Local Missionaries in Turkey
With most of its land mass in the Anatolian peninsula of western Asia and a lesser part on the Balkan peninsula of southeastern Europe, Turkey has a rich cultural and religious history and is a major political force in the region. Though overwhelmingly Muslim at 96.2 percent of the population, most adherents are nominal, as few have knowledge of the Quran, yet fiercely loyal, as Islam is integral to nationalistic fervor.
Another paradox: while Turkey has had a secular government for most of the past century, the current administration of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been marked by strongly Islamist tendencies. At the same time, the non-religious portion of the population has been growing, with estimates ranging from 3.1 percent to into the double digits. Only 0.04 percent of the population evangelical, according to Joshua Project.
Local missionaries in Turkey report unprecedented openness to the gospel among a growing number of Turkish Muslims and Muslim refugees from Syria and elsewhere. With so few evangelical Christians, however, churches can hardly support evangelists and pastors, and they need donations for their monthly expenses and for tools such as ministry vehicles vital for outreaches to refugee camps.
One effective ministry has planted churches in the Black Sea region, and they need assistance for rental of their worship places. Meantime, the demand for Bibles has increased as Muslim refugees’ disillusionment with Islam drives them to seek answers elsewhere. Local workers request assistance to keep Bibles and New Testaments in stock, as well as an apologetics book written by a native missionary. These books are distributed in refugee camps and prisons, during one-on-one outreach and in stands in front of a church building.
Media and social media are having an increasingly strong impact. One native missionary publishes a magazine that clarifies who Christ is and addresses various topics from a Christian perspective, and another has a radio program with a large audience. The latter also posts teaching and preaching on Internet outlets, reaching a potential audience of millions. Through responses to these media, local missionaries are seeing the prevalence of disillusion with Islam and interest in the person of Christ.
Sources: Joshua Project, Wikipedia
How to Pray for
- Pray for protection of local missionaries, as they are facing increasing threats and attacks in media, on the street and among powers and authorities.
- Pray that Muslims putting their faith in Christ will be protected from family and societal opposition and will find support in Christian community.
- Pray that native leadership will be developed in spite of a national ban on Christian seminaries in the country.
More stories from Turkey
Workers distributing aid at a refugee camp shared the gospel with a married couple in a tent where other relatives were present, so they were able to ask questions about the Bible and the Savior sent into the world. The couple and another relative accepted Christ, and five other relatives participate in their Bible studies and worship times.
Refugees from Syria needing clean water, food and health care are facing even greater shortages because of runaway inflation. Local missionaries are helping to meet these needs, including distributions of rice, flour, sunflower oil, sugar, salt, lentils and baby food, along with clean water, soap and feminine hygiene items. “Everything is unfortunately very expensive,” the ministry leader said.
A family suffering various illnesses was passing by a church and, having seen a film depicting foreign pastors casting out evil spirits, entered the native ministry’s office and asked for prayer. Workers prayed for them and gave them a New Testament, encouraging them to read it daily and ask Christ for help.
Many employers refuse to hire refugees, and those that do would not pay enough for them to cover rent. The refugees tell workers that they cannot return to Syria as war has turned residential areas into areas of dangerous conflict or crime. Native Christian workers are the only ones providing them food, water and other aid, opening hearts to the Bible, prayer and the gospel.
A young man who attended a native ministry’s church told the leader that he was an atheist, but after their conversation he attended weekly youth meetings. In the ensuing weeks the worker answered more of his questions about the Lord, and his heart began to soften; after hearing the leader preach on the need to trust God, the young man spoke with him and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.
Native Christian workers are seeing the Lord do amazing things. After much prayer and outreach, workers began a fellowship of Iranian refugees in one town, and in another city, a new home fellowship has begun as 12 people recently put their faith in Christ. Each week after Sunday worship, workers and church members travel to two cities more than 80 miles away to share the gospel and lead services.