Sunday, June 30, 2019

My Turkish Translator Experience

I have alluded to an event that helped me make it through my crisis of faith. I spent 10-12 years struggling with whether or not Christianity was true or false. At one time while living in Aberdeen Scotland, I called my wife from work and said I needed to talk to her about something important. She said, “You are going to tell me you are an atheist.” My reply was 'Not yet". I did call my preacher son that I was really struggling and I might give Christianity up.

The issues that bothered me during this crisis can be found in post 158 of Wigner’s friend thread on Biologos. I am telling this for two reasons–first Christians need an observational reason to help them through the doubts, at least I did. Secondly, I have hoped for years to find the 3rd person in this drama, the woman who came up to us that night. She would be in her late 60s or early 70s by now. Down to the dash was written years ago, below that I have added some things.

The first time I went to Dallas, I was 19 years old. I went to a Campus Crusade Christmas conference there. My best friend and college roomate was with me. His name is Wayne Sparkman… He went into the Ministry and Im not entirely sure where he is right now. That night we had heard a sermon on ‘Pray specifically,’ Don’t pray for the missionaries in Africa, you won’t know if your prayer was answered. Afterwords, around, at 1 AM on a Thursday night in Downtown Dallas at the Adolphus Hotel, a girl walked up to us and asked us if we knew where she could find a Turkish translator. Of course, at 1 AM most folks are asleep and we weren’t from Dallas. Wayne asked why she wanted one and the girl replied that they were trying to witness to a Turkish fellow but he didn’t know enough English and they didn’t know any Turkish. What made me say this, I don’t know but I said, “lets pray about it.” I was actually shocked I said that.

I must tell you that there were two desks at the Adolphus at that time (they have changed it), one ran east west and the other north south. I prayed that the Lord would bring us a Turkish translator to the north-south desk in 10 minutes. (Once again, I don’t know why I was brazen enough to pray that particular prayer). When we finished, Wayne said, ‘Lets look around.’ I said (once again to my own surprise) lets wait, we have another 8 minutes. We waited. In 10 minutes a guy walked in from the street and went to the north south desk. Wayne told me to go ask the fellow if he spoke Turkish. I told Wayne that I couldn’t do it. (I chickened out!) Wayne had the courage to walk up and ask that guy if he spoke Turkish. He did!

Wayne brought him to the girl who took him over to where they were witnessing. Wayne and I were amazed. So we hung around till they were through using the translator to talk to the translator. The guy was a short order cook in downtown Dallas. He got off at 12:30 and had never gone home the way he chose to go that night. He ran out of cigarettes and came into the hotel to get change so he could buy some(who said smoking was bad). He had been with the airforce at Adana, Turkey (I recall) and worked as a translator. He wasn’t a Christian so he got witnessed to that night also.

About a year later, I was working at the Okla. University Research Institute in the Oil Information Center. We put oil production statistics into the computer. They decided to branch out and help Wycliff develop their first computer translation helps. A Dr. Joe Grimes (I believe) was the liason and I asked him how many people in the U.S. spoke Turkish. He said that about 5000. He said 90% were in the New York area. When you figure out what percentage were probably asleep at 1 AM and what percentage were in Dallas, it was truly amazing to find one of them in a 10 x 3 foot area of Dallas after that 10 minutes had passed.

-end of old account–

One has to know that back in 1971 there were very few Turkish people here in the US. It was only was only a few years since Congress had changed the immigration law allowing more into our country. (not interested in an immigration debate, this was just the way it was.)
The interesting thing was that I don’t think this event meant as much to Wayne as it did to me. In the past when I have been in contact with Wayne, I have tried to get him to put his account on paper and all I ever get is 'I remember it about like you tell it." lol

I don’t know who the woman was who first asked us about a translator, and would love to find her, I doubt at this late date I will ever know who she was.

I know the ‘scientific’ explanation is that this was a fluke. I have shared this on lists where there were lots of atheists, all of whom of course pooh-poohed this as a fluke. I calculate that the odds of this happening by chance are about the same as winning the powerball lottery, 1 x 10^-15. But there is a difference between the powerball and this, at least operationally. It was like, in all the world, only one ticket was sold to this drawing. It was sold to three people who shared the cost, no other tickets were sold, and they won the Powerball. Someone might think the game was rigged if that happened in real life.

One could get slightly different numbers by changing my assumptions but it is still going to be very difficult to make this a probable event. In a casino, if I won even 100 times more than I should, they would think I had rigged the game somehow, but with numbers like the above, some still say it is a fluke.

There is one other thing I know about this experience that doesn’t come across in the mere statistics. When I shocked myself by saying, “let’s pray about it” it was almost like those words escaping my lips were produced involuntarily. lol. I don’t have a clue why I said that–I was a physics major and at that time in my life taking that kind of risk was not me. If I had thought about it, it wouldn’t have happened. They say Jesus is both the author and perfector of our faith. I can assure you the faith at that moment was not mine. I know what was going on in my thoughts and it was “oh o what did you do?

And again, when I said we have 8 minutes left, again, it was almost like I didn’t say that. It was bizarre and maybe for the worse, it has never happened again to me.

I know how the words came out of my mouth and that makes it less likely to be a fluke in my opinion. Of course, that is a subjective experience. But I am like Ellie Arroway at the end of the Movie Contact, where she keeps saying, "But I had an experience" and only the weird amoral preacher and those who saw 18 hours of static believed her.

Gordie and I have presented an argument for the existence of the soul, in Quantum Soul on this blog.. It is something observational; it is taken from one of the main stream interpretations of physics, and it is something observational that says our faith is not in vain even when we run into the questions like I did during my crisis of faith. I needed the experience above as a piton driven into the mountain face to hold me safe during the storm. I bet there are others who need a piton as well.

Edited to add Wayne Sparkman's account of that night when we saw God working.  Soon he will be the only one to remember this event other than the woman we would like to find. Of the difference of staying to learn some of the outcome, I can't positively say Wayne was with me. I thought he was, but I might be wrong. Such differences are to be expected at any event, even quite recent one.  It is a sign of reality,, that an event took place. If everything lines up perfectly, it is a sign of collusion in my mine. It would be a sign of everyone getting their story together before the teacher starts asking questions about the event.  Three years after this event Debi and I moved to Dallas, and I was either at, or saw the Adolphus hotel for 26 years off and on.  It is no big deal for me to be reminded of the  every time we drove by it.Without further adoo, there is Wayne's account

Wayne Sparkman's account: 

While to my regret, I have not kept in good touch with Glenn over the years, I have recently been talking with two other old college friends who were part of a close community of Christians during those college years. We have particularly been drawn to talking of much this same subject, of answers to prayer that we saw during those years, often remarkable answers.

Of the account that Glenn tells, I will attest to the veracity of his account, though I’ll have to admit his memory for details is much better than mine. I had forgotten the name of the hotel, for instance. But the story is quite correct as he tells it. My one other difference is that I don’t remember staying around to see what happened. Perhaps I was already tired and my mind was wandering. It was well after 1 PM, after all.

Time and again I have seen answered to prayers, but I’ve also seen God at work when I didn’t even have time to think, much less pray. Like the time my wife and I were driving home on the highway at 70 mph and the car spun out on ice, with a semi-trailer right next to us—and we were untouched. Or the time our car stalled on train tracks due to transmission problems, with a commuter train barreling down on us, yet something pushed our car off the tracks. But most often, things have much less dramatic. Like simply coming into the right situation at the right time.

And so over the years I have come to a better, firmer conviction of how God is indeed involved in and guiding the lives of His children. His work takes all sorts of forms, sometimes in very dramatic answers to prayer, like the one we experienced in Dallas, and sometimes in quiet, almost unseen ways, all of it bringing us into conformity with His will for our lives, reassuring us in our walk with Him, and ultimately bringing us into a place much better than we could have ever dreamt for ourselves.

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