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God Shows His Hand in Gospel-Resistant Turkey

January 19, 2017

Worship service in the Middle East.
Indigenous missionaries are encouraged that the Lord is working even where nationalist sentiment has long blocked gospel advance.

Recent terrorist attacks in Turkey led a pastor to limit invitations to his church's Christmas Day event to his own congregation. Then a multitude of visitors showed up.

God had other plans, he said, as Muslim seekers and Christians from churches in the region arrived.

"There were rumors that ISIS was planning to attack churches during the Christmas season, and therefore with prayer and apprehension we planned to celebrate Christmas only with our own congregation," the pastor said. "However, the Lord as always did the extraordinary, and the meal we had planned for only 60-70 individuals was shared with hundreds of guests."

The church members in the undisclosed town on the Black Sea coast gladly offered their seats to the guests, and after Pastor Matta (full name held for security reasons) delivered a sermon, he noticed a timid young woman trying to tell him something. She had difficulty speaking through her tears.

"I had the impression that she was probably facing a serious problem and wanted me to pray for her, but soon I discovered that hers were tears of joy as she wanted to give her heart to Christ," he said.

"When she shall start attending our church, her job may be in jeopardy," the director said. "Maybe her parents shall turn against her."

She had heard his sermons online, and on a visit some four months prior, she had received one of the New Testaments the church gives away with assistance from Christian Aid Mission. Having set out earlier that day to visit friends, the young woman (unidentified for security reasons) never met up with them and could not explain how or why she had ended up at the church event.

"In fact, I don't know who brought me here," she later told the pastor's wife. "It's as if a voice told me to enter, and I entered in."

She publicly testified that the Lord Jesus Christ was now her savior, the pastor said, and he requested prayer that her faith remain strong despite potential opposition in the 99-percent Muslim country.

"Our young sister is a teacher, and when she shall start attending our church her job may be in jeopardy," he said. "Maybe some of her friends shall tell her that she made a mistake and may distance themselves from her. Maybe her parents shall turn against her."

Another person also received Christ that day, and Pastor Matta said his team of indigenous missionaries were encouraged by such signs that the Lord is working in Turkey, where nationalist sentiment has long blocked gospel advance. Rare instances of Turks putting their faith in Christ show that seeds indigenous missionaries sow may produce fruit in two months, 20 months or many years, he said.

In some cases the seeds may have been planted decades ago, he added. In another coastal town where he and his team of indigenous missionaries have established a church, there were no Christians even two years ago, and he believes the congregation there of 30 to 35 people sprang from seeds planted long ago.

"This growth of the church is not only due to the evangelistic activities we started some five years ago but is also the outcome of the seeds sown some 100 years ago by precious believers who used to live there before they had to move," he said.

Throughout the town, one finds traces of their predecessors, including a school building that was once a Protestant church building 130 years ago, he said.

"The building we use as a church is 200 meters away from it, and we plead to the Lord that people of the city may go to that school to acquire secular knowledge and come to our church to acquire saving spiritual knowledge," he said.

Seeds sown in Turkey may take decades to reap.

Back in the city where the ministry has its headquarters, the growing congregation has far outstripped the building Pastor Matta rents for services, and he hopes for construction of a new facility by next Christmas. Across from the plot of land designated for his church building is a mosque, and he has already made friendly overtures to the mosque leaders. The head imam told him they look forward to being neighbors.

"There is no need to fear and be concerned, as all things are in the hands of the Lord," Pastor Matta said. "If we build this building, it shall be not only the church of the Christians of the city, but also the church of the 17 cities of the Black Sea area, as all Christians living in this region are considering us as the 'Central Church' of the Black Sea."

Congregations from towns in the region typically gather together at the "Central Church" for special events such as Christmas. The indigenous ministry plans to begin construction of its new building even though funding has not yet been secured to complete it. Pastor Matta said God has provided so far, and he is trusting that He will provide the remaining amount.

One reason the church's facility is bursting at the seams is that refugees continue to stream into Turkey from troubled countries and are responding to the gospel. The aid pastor Matta's church provides helps spread the Good News among them and elevates the church's standing among Turkish neighbors, he said.

"Our ministry to the refuges from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Syria continues effectively, and many are those who turn to the Lord in faith," he said. "We are indebted to you for your assistance, enabling us to show our love towards these needy people. Please keep praying for our ministry through the Internet and New Testament distribution."

To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call (434) 977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 400CPME. Thank you!

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