Cradling their new baby girl in their arms, the young Turkish couple, now our friends, sat across from us – full of hope, and also a quiver of fear.
“Of course we are eager to return home,” the husband, Aydin, exclaimed. “So many are looking forward to meeting our new baby. They stare at her through Skype, but it’s just not the same.”
The pride of becoming parents shined through Aydin and his wife, Beyza. And yet it was also clear, as the evening progressed, that deep down a fear of what lies ahead lurked.
Too Close for Comfort
Earlier in the month yet another bomb rocked the Turkish capital, Ankara. It targeted a military convoy passing through a central section of the city. Twenty-nine soldiers wounded, 61 injured. A day later, another six were killed elsewhere.
“I was on a bus just like that two years ago,” Aydin shared. “It makes me think, it could’ve been me.”
At a different time, I visited with another military officer. But this one is a woman. She and her husband are both part of Turkey’s armed forces. But now, while in the U.S., she is pregnant with their first child.
“That bomb exploded about 200 meters from my former workplace,” Rüya shared with me.
These are moments of silence, really. How do you respond? Knowing people whose lives are so close to the headlines really does cause one to pause and reflect.
These moments are portals into the hearts and minds of people whose lives back home are very different from their lives while in the U.S. And from my own life. And yet, when our lives intersect, it’s clear to me there is a higher reason and purpose at work here.
I shared with Aydin and Beyza, and Rüya as well: “We care about you. We are praying for your country. And for peace in your part of the world. We want that so desperately. Please let us know how you are when you return. And for a long time afterward.”
Modern day Turkey is rife with stories like these, I’m sure. A nation straddled between East and West, caught in the crossfire of a devolving war and humanitarian crisis in neighboring Syria. One that defies imagination. So many players, so many motives and ambitions, so many potential outcomes.
How do we respond when we meet and interact with people whose lives are so connected with the headlines of tragedy? Here are 5 quick suggestions:
1) Look straight into their eyes with empathy, sincerity and love.
Let them know you care. Communicate a heart of love. If you are a Christ-follower, seek to view them with the eyes of Jesus.
2) Don’t avoid the issue.
Bring it up, discuss it a bit. But also catch their cues as to when it’s time to let the issue rest. Remember, they are dealing with these tragedies day in and day out (even when in the U.S.) because they have family and friends back home.
3) Ask them how their family back home is doing.
Show interest in their lives beyond the headlines. Again, this will communicate love to them in a way that transcends current events.
4) Ask them if there is anything you can do to encourage them, or be of help.
Most likely their answer will be “no,” but you can offer to pray for them right then and there if the Spirit leads and opens a door. In 20+ years of working with internationals, I’ve never experienced a person who has refused an offer of prayer. Many are genuinely moved.
5) Commit to following what’s going on in their country long-term.
Keep your eye on the news and continue to learn about what’s going on in your friend’s country. Follow up with them when you learn through either traditional or social media about developments in their country, both good and bad.
Aydin and Beyza, along with Rüya and her husband, are at the beginning of the “adventure” of parenthood. They are full of hope for the future as they delight in the early years of their children, and then nurture them towards adulthood.
On these common points, I am able to form friendships across cultures that I intend to cultivate and build to last. My husband and I, too, have been in their shoes.
And yet, I realize, they bring their children into the world at a time and place of massive instability, uncertainty, and danger.
My heart is moved to pray.
Have you developed a friendship with someone from a hard place in the world? How has this changed you?
Image Credit: Geralt on Pixabay