Bible that he was reading. He kept on saying that he was a student and that this was just one of the books he was reading. He was assaulted and then released. This spurred new interest in the Bible in him. What was written in this book that was so important that his captors wanted to discourage him from reading it?
When he returned to his home, he found that his wife was in a relationship with the chief of the police in his area. He became very angry when he saw the man leaving his home and assaulted the police officer. He knew he was now in deep trouble and he decided to flee for his life, leaving his daughter behind. He came to Turkey and applied for refugee status. Thea-Marie reminded him of his daughter and we became very good friends with him.
One night in early October 1999, we had a knock on our door. We were not expecting any guests. When we opened the door the man introduced himself and identified himself as a security police officer. He demanded to see our passports.
In Turkey, foreigners resorts under the security police department. All residence and work permit applications are processed by the security police. Upon scrutinizing our passports, he explained that we were illegally in Turkey. When we entered the country our application for residence permit was filed by dr. Arseven on the basis that a primary health care company will be established. When the negotiations with Carewell South Africa broke down, our residence and work permit application was now in jeopardy. Due to the circumstances he served us with a notice to leave the country within 30 days.
We were left in shock. We left the work-and residence permit application in the hands of dr. Arseven and did not gave any further consideration to it. We were planning to return to South Africa to discuss our options and to plan and strategize with our support group, about returning to Turkey. Suddenly that plan had a date to it and we had to quickly adjust to the reality that our time in Turkey were running out fast!