I Think I Ate Too Much
“I think I ate too much. This was rude of me. Next time I will be more careful.”
I was walking towards my bus along the other evening with a friend when he (I will call him Ricky) said this to me. I would have laughed if he was not so sincere. Instead I explained a little bit more about Thanksgiving and assured him that for this celebration eating too much was the best thing he could do. It is part of the Thanksgiving tradition and it is a way to tell our hosts they have done an excellent job preparing our meal.
A few hours earlier I had entered the apartment of some American friends along with Ricky. He is an adult student that I first met when teaching an English conversation class. Soon others joined in so that the people who would celebrate Thanksgiving together represented China, Germany, and America along with the cities of Konya and Gaziantep. Our conflicting schedules meant we were a few days late but we still had the traditional American spread. There was turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (with American gravy), corn casserole, homemade dinner rolls and a cheese and broccoli dish. For dessert we had pumpkin pie, apple pie, carrot cake, and ice cream. We had to bend a little to local culture and we had Turkish coffee and tea along with various other drinks but no apple cider.
“Ricky” was the only Muslim but he was not the only one there for whom this was the first ever Thanksgiving celebration. We ate and talked and then played some games. As dessert was being finished off and the night was winding down, we all went around the circle sharing something we were grateful for. We then all bowed our heads and went around the circle again in prayer.
“I want to thank you for having me over. I have never in my life prayed like this. It is so different. It is so good.” There is no way I can adequately express what it is like to hear a grown Turkish man say this in public while fighting back tears. Most Muslims who don’t speak Arabic have no idea what it is they are saying when they pray. The words are just sounds and it is the motions and the ritual that for them are the truly important matter.
This was Ricky’s first truly intimate moment of connection with God and we desperately pray that it will not be his last. He has promised to eventually come to our church but he wanted us to understand that he will come to the English service not the Turkish one. He says he wants to come so he can practise his English not because he wants to learn about God. Hey, whatever gets him through those doors, we will take it.
This holiday season I just want to send out a huge thank you to all of you who continue to give and pray for me here in Turkey and for those like Ricky I am coming in contact with every day. The transition over this past month from Istanbul to Gaziantep has been both incredibly difficult and amazingly rewarding. I know without a doubt that I cannot do it without your continued prayers. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, çok teşekkür ederim.