Q regulars know that Turkey is a country close to my heart. I have just returned from my 15th (!) trip and so naturally it preoccupies my thoughts a great deal at the moment.

During my previous trip, I’d heard a beautiful song in the Istanbul congregation I was visiting. I hadn’t had an English translation of it and all I knew was that it had been written by some friends after a tragedy. It still moved me to tears even then. So, I made a mental note to find out more on my return.

I don’t have all the details but in around September 2000, a small fellowship was having their church retreat just outside Istanbul, on the Black Sea coast. There had been a great time of celebration together, during which there were a couple of baptisms. However, the sea on that bit of coast was notorious for being quite rough. 3 of the guys (an American and 2 Turks, one of whom had been one of those baptised, the other had been married only a few months) decided to go swimming. It’s not clear what happened, but the two Turkish believers ended up being overwhelmed by the current and drowned, while the American managed to get back to shore.

This had a devastating effect on everyone inevitably. So Engin & Mine Yildirim, who were in leadership, tried to put some of the feelings into words. In so doing, they captured the confident hope those two shared, while at the same time, especially once set to music by Forrest Inslee, they gave expression to their grief and loss. In short, they lamented in hope.

What I hadn’t expected was that this was actually recorded and is available on Spotify. The fellowship in which I first heard it, is made up of some of those who were in that congregation back in 2000. My friend Kayra Tanyar (as she then was) does a stunning job of singing the lead.

The Turkish church is a young church – only 40 or so years old. It is so encouraging to spend time with brothers and sisters here, and to witness how collectively they’re trying to forge an identity as authentically Turkish Christians (which for many is a contradiction in terms). This tragedy brings home the need for culturally rooted expressions of our experiences as believers – one cannot just survive on translated imports. In moments of crisis, we need outlets for our confusion and pain before God. We need to lament. And more often than not, we need to do that in ways that present as little cultural dissonance as possible. The whole album is one expression of that.

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