It seemed fitting to live in the largest neighborhood of the largest city in the largest unreached nation. Principle had drawn us here, with our one-year-old in tow and adventure at our backs. It was not a sacrifice. We were young and seeking purpose. And we were planting a flag with the apartment we chose: this would be the haven for our team, the space in which hearts would change.
The day we trudged up the hill with lights and curtains tucked under our arms, preparing the apartment for our move, our new electrician friend pulled us anxiously toward the TV in his shop. While our son played with electrical outlets, we watched planes fly intentionally into towers. We moved into our new home days later amid shock, fear, and grief. Our first team meeting included an angry call with a father in America: he wanted his young daughter on a flight immediately, safely out of the middle east.
Our home was christened with tears.
Months later I ordered a turkey from the butcher and opened canned yams from the black market coming off the military base. We celebrated Thanksgiving with 25 people, only half of whom were American, and shared a little bit of home with new friends. The first of all our wedding gift wine glasses broke that night as young teammates helped in the kitchen. A few stayed late to binge watch Alias thanks to a VHS tape received in the mail.
Our home was anointed with laughter.
That summer we shocked the neighbors with an inflatable pool on our roof and a naked two-year-old swimming with his mom. Aunties constantly asked what I fed him when he scaled park equipment and all the shopkeepers rushed to squeeze the little blond boy’s cheeks. The painters shook their heads when I showed them the dark red color I wanted. Culturally adapting and completely shedding your own are two different things.
We said goodbye to one team and welcomed another. Not long after, they huddled in our living room watching a bombing unfold, this time near us. A few weeks later, a synagogue, and another, and then I remembered my son’s preschool was next door to one. Rushing through the streets that day evoked a panic I have never felt before nor since. Our apartment became home base when foreigners needed to lay low. We watched more Alias. I cooked.
The night I waited for my husband to return from the first student meeting in which he was teaching in Turkish, I was sitting on the floor with my pregnant belly. He called and sounded eerily measured, told me he had been stabbed. Time froze as I waited for teammates to come stay with our sleeping son and I taxied to the hospital. Over the next few weeks, our living room became a recovery room and we wondered in fear what had happened that night.
The great adventure began to wane a bit. Standing alone, each bomb, each team fail, each uninterested Turkish student was a chance to trust in God. An opportunity to put our faith in him again. To expect his grace. To pray harder. Assaults like stabbing? Well, why would the enemy bother with us if he weren’t threatened. But cumulatively, our hope began to waiver.
Was our home still inhabited by God? If things were this difficult, were we in the right place?
I moved into Moda a girl full of idealism. A young wife, a young mom, a new calling, with God on my side. I was so sure of everything. Until I wasn’t.
Unknowingly, I was finding my story in those red walls of my Moda apartment as God worked out my character. I thought it would be a space where hearts were changed. It was. And quite unexpectedly, it included my own.
Beth is the founder of A Face to Reframe, a nonprofit whose aim is to prevent human trafficking through participatory arts, training and community building. She now serves as the Manager of Domestic Anti-Trafficking with the U COUNT Campaign and the co-founder and facilitator of the Larimer County Anti-Trafficking Community Response Team. She holds a certificate in Transformative Arts and Restorative Practices and is the co-author of END: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking. She regularly speaks, trains, and writes about ways in which we can stop human trafficking in our communities. Find her on her blog at www.bethbruno.org.