Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3)

TraffficMost of the Ankara streets are not marked — at least not with visible corner signs. I began with an expectation that I could simply map out my drive to the center of the capital of Turkey and follow the instructions. I wasn’t using a mobile service, so I wisely looked up the directions prior to leaving the wifi zone and confidently took a photo of the details. According to the instructions, I should have been there in 12 minutes after entering the city. 3 and a 1/2 weary hours later I arrived at my destination.

This was truly a problem of my own making. Having traveled to numerous countries around the world, I know that turning on my phone without a local service card in it is an invitation to telephone robbery. I have seen outrageous phone charges from just a small text exchange. I didn’t think that the purchase of a local service card was necessary, so I did all my planning when wifi was available.

I have learned ho to be patient in life, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. This is just the kind of situation that tests me! But I was committed to doing this my way, which wasn’t working. I would occasionally stop when I found a free wifi service and reroute. Getting a little wiser, I would try to pay attention to the actual distances that were listed in the gps instructions. That failed numerous times as I was routed onto congested traffic with no clear way to get back to my point of failure. These lanes can carry you along with them like a riptide.

But there I was the middle of rush hour traffic unable to find any help. I tried, but most people are not fluent in frenzied-tourist English. I searched desperately for an advocate – someone who would take some pity on the humble and lost American, I imagined giving them the keys and letting them drive me to my destination. Frankly, there was no shortage of thoughtful, gracious people who tried to explain to me what to do, but Turkish doesn’t get any clearer to me when it is spoken loudly with hand gestures. So the situation only progressed from bad to worse. At one point I was in gridlock and thought about abandoning the car and getting a taxi.

My determination blinded me. It finally occurred to me that I would happily pay the outrageous data bill if I could get out of this mess. I had an advocate in the sky outside myself. I need only enable my cellular communications. So I did. And I finally heard the comforting automated voice of my gps. It told me where and when to turn and what to anticipate in the moments ahead. It turns was not very far from my destination. I could have walked and gotten there in 3 minutes! All I really needed was an advocate who had access to information that I didn’t have.

It is fitting that I am here working with a man who helps Syrian refugees. These aliens in his land are desperate and without any sense of direction as well, only their difficulty is lasting a whole lot longer than my 3 and ½ hours. The stories I have heard are heartbreaking. Man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds. They come here frightened and tired. They are trying to find some way to get a footing. They need an advocate who has access to things they cannot get and will share with them in their sufferings — someone with a sense of direction.

In the verse above, Jeremiah was warning the king to be an advocate for those who were oppressed. It is God’s heart that His people would be the ones who would attend to the widow, the orphan, and the alien in the land.





About marknicklas

Mark Nicklas is a husband, father, son and follower of Jesus Christ. He is a pastor at Beaverton Foursquare Church and an adjunct professor at Multnomah University, where he earned his doctorate in Cultural Engagement. Like Jacob wrestled with God at Jabbok, this site is a place for talking about the identity of the church with respect to the cultures we live in. You are invited to share the journey.
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14 Responses to Turkey

  1. jbormuth says:

    Amen to tending to the widows and orphans. It was interesting to me Mark that in the Republican debate this truth came up as part of the Bible and I loved that one of the candidates corrected the question by stating that God cared not just for orphans but widows too. This is close to my heart, though I am not familiar in any way with Syrian refugees, I am familiar with what it is to be a part of the “Single mothers” world. This group become “widows” (or husbandless/wifeless) often not because they chose to do so but because of anothers sinful choices. Right here at home, it seems we have our own epidemic of refugees who are largely ignored by the church, even if unintentionally or in ignorance. Watching my own daughter, as a newer single mom, try to navigate in her home church is sad. They certainly seem to be struggling with her “group” and their unique needs. “God makes a home for the lonely and the prisoners…” (Ps. 68:6) Shouldn’t the church be a big part of their home and family? In fact, Kevin DeYoung in his book, What Does the Bible say About Homosexuality, agrees when he says, “If everything in Christian community revolves around being married with children, we should not be surprised when singleness sounds like a death sentence.” (119) Singleness of any kind is often treated by leadership and those who are married as the worst possible condition to come upon a person. It makes married people uncomfortable. This it seems is the perfect place for advocates to be in place to come alongside and help show the way to those who are single, struggle to remain single or find themselves newly single. It seems we are called to indeed reach out to those who are widows and orphans abroad, but I also believe we need to advocate with singles too, by seeing with the eyes of Jesus and looking into the faces of those who are right next door or under our noses and take action!

    • marknicklas says:

      Thanks, Jody. I love your passion for this! About eight years ago we launched a ministry here called Thrive, which is focused on single moms. They are one of the very few groups that we allow to meet on Sunday morning during services (simply because we like to gather as a family and don’t want a confusing array of consumer-based Sunday morning choices). Every other week they gather for worship and a message. They are mentored by women who are helping them navigate the very kinds of difficulties you are describing – women who have been through it themselves.

  2. gdueker says:

    Great lesson…glad I wasn’t there to experience it first-hand. I had the opposite experience this week in that the gps advocate in the sky was telling me I was in a 10 minute backup as I waited over 90 minutes on I-5 to drive less than 1 mile (due to a landslide that closed the freeway) to the exit where I could turn around into rush hour traffic and go home. In my case what Google needed was more accurate data from the ground.
    I wonder if the real cultural engagement lesson in your situation is the need for a “local service card” if we don’t want to pay too much or to cause more problems than we solve. The second lesson is one I also struggle with…pride. At the risk of waxing sermonic, I am reminded of a passage from Isaiah 30:15-18 that was partially quoted on a poster I had as a child,
    15For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
    “In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
    But you were unwilling, 16 and you said,
    “No! We will flee upon horses”;
    therefore you shall flee away;
    and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”;
    therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
    17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one;
    at the threat of five you shall flee,
    till you are left
    like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
    like a signal on a hill.
    18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
    For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.

    There are two lines that haunt me; “but you were unwilling” (v.15) and “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you.” I think such a word applies to our advocacy as well.
    Thanks for the great metaphor and for your scouting work there. I actually wish I was there with you! Praying for your discernment, safety, and a just data bill.

  3. marknicklas says:

    Thanks, Greg. You may have written part two and three…. “I wonder if the real cultural engagement lesson in your situation is the need for a “local service card” if we don’t want to pay too much or to cause more problems than we solve. The second lesson is one I also struggle with…pride.” I was humbled, Greg. These former Muslim leaders in Ankara are serving in amazing ways in a place where it costs you to be a believer. I wish you could have been there with me too.

  4. jpolensky says:

    Thanks Mark for your work and perseverance. We don’t realize the gifts we have here in America until we go to another country and see the oppressed. We can come and go but the people there have to deal with oppression and dislocation with no hope of leaving. Too many times I am distracted by my first world crisis that I forget or ignore those like the refuges who suffer oppression daily. The Lord keeps reminding us that we are blessed to be a blessing. Thank you for your words and work.

    • marknicklas says:

      We have so many ways to respond. We have the resources to make a difference – whether to the immigrant in our own neighborhood or to the ones suffering in far away places. A cup of cold water in the name of Jesus.

  5. dakotabound says:

    Mark, I can see myself in your story. It is really amazing the opportunities you are having and the ministry you are doing around the world! I am sure your work with refugees must really be heart-wrenching. Like you said, all you needed was a capable advocate, and so many other are in the same boat yet with much tougher situation. God is advocating through you for others, and thanks for being willing to follow His lead wherever he takes you!

    • marknicklas says:

      Heart wrenching and encouraging at the same time. I am amazed at the way Christians around the world are rallying to care for those who are most marginalized. Whatever we called Christianity in the West is on the decline (good riddance) and we have a tendency to see it in terms of retreat. But it is advancing in places where human suffering is beyond our comprehension — advancing because of the simple witness of the people of Jesus. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I wish more of my brethren could see these examples of saints. We would spend a lot less time navel gazing and self-loathing and simply respond to what God is already doing with action.

  6. Mark, I laughed when I you said; “ I should have been there in 12 minutes after entering the city. 3 and a 1/2 weary hours later I arrived at my destination.” and “I have learned how to be patient in life, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. This is just the kind of situation that tests me!”
    Most all the missionaries who have come to visit us in my country have said the same exact statements. My self too have made similar statements and felt stretched in the area of patience. One of the facts we need to know is that God tests us. He tests us that we may know things in our hearts we didn’t know were there so we can cry out to Him to change us. It is so amazing that sometimes God has to takes us to different place and even use different people and situations which are different from the ones we are used to in order to teach us profound lessons and to changes us/develop our character.
    Thank you so much for your inspiring article and for your love for the nations. God bless you brother

    • gdueker says:

      Wilfred, loved your statement, “God test us” and how you expressed it. If nothing is wasted in God’s economy then all we face will be part of his conforming us into the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29). My message tomorrow will talk about how Christmas tests us… but that is for a future blog

  7. dchinnatmu says:

    Like the timeliness of the post and apt description when the shoe is on the other foot. Thanks for traveling the world for the sake of the Kingdom, and going to places that could easily be forgotten or overlooked.

    • marknicklas says:

      I was so encouraged Derek (see my response to Noel, dakotabound, above). I was overwhelmed with a sense of thankfulness when I left. The suffering is far from alleviated, but the witness of Jesus is compelling. I met Yazidi, Turkmen and Kurdish converts. They have been won over by the God of love as shown through His people. And they are serving their own people – refugees who arrive desperate and with nothing. This is the church at its finest.

  8. pastorchapp says:

    Mark, thank you for sharing your people “not fluent in frenzied-tourist English to your … humble and lost American story in Turkey. it seemed as though I was right there with you and feeling all of the emotions that goes with your described situation. I have had similar situations with my travels abroad, but you were much braver than I. I absolutely refused to drive and was at the mercy of my advocate which on some occasions, was very risky and scary. its a strange feeling to be in the midst of thousands of people, but yet can feel so lost and alone. I’ve been there brother and had to rely totally upon my Advocate, Holy Spirit.

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