The darkened rooms, filled with smells of strong brewed tea and men. Turkish soap operas loudly chattering in the corner, clashing with the pop beats of the latest Tarkan song over the speakers. Bowls of white sugar cubes sit next to tulip shaped glasses on their dainty saucers. An issue of the Londra Gazete, lies open on the table of the tea house. London City Missionary Tim Spring is at home in this setting, though as his name suggests, he’s not Turkish.
We Brits love our tea. Our cultural tradition for centuries...a national pastime. A moment in the day to take the weight off, put our feet up and take that deeply refreshing first burning sip. Tea isn’t something to be rushed. But the Turks have taken it’s brewing and drinking to a whole new level. Relatively young in it’s popularity, making and savouring Turkish tea is an art form. The whole process takes half an hour, not including drinking time! The pot is warmed, the tea leaves steamed, the water boiled, the leaves brewed, the pot stirred and finally, the tea served. The çayhane or tea house, unashamedly all male, is the place to drink it.
All day long, Turkish men congregate to chat, play games, read the paper or just sit and ponder. Tea greases the social wheels. Jokes are shared as it brews. Politics are discussed as it’s poured. Family news is aired as it’s drunk. Tolerance builds for its strong tang mellowed by the sugar stirred carefully into the tiny cup.
Tim has found the way in to Turkish culture...tea.
Making the rounds of the çayhane around Haringey and Hackney, conversations with the men come easily. But they can’t be rushed or taken for granted...just like tea, friendships need time to brew. Whether it’s help translating a letter or filling in forms, Tim builds trust by being a true friend.
Si has been speaking to me about his despair over the inevitability of aging and death. He’s concerned about the sins he’s committed in his life. Sadly, he doesn’t take in my gospel replies.
But Tim knows that for these Muslim men, the gospel is a brew which needs time to become accustomed to it’s strong, sharp message. It’s no easy thing to be willing to commit heresy to admit Jesus is God. But Tim sweetens the strong gospel brew with acceptance and trust.
Most weeks, I continue to meet with V and N, but they still hold back. V doesn’t want to give up the sin in his life and N worries that attributing divinity to Jesus is a great sin. K however, has invited me to a new tea house in Edmonton.
Grateful for the opportunities God gives him, Tim wants even more. The years of past mission work in Turkey keep him thirsty to see the nation where the gospel once blossomed, be filled again with people refreshed and renewed by the saving grace of Jesus.
Walk alongside Tim:
- Pray for more gospel opportunities and appetites ready to accept its strength.
- Pray for the nation. Turkish culture is closed to the gospel. In Turkey itself, a country of 77 million, there are only 7,000 Christians.
- Pray for more female team members to join the Turkish ministry to reach the women in their homes.
- If you’ve got a heart for seeing members of the largest unreached cultural group come to know Jesus, there are many ways you can volunteer.
- Give financially. Your donations will help get more missionaries out onto the streets of London and into the lives of people like V and N.