Saturday, November 22, 2008
We arrived in Istanbul over a year ago and were met with many obstacles. Not only did we come without an apartment but we came without a job lined up. I know, it sounds like something I would criticize someone else for doing but never myself. But with three kids, and one of them a baby still, it seems like the stupidest thing we could ever have done. But it wasn't. The way we started out here was pretty dismal but it actually made the way for things to only get better, and they did. So many people helped us get our lives up and going. During our first week we tried to take care of our housing situation but found that until we had a job it would be detrimental to choose an apartment with the chance that it might be on the wrong side of the city. The first actual people we met in Turkey besides the hotel workers were Ara and Dikran Topakian. Ara is the branch president of our church here in Istanbul. Dikran is his father who knew just about everything a newcomer would like to know about Turkey and the world and basically everything else. I remember going to the branch where our church meetings would be held. Across the street from the building our church is in is a small pastry shop. Dikran invited us to sit down in there and treated us for the first time with traditional Middle Eastern generosity and a plate full of some turkish pastries which he indulged in often. He took us to a second hand shop and helped us pick out furniture for our recently chosen apartment. He paid for the taxis. He did all the talking. He translated every Sunday without fail, all of our meetings and when there was someone present that didn't speak English he would translate for them while Ara stepped in to do the English-Turkish translation. He was a heavy smoker and therefore not an official member of our church, but his Christian ways and his devotion to service for our church is unsurpassed. I don't believe there can be anyone that can give as much as he did here except for Jesus. He passed away today. It is a hard blow to us. Our little flock here is small and now that he is gone it seems our numbers are cut in half because he was such a big part of us. God has his reasons. He will move the work forward here somehow. Our prayers are with his little family, and for some reason it feels good that our flock is small because I know that I will get a chance to serve someone else besides myself for a while. We will miss our brother Dikran.