Building Bridges for the Gospel Among Turks
Like many Muslims, a university student named Onur came to faith in Christ because of a dream. When he professed that faith to his Turkish family, they immediately kicked him out of the house and cut ties with him. His uncle, a resident of a large European city, even flew home to stage an intervention, hoping to persuade Onur to see his error and return to Islam. It didn’t work. Onur found a local church, received mentoring in the faith, and married a Christian woman named Alif.
Alif had grown up under rare circumstances in Turkey—her parents were believers, and it was she who first spoke to Onur about Jesus when they met at university. After they married, Onur and Alif began working with a Christian organization in their own country.
After several years and now in their thirties, the couple began to dream of reaching their own people on a broader scale. Their vision centered around ministry to Turkish immigrants in Europe. So many of their countrymen and women were living in European cities, where opportunities to hear the Gospel, attend church, and study the Bible abounded.
If we could reach and disciple Turks in Europe, they concluded, those people will take the Gospel back to Turkey when they go home to visit and interact with their relatives and friends!
Could they even do this? If so, they wondered, then where? With whom would they partner? Would they be on their own, or would God lead them to like-minded co-workers?
When Onur and Alif first made contact with Greater Europe Mission, little did they know that an American couple shared their dream. GEM workers George and Kate had met while ministering in Turkey as singles. With a continuing desire to minister to the people they loved, they married and eventually moved to a large city in Europe to focus on church planting among Turkish immigrants.
Knowing of George and Kate’s heart for the Turks, GEM put them in contact with Onur and Alif. After a virtual conversation, the two couples realized their visions aligned almost perfectly. Could it be that God had brought them together?
Onur flew to Europe to meet with George and Kate. When George took the short, bearded Turk to a local café in an immigrant neighborhood, Onur wasted no time in sharing his faith with one of the Turkish owners of the establishment. To George’s surprise, it turned out that Onur disliked Turkish black tea, but he fully shared George’s passion for reaching his countrymen.
It appeared that if Onur moved to that European city, he would hit the ground running!
In the streets of the Turkish neighborhood, Onur heard his native language spoken all around him. Conservative Muslims with beards flipped prayer beads, while secular, assimilated Turks walked past in skinny jeans and T-shirts. Some of the women wore full, black burqas, while others wore pants and high heels. Buskers played the saz, a traditional Turkish stringed instrument, as the smell of hookah pipes and grilled meat wafted out of cafés.
Here, mosques had no minarets. Located instead in storefront buildings, they served as religious and cultural centers for Turkish immigrants trying to make a home in a foreign land.
As George and Kate spoke in depth with Onur, they learned that he and his wife wanted to build bridges of cultural exchange between people of the local host country and Turkish immigrants. Over these bridges, the Gospel was sure to cross freely. George and Kate had been wanting the exact same thing! More and more, it seemed not only their visions, but their strategies aligned.
There seemed no end to the ways in which God had taken care of the details. When George introduced Onur to Miray, a local Turkish Christian with whom he ministered, the two found to their great surprise that she and Onur were both part of the same ethnic sub-demographic within Turkey, even speaking the same dialect.
The young Turkish couple had been open to working anywhere in Europe. But when it became clear that God had led them to partner with George and Kate, they knew they were headed for exactly the right spot.
Onur and Alif are a remarkable example of how God is mobilizing the peoples of the world to reach Europe and beyond by sending workers from various people groups to their own countrymen in European cities. Equipped by discipleship and biblical training, these people will take the Gospel back home.
If you would like to know more about ministry to Turks in Europe or how you can help support Onur and Alif, visit here.
About the author:
Jenny Garrity is a storyteller with Greater Europe Mission. Jenny and her husband Kim joined GEM in 1984. They have served in Germany, Belgium, and most recently, Greece in response to the refugee crisis.