Merhaba! Hello from Turkey! This is my first time visiting Turkey. My primary focus is to shadow the local workers (they have repeatedly warned us not to use the “M” word, so we call them workers) and learn how to witness to Muslims. Our “home team” is a group of 14 people from 4 churches. We know each other well from taking the Perspectives course together.
We stayed in Istanbul for 6 days, where we received intensive training on Turkish culture, Muslim beliefs, prayer walks, and street evangelism (EV). We then spent 5 days in Isparta with a worker and his family, to put what we learned into practice. There are many stories that touched my heart.
Before the trip we started praying for safety and protection. Once I stepped out of the plane, I saw policemen holding machine guns at the Istanbul airport. There were lots of police patrolling the streets. I realized that our securities in life can be taken from us without our permission, be it a loved one, our health, our jobs, our homes, and so on. These things only give us the illusion that we are in control. During the trip several of us tripped and fell on the lovely streets of Turkey, and two of our team members suffered from food poisoning. Still, we knew what we needed to do, and that was to “PRAY.” God’s hands protected everyone, and none of us injured ourselves or became sick seriously. Throughout our time in Turkey, we experienced God’s new mercy every day. God is in control, and He provides all the protection and security we need!
Our “home team” is a fun group. Everyone is serious about seeing the wonderful Turkish people come to know Christ, while at the same time, enjoying jokes, laughter, and being together all day, every day. We enjoyed delicious food and new experiences. We loved the new spices, fresh produce, Turkish coffee and chai. We got used to the loud calling for prayers from the mosques. The ladies had a relaxing evening at the Hamam (Turkish bath house).
We cherished the time when we held hands in prayer walks, prayed with our eyes open, chatted with strangers in the open market and on public buses…. Everything was so novel.
The mosques are large and impressively decorative structures. We visited one dating from the 1800′s on the site of the first mosque following the conquering of the city by the first sultan in the 1400′s. This particular mosque complex is packed with people and activities, especially before and after the five-times-a-day daily prayer times. Women are not allowed in the main prayer hall. I went into the tiny prayer room in the back, that was for women only. My heart was heavy, and I left the room after saying The Lord’s Prayer. Our translator told us the Turkish people pray, “Allah is God and God has no son!” Turkey is a very beautiful country, yet it is a very dark place.
I liked the “culture observation” time, where I sat outdoor in a café to observe the environment and watch the people. I watched the streets surrounded by a mosque, a subway station, bus stops, shops, and street vendors. People there walked without talking much to each other. Women walked behind the men and women walked holding hands. Children held hands with their parents. Street vendors waited for customers and men delivered bottled water by bicycle. Men collected garbage using a large bin in the midday heat. People mostly dressed in dark colors, like black and gray. I saw men sitting on stools sipping chai served in tulip shaped glasses. This marks the center of conversation and represents community in the Turkish culture. I did not make many interpretive conclusions on their worldview, but in general I see that it is impossible to escape the feeling of “lostness.” In this unreached land the people strive to do enough to be accepted by an implacable god. They seek the unattainable – salvation by their own works. There is so much pressure to maintain this culturally accepted religion. Sad!
We went out to do EV a few times. We learned the 6 steps – get connected, get to God, get to “sin”, get to the Gospel, get to a decision and pray. The Turkish people are warm and friendly, they respond so favorably to our smiles, that it is very easy to talk to them. Most interesting was the varying levels of Muslim practice. Some were devout, while others had only a limited knowledge of the Koran, the Torah, and the Bible. Some were highly educated and were skilled debaters. They were very verbal about their commitment to their beliefs. Our conversations usually ended before we could get to the Gospel.
Isparta is a smaller city, very famous for its roses, you can count the number of believers on one hand. We took many prayer walks, which really opened our eyes and hearts to the needs of the Turkish people. Prayers are important and powerful, we walked and prayed quietly, in the name of Jesus Christ. It is easy to fall in love with the Turkish people and to want the best for them. Then praying for them becomes second nature.
I particularly enjoyed the walking and devotion time in the biblical site of Pisidian Antioch. As I walked on the rocky road into town, there were a myriad of feelings bubbling up within me. Here I was, an ordinary believer, walking on the road that Paul and Barnabas once walked on during their first “M” trip. I wanted to grasp Paul’s secret for being content in any and every situation, no matter whether in plenty or in want. I wanted to live to “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.” During this trip I found myself complaining about the heat, the second-hand smoke, the fatigue from doing so much walking, and the early hour at which we woke up. When I noticed that I had forgotten about God’s protection, the warm hospitality from the local workers and the genuine love and care from my team members, I know I have much to learn to be a humble servant. For the local workers, I came to know their sacrifice and their loving obedience and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ. They face loneliness, language barrier, and fear in the foreign land. God’s Love compels us to do things we cannot do on our own. Praise God for His power! Rejoice in Him, always!
I cannot forget the feeling of “lostness”. I have learned to love the people of Turkey and am grieved that there is a darkness in this land. Without the Light we bring there is little hope for these wonderful people. Most have not heard the good news and most have no way of hearing it. There is much to be done and each one of us can make a difference, if only we will “LEARN”, “GO”, “SEND” or “PRAY”.