Rabia is a Christian who lives in Ankara, Turkey with her husband and children. She and her team of special needs children’s advocates are serving the least of the least. Her church is proving for the Iraqi and Syrian refugees in a significant way. They feed and clothe about 4,000 of the war refugees arriving from the south and east. in serving these people, Rabia noticed that there are families with children who have special needs. The challenges to those families was even more daunting in this new country. Turkey provides no public assistance to refugees. They are safe here, but they need to fend for themselves. The church, which is very small in Turkey, has stepped in to advocate. She and her team, Kardelen Ministries, visit 40 flats in the refugee areas. Each of these two bedroom flats house about 4 families. There are a total of 300 people who are directly impacted by what she does. Her office provides a respite for the families several times per week. The families come and are fed. The special needs child plays in the physical therapy room. The other children have a play area, as well. And the moms are taken aside and pampered. War torn and desperate, they have forgotten to take care of themselves. So for several hours they get their hair cut and get to just enjoy being women together. She has put a face on Christianity that has not been seen before by many of these people. She is extending the advent of Jesus with her own hands.
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)
Most 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 how 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 kept my cool because I was committed to doing this my way (which wasn’t working). I would occasionally stop when I found a free wifi service and get a GPS 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 altogether 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. He had it within his means to relieve the suffering. All he needed to do was to act. It is God’s heart that His people would be the ones who would set aside their own needs and desires and serve those who have no one to advocate for them.