Terrorists, sceptics and rally drivers

May 25, 2011


The scene is once again a petrol station. One of the staff is desperately trying to teach us a Turkish word. But it’s no use, we don’t understand what it is he wants to get across. He keeps repeating the term until we finally rummage in one of our backpacks for our dictionary. With fond memories of petrol stations and their amazingly kind and helpful staff almost all along our hike so far, we’re now anxious to learn the meaning of the word that is obviously of vital importance to the man. He points at the word in our dictionary: ‘terrorists’. “Where?“ we ask. “Here!“ he replies. We remember having been warned of Turkey’s East before. Something a local from Western Turkey had once told us came to mind: “You as tourists might be safe there. But to us Turks from the West, it would be too dangerous.” We also couldn’t help noticing that the windows of some of the houses were barred. One morning we were quite surprised to observe a man, armed and keeping watch over an open onion field. With a slightly queasy feeling in our stomachs, but aware of God’s omnipotence, we set off from the petrol station. Half an hour later, a white car pulls over in front of us. Three men get out. “Police!” they say. “Where are you headed?“ “To Tarsus.” “Where are you from?” “Switzerland.” After handing us five wet wipes, they get back into the car and roar off. Still affected by the warning from the man at the petrol station, we have our doubts about the genuineness of those policemen. Though in plain clothes, they neither showed their ID nor asked for ours. Also, we’d never seen all police officers get out of their car to question us before. We say to ourselves that next time we must pay more attention and at least memorize the car registration number.

To some Turkish people, we’re the ones to be doubted. “You’ve walked here all the way from Switzerland – you’ve got to be kidding! Where’s your bicycle?” a young man asks us incredulously. “We haven’t got one”, Hanspeter replies. “I don’t believe you!“ he says and changes roadsides. Someone else demands proof. “Show me your soles!“ A scene that reminds us of Thomas, one of the disciples of Jesus who refused to believe his fellow disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. He said he would only believe when he saw and felt the scars in Jesus‘ hands and feet. Sometimes the miracles God works are beyond our comprehension. To us, the fact that none of us have been ill in a way worth mentioning and have been in good shape the entire nine months is nothing short of a miracle. Shortly before our trip, Annemarie had to undergo treatment following a knee inflammation. So far her knee hasn’t played up, even during our 50-kilometre stretch one day this past week. Last week there was another miracle, though it was about something more trivial, but a miracle it was. One morning, we were rather involuntarily woken up at 3.30 by our next-door neighbours. Having set our alarm for 4.45, we still could have gone back to sleep for more than an hour, except that Annemarie just couldn’t for the life of her. Around lunchtime, a thunderstorm erupted so we found shelter under the canopy of an office. “Last night was just too short. I need a Coke.” Annemarie said. A mere two seconds later, a man who couldn’t have had any idea of what we had just chatted about stood in front of us holding out two cans of Coke. Dumbstruck we stared at him. God surprises us again and again by His precision work, something we also experienced in Antioch/Antakya, the last major town for us before the Syrian border.

We had been contemplating the issue of whether or not to walk through Syria despite the political unrest for some weeks. From other globetrotters we had learnt that they had no longer been able to secure visas on the border. Prior to our departure from Basle, it wouldn’t have made sense to apply for a visa then since it is only valid for six months maximum. After giving the matter much thought and praying about it for quite some time, we have now decided to follow in Paul’s footsteps of his first journey and take the route via Cyprus. When we, on our first really hot day, got to Antakya, we walked on into town since the first hotel turned out to be too expensive. In the second one, shift handover had just taken place, and the receptionist on duty now spoke good English. In the course of conversation, he told us he used to work in Cyprus. He recommended not to take the more complicated route by coach and ferry but to go by plane. This possibility hadn’t crossed our minds until then, but now mulling it over it made perfect sense. Taking the coach would have meant going all the way back to Mersin as there are no ferries from Seleukia harbour to Cyprus any more. The man was a font of excellent advice on the subject and even organized us tickets at a good price for this Friday. If possible, we will walk the same route that Paul took on the island (Acts 13).

Not walk but drive did a group of rally motorists on the so-called Allgäu Orient Rally. We met the five men from Bavaria/Germany and their old cars in Tarsus (see video). It was with relief that they told us in the town of the Apostle Paul’s birth that arrangements for their alternative route on their way to Jordan had at last been finalized. They had decided not to drive through Syria since the border continued to be closed again and again. Now they were going to Cyprus by ferry. This wasn’t news to us, since we had heard the story before, told with the same relief by another one of their groups from Wedel in Northern Germany. We met them as they were stranded by the roadside after one of their cars had broken down between Mersin and Tarsus. Before we said goodbye, they generously gave us two pears that had been travelling with them all the way from Germany to Tarsus. They were delicious! 🙂

Not from Germany but Switzerland was creative Ursula (see video) who we paid a visit to in Iskenderun. Back when we ministered in Weinfelden, we regularly prayed for both her family and church whom her husband had founded in Iskenderun 50 years ago. As we arrived there at a weekend, we were able to attend the Sunday service. Since the murder of the Catholic Bishop last year, the current young pastor has constantly been accompanied by a bodyguard. Three years ago, not far from here three men were killed because they believed in Jesus Christ. It makes us sad that local Christians live in fear because of their faith, in a place that used to provide refuge for persecuted believers. What’s more, even the term ‘Christians’ was first used in the Turkish city of Antakya/Antioch (see video) [Acts 11,26]. It was from Seleukia harbour (see video), situated not far from the town itself, that Paul, Barnabas and John Mark sailed to Cyprus. The ancient harbour walls are still visible.

A most interesting country boasting a vast variety and quite a number of surprises (see video) along the way lies behind us now. Someone told us that until just a few years back, people here retired at the age of 45. Seen from this perspective, we passed through this country as pensioners. The rally drivers we met in Tarsus told us that a 40-kilometre desert stretch takes them around 10 hours. Since then we know that we can actually take on rally drivers – in the desert. J

Best regards

Hanspeter & Annemarie


New links:

Köfte (see video)

Roman bridge in Adana (see video)

Website: www.BaselJerusalem.info

Photos: http://baseljerusalem.wordpress.com/category/fotos/

Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/BaselJerusalem?feature=mhum#g/u


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