With the economy in his Middle Eastern country in tatters and his wife leaving him, Mohammad* saw no hope for himself or his young daughter.
He was bitter, though not surprised, about his wife abandoning not only him but their 9-year-old daughter; his ex had always been emotionally unstable, and she had made it clear that she wanted to erase her past and start over entirely. He spent most nights drinking the memory of her into oblivion.
His daughter was largely uncared for during the day as well, when he would look for odd jobs, usually without success.
“They were very poor, and when he took out a loan, he spent it on alcohol and other nasty habits. Then he came to Turkey as a refugee and decided to repent of these bad habits and return to his Shiite religion,” said a native of that area of Turkey, undisclosed for security reasons, who works for a Christian ministry. “Yet he admitted that he found no peace in his heart from any devotion to his old religion. He felt sure he would suffer a lot of penalties for living such a wicked life. He was sure he would be sentenced to hell, and that there was no hope for him.”
Turkey receives more than 64 percent of all refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan, and migrants from those countries seeking asylum often show up at the ministry center seeking help. There Mohammad met another Middle Eastern refugee who invited him to his apartment, where the new arrival noticed he had an Arabic New Testament.
The Shiite Muslim asked to borrow it, and the refugee gladly obliged; also raised a Muslim, he had been attending the native ministry’s Bible studies and was thinking he would soon become a Christian. Native missionaries had given him several New Testaments to share with others, and he gave Mohammad a handful of them.
Mohammad read the Gospels of Matthew and Mark before he fell asleep. Fascinated by what he had read, when he woke at 5 a.m. he immediately sent a text message to the refugee asking if he was a Christian, and if so could he explain it to him.
“I’m not able to explain it, but the pastor in our church can explain it very well,” the refugee answered, according to the missionary.
He told Mohammad that the pastor also had an online lesson plan and would be eager to personally answer any questions he had.
“This man, together with his daughter, took those lessons, and together they decided to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives,” the missionary said. “Now they are continually coming to the church and participating in any lessons being offered.”
As political, religious and ethnic violence continue to foster instability and roil economies in the Middle East, Muslims in the region are more open to the message of Christ’s saving grace than ever, native missionaries said. While Turkey’s economy is faltering, it represents great hope compared with those of war-wrecked Syria and Iraq and increasingly isolated Iran.
Iranians have a long history of taking refuge in Turkey, including 2 million who fled there after the 1979 Iranian revolution. As the economy in Iran continues to falter under the weight of sanctions imposed last year by the United States, new influxes of refugees are arriving, according to The Weekly.
“Thousands of people made the dangerous, cross-border trek last year into Turkey,” the news magazine reported recently. “Turkey is a U.S. partner that has already given shelter to many refugees. Turkish officials are engaging with nearly 4 million refugees at present. As per the reports, this is the world’s largest population of relocated people.”
U.S. sanctions, including limits on banking, oil exports and supplies to Iran’s automotive industry, were followed by Iran abruptly increasing gas prices in order to fund cash handouts, upsetting people across the country.
Such unrest throughout the region carries the ripple effect of new opportunities that astonish Christian workers in Turkey.
“God continues to perform amazing miracles,” the native missionary said. “The Lord gives opportunities to share the gospel – sometimes in a boat, sometimes on a mountain and sometimes in someone’s home – actually, anywhere at any time.”
The network of connections that expose Muslims such as Mohammad to the gospel are no accident, he said, thanking Christian Aid Mission workers and donors for their prayers.
“This wonderful miracle and connection with this brother are all God’s doing,” he said. “It’s also because of your prayers and interest in this work. Without these prayers, how would the Holy Spirit minister in such a powerful way? If you had not been praying with us, how could this man really release himself from his religion to receive a different perspective on God’s salvation message and then receive it for himself, becoming a child of God?”
Without donor help, he added, a New Testament or whole Bible would not be available to such refugees. Please consider a donation today to help native workers throughout Turkey reach people hungry for hope with eternal life in Christ.
*Name changed for security reasons