Here is the scene...
A young Turkish man fans the flames of an outdoor barbecue grill with a piece of cardboard while scores of men sit around talking; Turkish children playing several games of soccer on the same field at the same time, all shouting playground phrases to each other in their heart language; the women, covered in full-length dress coats and wearing brightly colored head scarfs, gathered around in conversation groups watching the children and enjoying a picnic on a sunny December afternoon. They giggled when I offered a brief greeting in Turkish - followed by loads of whispers about a foreigner speaking their language. Together with my two new Turk friends, Mehmet and Hasan, I drank Tamak soda (Turkish brand), and we ate plates and plates full of chicken and beef kabobs, loaded up with sliced veggies and salads. The conversation turned to all the normal topics, including global economies, and Turkish/American politics. Of course they celebrated Obama's victory along with most of the world. We discussed our faith systems - what it was like to be Christian in Turkey, and what it is like to be Muslim in America. We shared stories of our favorite places in Istanbul, Ankara, and San Antonio. (insert pregnant pause here...)
Yes, San Antonio. That's where Mehmet and Hasan live. And we met at T Bar M Camp. (insert longer, full-term pregnant pause here).
Each year the Raindrop Turkish Association hosts a gathering of Turkic people from all over the United States, right here on the property of T Bar M.
I arrived at camp today to participate in the Camp Winter Staff Reunion, and stood there with a mouth-open, shock-and-awe look on my face at the sight of 200+ Turks running around this spiritual haven we call Camp. A global-scale collision of my worlds.
When our conversation turned to their experience here at T Bar M, they both used a word that conveys more in Turkish than in English. They described camp as a most hospitable place. Do you know what this means? For these precious people, they see Camp as a place where they feel comfortable, where their needs have been considered. They use this word to describe a place where they feel blessed, relaxed, and at home. This stands in contrast to the many places in America where these men have felt discounted and marginalized because of their "different" culture. For them, camp has created an environment that promotes peace, fun, and relationships. Just like in the summer, when the focus in overtly Christ-centered, these new Turkish friends perceived a spiritual dimension to this place just by being here.
We went to extremes to try to get the Message to our Turkish friends while living there. T Bar M has brought the Message to Turks living right in their back yard. Every time a Turk walks down the path into camp they pass under a sign that says, "Love God. Love each other." The gospel in two statements.
As customary, we exchanged phone numbers and email addresses, along with the promise to reconnect on a future trip to San Antonio. And then I realize that this is not a collision of worlds. The passion is exactly the same, regardless of the location - a longing for these friends to know God's love, and to share it with the world.
Not a collision, indeed, but a bridge between worlds. For truly the two have more in common than I ever imagined.