Fortune Telling, Cigarettes and Glory

She pulls out another cigarette from her freshly opened packed. I’ve lost count of how many she’s smoked since we sat down for an afternoon of speaking Turkish and English over a small table at an outdoor café. It’s at least her 6th or 7th. I sip my tiny cup of Turkish coffee and she nurses a beer. This is a Saturday afternoon with my first Turkish friend in Izmir. Although the smoke wafting across the table filling my own lungs and permeating my hair and clothes is less than desirable, I am so glad to finally feel like I have a Turkish friend. I look across the table at her darkly lined eyes and perfect make-up and wonder if she will be a best friend. In two years, will we sit here, speaking only Turkish, reminiscing about this slightly awkward, difficult and tiring conversation?

I met her at an English club I volunteer at where Turks come to learn and practice their English speaking skills. She is an intermediate English speaker and knows much more English than I do Turkish so as the afternoon passes we speak much English, but she also insists that I speak Turkish, and I am grateful for this practice. Speaking aloud about random subjects of life is one of the best tools for learning, even though at this point I can only speak in the continuous and past forms and my vocabulary is definitely lacking. Our conversation is slow as I must pause before each sentence, trying to remember the grammar I’ve learned and constructing it in my mind. She smiles and waits patiently. I can tell she is eager to hear what I have to say and is so kind when my words come out butchered and my accent at times makes even my correct grammar sound indecipherable. We spend much time smiling, nodding, and then laughing as I say “önemli değilİ” (it’s not important) over and over because what I’m trying to say cannot be gathered or guessed. However, despite the language barrier, we learn a lot about each other, such as how we met our husbands, who is in our families, what we like to do in our free time, what we’ve done for work and some of our hopes for the future.

After a couple hours, we are both feeling tired from speaking foreign languages. We laugh together about this, but agree this has been a wonderful afternoon. On this Saturday, not only did I get to practice my Turkish for hours, but she also took me to get my eyebrows threaded! Over this cosmetic practice of women worldwide is actually, I think, how we bonded and took our acquaintanceship towards friendship. God can use anything to help us meet people who we may later share the gospel with! It feels so good to be becoming friends!

Even though we are both tired, before we go, she reads my fortune from my Turkish coffee. It is tradition here that when a woman orders Turkish coffee, when she is done she dumps the small mug over on the plate, allows the grinds to cool, places a finger on the top of the mug thinking about something in her life and her Turkish female friend reads her fortune about this subject (without knowing what it is). Of course, being a believer in Jesus, I do not put much belief in fortunes, but I wanted to honor this tradition. With deep concentration she began to speak as I thought about something in my life. To my surprise, she began to talk about things that pertained to what I was thinking! I am not sure what that means exactly, but I do think it helped grow our friendship for her to be able to show these skills and me to respect it.

Her name means Glory. I hope and pray one day she will know the glory of Jesus and call Him her Savior. I pray for opportunities to speak about Him to her; for more conversations at cafes; for deeper friendship and camaraderie. Please join me in praying for G: that we will have more opportunities to get together; that God will help us both through the language barrier; that she will one day know how special, beautiful and loved by God she is; that her life will shine and reflect His glory, just as is her namesake.