My mission trip to Turkey was nothing I expected it to be. I mean... Talk about CULTURE SHOCK. As many countries I've immersed in, none was as different and 'shocking' as Turkey's.

First of all, let's dive into the aspects of culture I struggled with:

Islamic Differences
Growing up in a Christian nation, The Bahamas, then entering the gates to a secular Muslim State, was definitely something getting used to. The spectacular drive leaving the airport from the Asian side of Istanbul, crossing the historical bridge to the European side of Istanbul was incredible. Everywhere you gazed your eyes, you saw a MOSQUE. Every 10 blocks bey (Bahamian for 'dude'). It was crazy to see. Having been raised on a small island, every street corner you saw a CHURCH, not a mosque. So that was absolutely abnormal. I can tell you one thing though... like all religious buildings, the mosques interior & structural design were truly precious.

Additionally, something I have always wanted to witness was too see Muslims practice the Call of Prayer. Yet, what I found peculiar was due to the call being declared in the Arabic language. Turks don't know Arabic, well at least not all, so how in the world do they know what they're saying? Hmmmm... well... who am I to judge.

Woman the Minority
Are their females in Istanbul? The answer is yes. However, by the looks of it, most of the places you find yourself, those surrounding you were men. Men were EVERYWHERE. We asked our leaders why this was so... Each had their own interpretation. But one thing is for sure. As Turkey is a man dominated society, known as one of the secular Islamic states, things have been shifting with its new Prime Minster. How are the women treated? Let's find out. The 12th and current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğanis, a conservative muslim, has his own agenda to push forward social and political initiatives.

One of the most bazaar things I heard one of the people on my team say:

"The current Prime Minister does not want pregnant women to leave their homes, to ensure the safety of their children."

SAY.... WHAAAAAT?????? Now that is absolutely inhumane. I knew this couldn't have been valid. Or maybe the person wasn't sure. So, the International Relacionist part of me decided to dig deeper, to discover what this man is really up to. According to National Review, Erdoğanis wants women "to attend Sunni religious classes, and he has flushed women from top levels of the state bureaucracy, advising them that instead of pursuing a career they should have at least three babies and ideally more." I don't understand the thinking behind this. Like... seriously? Unfortunately, I've heard many other stories of how women are treated and depreciated in the Turkish Muslim state. It's so sad because women's lives matter too.

With this knowledge, my heart was broken & later I took action. With each woman I saw on the street, I smiled or began a conversation with them. To make sure they knew they're loved and they're worth it in the eyes of Beijing and most importantly, in the eyes of Jesus. The women in Turkey were so precious, illuminating and most importantly, HOSPITABLE. The most hospitable people I've ever encountered. It was such a witness and eye-opener.

Side story: In the night around 10-11pm, some persons on my team and I were roaming the streets trying to find transvestites or sex-trafficked victims. Instead we saw a church at the end of a dark alley, so we walked toward it. As I liked to practice my Turkish I said, "Merhaba" (hello), to some ladies sitting on the steps of their home. They replied back. Long story short, it was explained to us, they were all family (4 generations). So they gave us chairs to sit on. Engaged in fruitful conversations. Offered us coffee. Which had been the BEST coffee we had since in Turkey. And later, offered a Turkish delicacy. After some time, we had to leave to meet up with the rest of our team. I exchanged Facebook's with one of the younger women. To this day, Bahar (her name) and I continue to converse. I mean, this was an everyday thing for these women. With no question, they just invited us into their space. They gave us what they had, not ashamed of having too little or too much. What they had was simply enough. They simply gave with welcoming and loving arms. It was this night I will never forget the gesture done to me. What a blessing this family was.

BIG Difference: Traveler & Missionary
Throughout my wanderings around the world, whether for vacation, mission service, business or educational purposes; none taught me the distinguished difference between wandering to a country as a Traveler and a Missionary.

This continues to teach me:

"Wandering the world teaches you invaluable lessons about yourself & how the world operates. - Eyes of Beijing

This was the second time as a Missionary going into a country, where Christianity is the minority. However, this was the first time as a Traveler, going to a country where women were marginalise. And guess what? I AM A WOMAN! For the first three days, my team were prepped intensely on the cultural customs of the Turkish people. Then those of us women had an intense course on how we must behave in the presence of men. You have no idea how much I struggled through this....... Trust me, there was plenty for me to get assimilated to, especially when aspects of my freedom were chipped away. I am an activist for human rights. And for women to be criminalised in their homes does not settle well with me!!! >.<

The differences:

  • As we must be respectful to ourselves and others, it was instructed for us to wear clothes covering our shoulders and legs; totally understandable. As a Traveler, you probably would have packed whatever you wanted in your suitcase.
  • The only aspects of western women the Turkish men familiarise themselves are from the Hollywood movies; whom we are portrayed as sexual and easy to get. Therefore, no looking straight into a man's eyes or else they believe you are coming on to them. As a Traveler, you gaze upon whoever you want, with no sexual ties attached. THIS WAS SO HARD AT FIRST TO CONTROL. As a Bahamian, we are friendly and mannered persons, so if miss and not look at someone in the eye nor say "hello," it is considered rude. Well, I had to make some adjustments.

MY MISSION IN TURKEY: Sex Trafficking Victims

In my teams mind, we thought we were brought to the city of Izmir to serve victims of sex trafficking, yet God had other plans.

I asked the Lord one simple request.... "Break my heart for what breaks yours...."

Well, it certainly happened while creating relationships with transvestite prostitutes and club prostitutes. This was the first time I actually SPOKE to not just tranvestites but transvestite prostitutes. I don't know how many of you have had the opportunity to do so, but it is completely different (well for me at least). I'm not going to lie, my first reaction was filled with judgement and disgust. However, after listening to what came out of their mouths, my posture changed completely. I won't call any names, but there was one, who captured my heart. In the begining she was boasting about what she does and who she is. Then, with some time she opened up. She looked toward the floor, and said, "I know what I do is filth. I know it is of the pit of the earth. I know I'm not looked upon as human..." I don't remember what was spoken afterwards.

But it was enough. I tried so hard to keep my eyes from watering fireworks. I continued to look at my team to see if they felt the same. I couldn't make their expressions out. And all of a sudden, we told her about Jesus and his love for us; how He is her solution to all her problems. The moment was incredible. We ended up praying with her.

This moment reminded me of one of my favourite passages in scripture:

4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”


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