Monday, February 22, 2010

A Conversation with Tolga

I half dozed through the wailing call to 6am prayer in Istanbul. I was reminded of yesterday's conversation with a rug dealer, Tolga, who earnestly expressed his displeasure with blending politics and religion. Tolga reminds me of my nephew Levi, long black hair with a Genghis Khan kind of look. In fact, Tolga said that Mr. Khan was his ancestor, and that the American Indians were also of his expansive lineage and would play a key role in the end of the world.
Tolga is from the biblical town of Ephesus, farther south in Turkey. Not having a rug sale yet that day, he invited us into the back of his shop for tea. I think Jeff, my travel buddy, thought I was permanently jet-lagged for agreeing to sip tea with a stranger. Anyway, we sipped and talked.
Tolga lost his father when he was 17. He traveled to Japan with a "friend" who left him homeless there for 3 months. He made it back home, but somewhere in his story, a 70 year old American missionary to Turkey started working with him (since 2005) to bring him from his blended brand of Islamic/Indian folklore to Jesus.
Tolga isn't a Jesus-follower yet. But, I can't help but think that our chance meeting on the streets in the old city is a part of God's plant/water/reap strategy.
When Tolga found out that we are Christians, he called his American missionary friend, Daryl Richman (sp.), in California. This dear Christian missionary briefly filled me in on Tolga and asked me to read something encouraging about the Christian life to him. Jeff recommended the book of Ephesians, since Tolga is from Ephesus, and I read aloud. The passage is about how Tolga's elders in the first century were reminded by Paul that they were disobedient. But, by God's infinite mercy, He led them to His grace in Christ.
We barely escaped Tolga's shop without buying a rug. Hopefully, more on Tolga in a future post.
Next stop...Berna at the ferry landing in Uskudar.


  1. Amazing story! Aren't you glad you read "Three Cups of Tea"?

  2. What a joy!!! God does a great job of orchestrating even the smallest of details. Thanks for sharing

  3. Brent- I forgot to mention before you left. If you are feeling very courageous after today's adventures, perhaps you and Jeff would want to cross the Sea of Marmara on Tuesday and head to the city of Bursa. Dana North (from Gilbert, supported by the M. committee) and Katelyn Verhoef (ISU grad from Pella) are spending a second year there. Berna probably could put you in contact with them. Even if you can't go a phone call could be an encouragement. Dave E.