In April 2002 my family moved from Fort Wayne to Istanbul, Turkey on a work assignment. This is not the first time we have lived outside the United States. In 1993 we worked in the former Soviet Union in the newly formed republic of Kazakstan, a vast country of mostly empty Asian steppe whose few inhabitants survive on eating sheep and horsemeat.
Our second move occurred several years later when we worked on the island of Cyprus in the Middle East. Having moved yet again, we plan to make Istanbul our home for some years until we can raise our four energetic boys and impart to them some wisdom and self-sufficiency.
Living overseas as an American provides an unparallel experience in both learning to appreciate the diversity of the human race and the immense measure of personal freedom and opportunities we have in the United States. September 11 and the events of the past several months have exposed Americans to the malice that some people feel toward us. Yet it would be unfair to say that everyone carries the same kind of hostility that a certain few persons have expressed.
Before leaving Fort Wayne people showed concern for our safety traveling internationally. The tragic shooting in the Los Angeles airport on July 4th this year just aggravates people’s fears and anxieties. Risks certainly exist, in any kind of work or in any kind of activity. Thankfully, most of the time the fears and anxieties associated with being an American traveling abroad has no grounding in reality. People of other nations are willing to extend a warm welcome to Americans and if they did have any negative feelings about certain policies held by the US government, they choose to quickly get past these and relate person to person.
Of course much of this depends on the attitude we demonstrate as guests in their country. People anywhere can sense an air of superiority and know when someone considers them less than an equal. In those moments one can rightfully expect a cooler reception.
Herein lies a challenge for us, which we experienced even when celebrating Independence Day in our newly adopted home. The opportunities, liberties, prosperity…these and many other providential blessings which millions of Americans enjoy every moment of every day, stand in such sharp contrast to the living conditions of billions of other people living on the planet, that we must make a conscious choice not to let this wonderful heritage make us proud. Yes, I am proud to be an American, but lest I begin to think that this identity I have inherited is a result of my own ingenuity or ability, I also look to my less privileged neighbors in other countries and remind myself that “but by the grace of God go I.” If anything, I am responsible to consider ways that my privileged position can enhance the lives of those who hunger for a more meaningful life. This freedom, this gift, uniquely enables us to share our many other gifts.
Ron and Jean Coody
Understanding the vast and complex Muslim world has held Ron and Jean Coody’s attention for fifteen years. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 gave them an unprecedented open door to move into the newly formed Central Asian country of Kazakstan. For the first half of the decade they worked alongside Kazaks seeking to address the many problems left behind by Soviet rule. After serving five years in Kazakstan, the Coody’s relocated to Cyprus. There they studied the Muslim context and helped produce media materials in the Arabic language. In 2002 they began working in Istanbul, Turkey.
After leaving Kazakstan in 1998 Ron wrote a book about their years among the Kazaks to help Westerners better understand the Muslim world. Even in the age of electronic communication Ron considers written material to be one of the most powerful means of communication. While in Turkey Ron will continue to write with the purpose of providing glimpses into the Muslim world.
Ron and Jean have four boys, John, Elliot, Judah Paul, and Isaiah. Ron grew up in north Louisiana and Jean near Taylor University Fort Wayne. Ron is currently studying for a Ph.D. from Concordia Theological Seminary and Jean graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in nursing. They belong to Avalon Missionary Church and consider the Waynedale area one of their home communities.