"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does" (Js. 1:22-25).
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Day 1 - Trabzon
Day 2 - Trabzon / Sümela Monastery
I'm writing this now from the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, waiting for my flight back to Indy. I've been on the road a long time (esp. if you include my trip back to Istanbul yesterday), and I'm very tired. I will have more thoughts later, but for now it's all I can do to head to my gate...
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I've been pushing pretty hard the last few days, trying to get things to a good place with the website, but unfortunately there are still too many loose ends to launch it before I go. My perfectionist side is disappointed, but we'll get things wrapped up before too long. All in all it's been a success, with a new design in place and a new back-end structure set up to facilitate future maintenance. I'm happy with it, and I believe my host here is as well.
I've learned a lot on this trip. On a technical level, I've had to dig into the inner workings of the Joomla content management system and learn how to customize and create new modules. The project has given me consulting experience as well, from working with my host to develop an Internet strategy (based on guidelines we learned at the conference I attended) to working with my designer friend back in the States to develop the design and a new logo. This is experience I'll likely be able to use elsewhere in the future.
In addition, I've had the chance to see what it's like to work in a faith-based context and to see some of the vision and potential for using technology to reach people in a meaningful way. I've had many interesting conversations about the cultural dynamics in this country and how they differ from the West. And I've had a whole month to re-acclimate to living in the main country in which I grew up.
I've really enjoyed my time here, and all these influences and experiences definitely have me thinking about how I can come back in the future. I'm praying that God will lead me and give me wisdom... who knows what the future holds? Is it possible He has a longer-term application of these and my past experiences in mind? Am I even at a stage of life right now where I should consider that?
I've got a lot to consider, but right now it can wait--I'm gonna be a tourist now. I've been looking forward to this final trip since before I got here. I'll be going further east than I've ever been, both within Turkey and within Asia. I have very little idea of what to expect, and I'm excited. One thing I did find out after I bought my plane ticket and was looking for a place to stay is that apparently Trabzon is quite a hub for Russian prostitutes, or "Natashas". Good to know. Apparently there are hotels to avoid.
Fortunately, just as I was heading out the door, a couple people at the office where I've been working told me they had friends in Trabzon that I should hook up with while I'm there. They made a phone call, and now I have a couple people I've never met expecting me and possibly providing a place for me to stay. I have access to a pretty awesome network here!
Well, it's time to board, so here we go on another adventure. I'll be sure to take pictures...
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Today I'm in Ankara, the capital city of this country, and the city where I grew up here in Turkey. It's not exceptional in the way cities go, but it's full of familiar places for me, and it was a lot of fun to stroll around downtown and see many of my old stomping grounds. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera along today, so I won't be able to show you pictures, at least not any that I've taken.
One of the things I noticed this time moreso than in the past was the number of abandoned building projects. There are various structures, from massive malls to smaller streetside shopping areas that are just huge skeletons or are standing empty, a sign that the hard times are hitting worldwide.
Apparently there has been a shift away from some of the traditional hangouts to these big new shopping malls. That had started to happen before my family left the country, but it sounds like the trend has continued. As a result older parts of town are suffering, like the mall attached to the iconic Space Needle-like structure, which was the first mall of its kind in the city.Well, I suppose these things happen... things don't stay the way you remember them, and life goes on. In fact, life is continuing back home in Indiana as I speak. Weird.
One other different thing I noticed, an indicator of the shift in culture here, even as the malls grow in influence... on the bus I took here from Istanbul, an overnight bus, men and women are not allowed to sit next to each other. When I mentioned that to my hosts in Istanbul they said yep, things are becoming more conservative. This multiple continent-spanning country definitely encompasses an intriguing tug-of-war.
Tomorrow evening I will be returning to Istanbul to finish up our work on the website over the following three days. That's the goal. Lord willing, I will still be able to do some traveling after that. Then we'll get to see whether or not my British Airways flights back to the States will be affected by the ongoing crew strikes... this could be fun!
Monday, March 15, 2010
But I'm a little sad about the trip. I had a great time skiing, but I was alone for most of the time, and that made it difficult. It felt lonely to be there without a group of friends of my own like just about everyone else that was there. It appeared that I was the only foreigner at my hotel, and while my Turkish is decent, the cultural barrier (as well as the more insular nature of the wealthier strata of society that were represented there) didn't lead to many natural acquaintances. I probably could have tried harder, but I was tired in the evening and didn't feel like going out anyplace where that would be easier.
I've also been wrestling with a sense of guilt over taking this trip at all. The process of arranging it was a distraction while working on Thursday and I had to quit early on Friday in order to pack for the weekend. That time can be made up, but the bigger issue for me is that I feel like I shifted from a service mode into a self-serving mode, as though the work I'm doing here was secondary, just an excuse to go see exotic parts of the world and spend money on myself.
I know part of that is just religious accusations, but I definitely felt convicted as I started thinking about what I was going to do my final week here when I'd planned more vacation time. If we don't get to where we need to on the website project this week, but then I just go off to see the sights, something seems to be wrong about that. What did I really come over here to do?
And so I'm realigning my priorities. If that means canceling my plans for next week (which were vague anyway), that's ok. God is giving me all sorts of great experiences right where I'm at, and there will be other times to see the sights, and it will be better if I'm with people. So I guess I'll have to start recruiting for next time. ;) This evening I was reminded of the simple joy of being with friends as I enjoyed a glass of wine with my hosts here, and I'm looking forward to more such opportunities.
And Thank God that He is the redeemer of clouded motives, that He's patient with us, that He still blesses us with good things, including new friends and new experiences, even in the midst of our inconsistency. I am still confident of this, I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.