Cast Out But Not Forsaken
July 26, 2013
Refugees from Iran and Afghanistan have settled in the city of Amasya.
Turkey’s citizens have seen it before. First the outbreak of war that brings terror to one of their Middle Eastern neighbors. Then the inevitable swell of desperate refugees knocking on their doors for sanctuary.
Since the start of the civil war in Syria two years ago, over 400,000 refugees have poured into Turkey, placing great strain on the nation’s already stretched resources.
Those who reside near the border are not happy about this tidal wave of newcomers. They complain that refugees drive up the costs for food and rental units. Sometimes they may find themselves in competition for the same low-paying but much-needed jobs.
If Turks seem thin on patience, they may have some justification. Exacerbating the problem is the estimated half a million displaced peoples who have spent extended time inside their borders during the past 20 years due to war in their home countries. In particular, Turkey experienced a large immigration of Iraqis between 1988 and 1991 because of the Iran-Iraq War and the first Gulf War.
Refugees from Iran, Afghanistan, and Palestine have also flocked to Turkey. The wave of war-weary Syrians adds to the feelings of resentment as officials seek a workable solution that is beneficial to all parties.
One strategy involves containment of refugees by setting up camps and assigning specific locations where they can live. Families who find camp life undesirable seek whatever housing they can find in nearby communities. Recently the government began placing refugees in the cities of Samsun, Sinop, and Ordu along the Black Sea.
Not everyone treats the refugees with disdain, however. Aware of the enormous need, Mission Pontus welcomes the opportunity to reach out with the love of Jesus Christ to those who are homeless and rejected. Christian Aid is supporting their efforts to meet physical needs and share the gospel message.
In Samsun alone 5000 refugees are expected. This gives the ministry a large group of individuals and families to serve.
In the past the government has placed some of the Iranian and Afghan refugees in Amasya, about an hour’s drive from Samsun. That area can no longer accommodate additional people. Mission Pontus had an effective outreach among the refugees living there, and those refugees helped the ministry plant a church.
The impact has been far-reaching.
The ministry makes gospel tracts and New Testaments available on street bookstands.
Azad is a refugee from Iran who is half Azerbaijani. Mission Pontus introduced him to the gospel while he was living in Amasya. He received Christ and grew in his faith. Among those he later led to the Lord were two Iraqis who are now ministering to a community of refugees from Iraq and Iran.
When Azad immigrated to Oklahoma, he carried his passion for evangelism to his new home. No matter where he lives—Turkey, the United States, or anywhere else—his desire is for others to know Christ. God opened a door, and Azad is excited to be serving in a ministry to Iranians in America.
Another refugee, Hafez from Afghanistan, was led to Christ by Mission Pontus workers. He eventually immigrated to Berlin, Germany, where he has an excellent ministry.
In addition to assisting refugees, Mission Pontus has enjoyed a very effective outreach to foreign students. Some students return to their home countries as ambassadors for Christ and become active in local ministry.
Farzin, a university student from Iran, is one of the individuals who is assisting Mission Pontus this summer in outreach to Syrian refugees. Last year he was led to the Lord through a gospel worker of the ministry.
Because Mission Pontus has already evangelized and discipled people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Palestine, they have personnel who can reach out to the latest round of refugees relocating to Turkey.
The refugees need everything from food, clothing, and medicine to assistance with rental expenses. Many of the displaced are women and children who have no means to provide for themselves.
Among the practical items needed most are milk for babies ($22.50 a day or $675 a month for 30 babies), baby food ($3700), and diapers ($2060 per month).
Summer will not last forever, and the onset of colder temperatures toward the end of the year will make survival more difficult. Blankets ($32 each) and heaters ($70) will be in high demand.
One-on-one evangelism has been effective.
Evangelistic materials are also needed, including New Testaments ($2.50 each) written in Arabic and Farsi, gospel DVDs ($6), and Christian pamphlets ($2.50 each) written specifically for a Muslim audience.
The refugees have little money to spare for bus fare to the church. Mission Pontus would like to buy a van ($35,000 new or a good used one for $25,000-$30,000). The vehicle will enable the ministry to pick up refugees and bring them to gospel meetings.
“Mission Pontus is a fruitful ministry,” said Stephen Van Valkenburg, Middle East Director for Christian Aid. “They are reaching Turkish Muslims, college students, foreign students, prisoners, and refugees. Now with these refugees being assigned to Samsun, this is a good opportunity for the ministry to reach them with the gospel.”