We are now the proud renters of a traditional stone house, built in 1955, right on the edge of our city’s bazaar. It’s a got a large garden courtyard that wraps around three sides of the house, enclosed by beautiful, though neglected, stone walls. The house is made of the same kind of stone. The different limestone blocks are subtle shades of grey, pink, tan, and yellow. Small fruit trees line the courtyard – loquat, tangerine, fig, olive, and some grape vines. It also has it’s own well.
The interior rooms are plastered, broad, and lit by many traditional metal windows which are lovely in the spring, but will do very little to keep out the cold of winter. There’s only one squatty potty, and a small traditional bath/sauna room. Three walls have some considerable water damage. The kitchen door is so small we won’t be able to fit in our appliances or counters. There’s a lot of work to be done, but it has such potential and will actually be a beautiful house once it’s fixed up and lived in, in contrast to many of the ugly cement structures of the more recent eras. And beauty may not always seem practical or efficient, but we are finding that is supposed to play a much bigger part in our lives than it has in recent years.
The location is also exciting (for us anyway!). It’s right on the edge of the bazaar, in a very old neighborhood, the one where *Hama grew up. That means it’s a two minute walk for us to be in the bazaar proper and a ten minute walk to the center. I have access to a traditional man street of the bazaar and my wife can walk just a bit further to get access to a street frequented by women. That means I would probably be within walking distance of two dozen tea houses and my wife within walking distance of two dozen used clothes shops.
We have always loved the bazaar and can’t believe that we actually have a chance to live right next to it now. Our hope is that this will mean we can go even deeper into the local language and culture and that our neighborhood will be much more accessible to local believers who are dependent on walking and public transit. All the buses flow to the bazaar. Locals themselves seem to naturally flow to the bazaar, ending up there even on days when they swear they are completely broke or booked by work, study, or visiting relatives. It is in a real sense the soul of the city. We’ve spoken for years about the ministry advantages that could come by living close to the bazaar. Now we get to test it out.
It is a little odd that we are moving into this area. Very few, if any, Americans have lived there. Locals bemoan the terrible afternoon congestion of the area streets and the electricity and water issues. But once we explain that we are old souls who love the bazaar and the classic houses, they seem to mostly understand. “He is a confused man. But alas, whoever does not accept their neighbor is not accepted by God!” is one older neighbor lady’s comment about me now that we’ve actually rented the place. For her part, she was very kind and concerned that we were paying far too much rent for the place given the poor economy and it’s condition. But I am willing to pay a bit more rent than locals would because I believe a little bit of work will make folks a year from now shocked that we got it at such a good price. Plus the economy is likely to rebound, sending rent prices up again. But we’ll be locked into a very reasonable rate. And a big yard right in the middle of the city? That’s an almost impossible find. And at 2, 7, and 9, my kids (and their parents) would be greatly helped by having some space and some dirt and some trees.
We’ve been praying hard for this past month that we would find a good house, close to the bazaar and life-giving for our family. Though it’s a fixer-upper, we are amazed at God’s kindness in answering through this lovely old stone home. May it become an oasis of hospitality, rest, and even eternal life.