Christians in Turkey Faithful amid Dangers
March 23, 2017
When a young woman from a strict Muslim family recently showed up at a church service on Turkey's Black Sea coast, the pastor could not have known she had seen him before – in a dream.
He might have guessed that she had seen him preach on weekly Web posts of the church's services, but he confessed to doubting that the Webcasts were yielding much fruit.
"I sometimes wonder," the pastor said, "how many people watch the videos, and what is the result? Many are watching the videos, but why do they not believe?"
The leader of an indigenous ministry reaching Turkey's 96-percent Muslim population, Pastor Matta (full name undisclosed for security reasons) was encouraged to learn that the online sermons had impressed the young woman. He could tell from her manner of dress, including headscarf, that she came from a Muslim family that would not approve of her attendance at worship.
She told him her story in tears.
"I did not know you, and I hated the Christians, and for this reason I was intending to make fun of you when I started watching your videos in the Internet," she said. "But the things I was hearing from you spoke to me of the love I was always looking for, and the words of faith and courage were doing away with my fears."
Though she had been afraid to come to his church, she wanted to become a Christian, so after some time she took the step of giving her heart to the Lord, she said.
She did not dare visit the worship until Jesus appeared to her in a dream.
"These kinds of situations occur often in our country, sometimes with wolves entering our church disguised as sheep and threatening the children of God, and at other times with family pressures," the director said.
"In my dream, Jesus led me to the church, telling me, "What are you still waiting for? Follow my way,'" she told the pastor. "And I saw all of you in there waiting for me, smiling at me. Before I met you, I saw you in my dream. Thanks be to God."
Pastor Matta said he returned home after talking with her and looked up her Facebook page. He was stunned to find she frequently shared the gospel there.
"I then told her to be careful in doing this because of the resentment she might cause," he said. "I am still worried because of the likely opposition of her family and of her surroundings, and I please ask you to pray for her so that she may grow in the faith, and may gain an entrance to a university of another city."
Pastor Matta said he was heartened that the living God is bringing people to Himself in this way.
"This is really a miracle," he said. "If these things happened 2,000 years ago, they are still happening today. This young girl still wearing her headscarf, having hundreds of friends in Facebook, does not stop spreading the gospel to others."
When such things happen, though, Satan does not remain idle, he added. A young Muslim man who recently put his faith in Christ is in serious trouble from his family.
"Since his family found out about his conversion, he is constantly threatened by them that he is to be disowned," he said. "He is very young and pure in heart and loves the Lord. Please pray for him, that he may feel the presence of God supporting him and that he may endure this time of trial. And pray also for wisdom for us to give him right counsel when he comes to us with his problems."
Such hostility hits Christians in Turkey atop the chaotic atmosphere in the population generally from arbitrary incarcerations, shuttered institutions and discrimination as the country's president retaliates for a failed coup last July. Amid this new tension, the societal hostility that new Christians experience is longstanding and common, the pastor said.
"These kinds of situations occur very often in our country, sometimes with wolves entering our church disguised as sheep and threatening the children of God, and at other times with family pressures," he said. "But nonetheless, the work of the Lord is not arrested."
Islamic State (ISIS) militants and Kurdish rebels continue to present violent threats, and Pastor Matta requested prayer for the cessation of terrorist bombings, for economic rebound and for protection of security personnel at his church and a daughter congregation in another town.
"There are now two policemen on guard outside each church against attacks from ISIS, and, moreover, I have a policeman as a personal guard," he said. "Please pray that God may protect them and be gracious to grant them eternal life. Sometimes when I am busy, they are humble enough to escort people around when they come to visit our church building."
Turkey remains the country receiving the most refugees from Syria, and the indigenous ministry has seen some of them come to Christ, adding to the numbers of the church in the second city. Recently 15 refugees attended baptismal classes before being baptized, he said.
"Apart from this, the regular congregation of this new church is now around 60-70 people," he said. "To be honest, this is beyond my expectations, as I would have been happy with 10-15 people in two years' time. But now people keep coming to church, and some in order to find a place to sit come early and wait for the door to open. We praise God for this blessing and grace to us, and we are grateful to you for your love towards us and your generous assistance."
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