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A New Chapter in Antakya, Turkey

April 20, 2014
Happy Easter, from Antioch/Antakya, Hatay Province, Turkey, where Christians started to form their own identity and gained a name!
I am here working for an international humanitarian aid organization as Environmental Health Manager focusing on hygiene promotion and community mobilization in the Syrian crisis, at least til the end of 2014.  My first day at work is tomorrow!
My first few days here have felt like a rollercoaster, but I’m trying to keep myself level.
I wrote the following this morning in response to a friend:
“I am feeling out of place. I’m just in an awkward phase when I am not yet integrated. I’ve met 3/22 expats on the team. I am staying in a hotel. I think they wanted me to rest well and adjust to the time zone but when you’re alone in a new city in a hotel room, it’s amazing how much time there is and how loneliness creeps in. I am venturing out to the local Protestant church today for Easter on my own. Well the staff driver will take me there. To me it seems Christianity is so absent here. The receptionist didn’t know about Easter. Maybe I feel like Peter did when he first went out to share the gospel. The weird thing is, this is where it started to gain an identity, spread, and grow. And how sad that it is so lost now. What I fear a bit is that though this all seems to be great, it is void of meaning. I could have everything in this world that I want – a job, apartment, salary, hills to climb, and a beach nearby, but without family, friends, deep relationship and human connection, without a community centered in Christ and full of love, none of it would satisfy. But I trust in The Lord and cling to him.”
By evening, this is how I feel:

“My Easter didn’t turn out how I expected, but I did pray in the Catholic church, attend a service at the protestant church, listen to a podcast sermon, worship, walk through a park twice, and I got a great gift from the Lord, too!  On my way to the meeting point to find the driver, I came across an adorable little boy who was running to his mum and she spoke English!  So I ‘casually’ stopped to spy on them (it felt refreshing to hear English after struggling to communicate with hotel staff and the driver all day).  She spotted me right away and struck up a conversation.  She and her husband and little guy have been missionaries here for 3 years, pentecostal/apostolic, she’s traveled and ministered all over the middle east and the husband grew up a missionary kid in south pacific, but they both have a slight southern american accent.  I can’t even express in words the joy and hope it brings me!  I will see them later this week.  They are an answer to many prayers! Praise God!”

Even though the people here have a wide variety of skin and eye colors, I still manage to attract attention as a foreigner.  I double checked with the hotel receptionist if I was dressed inappropriately and she said it has nothing to do with anything I have done, just that I am foreign.  So much for blending in.
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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2014 8:59 pm

    You will connect up with people at work, who all speak english and you will naturally learn some Turkish, too. Your natural charisma will attract many and your circle of friends will grow. And those who love you carry you in their heart where you are always close, no matter where in the world you are.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    May 3, 2014 7:54 pm

    Hi LeeLee,
    Grampa Woodie just got back from Pemba,working with flood/cyclone victims.God some trip,built 2 houses,the other construct guys rebuilt 4 both construct teams left local workers tools money and a plan to finish many more.
    This was the first Bethel Global Response Supernatural/natural disaster response!Jordan and I started teaching last year,gained momentum this year and are really excited about the future,actually have planned teaching/training out to May of 2015.We hope you can come back and help us teach WASH and your other expertise,next Jan.maybe.Currently I’m a volunteer staffer,and you might be also.Hopefully we can help with housing and local expenses.
    My new I phone 5 S was stolen in Africa,so I’m waiting replacement,maybe by Wed.
    Let’s try and set-up Skype times!!I’m so proud of you and want to pray fpr and with you.Thanx for the picture reports.
    Naomi and another Iris Reliefer will be here 18 May for about a week,they want to take some of our training and hang out so we can be more comfortable working together.Iris and Bethel are “Married”actually had a ceremony a few years ago.Oh,Heidi was gone to the 700 club and some some other engagements,but we had a wonderful dinner with Roland.
    And you know what Pastor Bill says,”Real faith is anchored in the invisible realm
    and is connected to the authority given in
    in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

    “Faith takes what is available and makes it
    actual.”
    Lots O’ Love,
    Woodie

  3. Yusuf ali permalink
    May 5, 2014 2:35 pm

    Hi Lee

    Yusuf my name and im staying in Adana. Not far from Antakya. Originally from Botswana.
    I was just reading up on IRC and the work they do. I actually want to volunteer, providing what ever skill i have for the Syrian people. Im a Dietician by profession.

    I am planning to make a trip to Antakya to visit the different NGOs in the city. Please could you inform me of the physical address of IRC.
    I have read your blog and you have vast experience in the NGO sector. Could you please advise me on how to break into the NGO world.

    God bless

    MY ALI

  4. March 6, 2016 1:02 pm

    Hi Lee
    Thanks for sharing your story. I just arrived in ANtakya 2 days ago also working with an International NGO. could you please connect me to the missionaries mentioned above, I am a Zimbabwean and prefer pentecostal fellowships.
    Regards,

    Lizy

    • Lee permalink*
      March 7, 2016 10:58 am

      Hi Lizy,

      Welcome to Antakya! I am still living here and would love to meet you. I hope you are settling in well. Antakya is a wonderful city to live in. The church that I mentioned is no longer active. However, I attend another church now and you are welcome to join on Sunday! Please give me a call at +90 536 630 1934 or skype me at leevani1.

      I look forward to meeting you!
      -Lee

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