A week ago, myself and the other workers I'm here in Turkey with went up to an ancient castle that overlooks the city of Izmir. As we looked down on about 4 millions people, hardly any of whom have heard the Gospel, I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. My desire is to see this city that was once Smyrna return to Jesus, but...4 million people. As we prayed over the city, however, the Lord took away my hopelessness and reminded me that he is in control, and all I have to do is be faithful. He also brought to mind two Turks whom I have had the priviledge in my short time here of seeing baptized, and they give me hope. I'd like to briefly introduce you to them (and their changed names :)
First of all there is Steve. A few months ago, Steve, who is a senior in High School, had already been seeking truth and had been spending a lot of time with the Islamic Imams (like a Rabbai or Pastor) at various mosques, asking them questions about life and Islam. The more he learned, however, the more he became dissatisfied with Islam, until he got to the point where he was practically dismissing it. He had more questions than he began with. Then, about six months ago, Steve met one of our American football coaches on a basketball court, and they struck up a friendship. Steve quickly saw something different in him, and began to ask all kinds of questions, which he was able to answer with Jesus. He gave Steve a Bible, and Steve ate it up, reading it every chance he got. I'm tearing up just writing this, but the Holy Spirit moved in Steve's life, and a couple months ago, Steve accepted Christ into his life. He was baptized about three weeks ago in the coache's bathtub.
Steve is so excited about the truth he has found, and I've overheard him sharing about Jesus with other guys during water-breaks on the practice field. He is also bring his Bible to school and sharing with his classmates, and they have even had some in-class discussions about Christianity. There is nothing on this earth like someone coming to Christ, especially in this land so lacking the joy of salvation in Jesus, and I'm beyond excited about how God is going to use Steve to bring about his Kingdom here in Turkey.
A second baptism I've been able to witness is Eddie, who is one of the smileliest, friendliest people on this earth. Eddie has believed in Christ for years now, but has been very closeted about it. His parents are extremely against Christianity, and have torn up every Bible Eddie has ever owned. He admits that in the past, he was scarred to be baptized, as here where Christians are few, baptism is a very real way to say to the world that one is following Christ. My former roommate, who moved back to the states just a couple months ago, struck up a friendship with Eddie about a year ago, and my ex-roomie's mentor, began discipling him soon after. Eddie loves American breakfast, and my ex-roomie used to have him over at least once a week for pancakes and eggs, and through that avenue, Eddie has entered into my life.
Recently, Eddie's mother was diagnosed with having cancer and multiple tumors, which the doctors were unsure what to do about. Ex-roomie, his mentor, and Eddie went to the hospital, laid hands on her, and in the name of Jesus prayed for healing. A couple days later, the doctors could not find anything wrong with her and she's been home and healthy ever since. That was it for Eddie, he'd witnessed a miracle and seen God move in his own life, and he decided it was time to surrender to Christ, get baptized, and proclaim Jesus to the world (Gosh, didn't think this update was going to turn into a tearfest for me....). Anyways, this past Wednesday he was baptized in a little church here in Izmir in front of thirty or so believers, most of whom were missionaries.
There are still millions of people in this country that have never heard of Christ, and at times it feels overwhelming. But Steve and Eddie give me hope. I've seen the Spirit move in their lives, and I am confident he is going to use them to help usher in His Kingdom here. And they are only two examples. I've heard stories from other missionaries here of other Turks that have accepted Christ recently. God is working here.
And we're blessed to be a part of that work that God is doing. I'm thankful that this is where God has called me.