Tears for the Beloved Turks

by Todd Wood

My Delight

On March 19, 2007, in New York City, I met some Turks for the first time. These people were neat. Why the initial acquaintance? Turkish Air had just given me, an American Christian pastor, a big-time discount on the flight price to visit. threemartyrs.jpgIt was a rare deal—$777 for 10 days (included the overseas flight, accommodations in five-star resort motels, and food—absent the pork—fit for a king). For Turkey’s administration of tourism, it is an investment, and they hope I won’t disappoint them in the days ahead. Well, I don’t plan to.

In meeting some of the Turkish passengers heading back to their homeland, one of them, a mountaineer, told me he had recently climbed 16,945-foot Mount Ararat with a few buddies. And as a begging Idahoan, I shared, “Next time, take me.” With my fluffy pink pillow and soft, light-blue, fleece blanket, compliments of Turkish Air, I dozed off, dreaming of Noah’s Ark on the trip across the Atlantic Ocean.

That night, my wife and I stepped onto Turkish soil. If you think skiing in deep virgin powder in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is exciting, the experience pales in comparison to the adventure in the land of Turkey, an archaeological and church history paradise. The amount of ancient sites to explore is staggering. I have only begun to investigate all the vast treasure in this land where the bones of Christianity took shape. In contrast, now the country currently swims in the colors of green (color of Islam, garden of Eden), blue (the turquoise water), and red (the blood of the martyrs fighting the crusaders). But with this trip to Turkey (who needs more trips to Israel?), I am hooked on the land. It is very easy to fall in love with the land and its people.

My Shock

On April 18, 2007, a group of young, radical Muslims brutally killed three Christian men (see photo) in the apricot town of Malatya, east of conservative Kayseri, where my wife and I touched down by plane. At the end of March, I was clambering all over an obscure out-of-the-way hill tagged as ancient Lystra where zealous Jews had stoned Paul and left him for dead. Meanwhile, fervent Muslims not too far away in a university city had one thing on their minds—the deaths of a Christian missionary and two Muslims who had converted to Christianity. One of the brothers in my tour group, who sponsors a certain ministry to persecuted Christians, was the first to e-mail me about the occurrence when the Turkish media spotlighted the event.

My Tears

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, May 5, 2007, I read a letter (To the Global Church from the Protestant Church of Smyrna) that was sent to me earlier by e-mail. I wept. Our church family prayed that night. I cried some more as I read it to them. On May 8, I read letters from Christian brothers Ahmet Guvener, Ihsan Ozbek, and Zekai Tanyar (e-mailed to me from Nathan and Nicole Pitchford in Kazakhstan). I wept some more. On May 9, I placed my wife’s letter to the families on my blog site.

My Plea

On January 13, 2007, Marvin Olasky asked Dinesh D’Souza in a World interview, “Wouldn’t secularist approaches, as in Turkey, increase the possibility for liberty?” The author of the book Enemy at Home responded, “No Muslim country is going the way of Turkey, and even Turkey has stopped going the way of Turkey.” Friends, this alarms me.

I have been told that only five to seven percent of the practicing Muslims in Turkey are fundamentalistic, ultra, or radical. And since the secular Turkish army is trusted more than some of the politicians, they are supposed to ensure that none of those within the seven percent fundamentalist Muslim arena rise to political power.

In Turkey, the radicals are criticized. You can read it in the national papers. It is taught that the biggest sin is to kill somebody in the name of religion! But does the government have a hidden agenda? Is there a leaning toward fundamentalist tendencies? I wonder.

Certainly, most Muslim countries don’t like Turkey. And radical Turkish Muslims despise the “polytheistic, morally evil, Christian-crusading Americans.” The Turkish Christians are the best hope for a bright testimony of Christ among their people. We must pray for them now, and we must pray regularly.

My Joy

In World magazine (May 5, 2007), Jill Nelson wrote, “What unfolded between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on April 18 could add another chapter to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.” In Idaho Falls, among the artifacts of the Ink & Blood exhibit at the Museum of Idaho, is a 1576 (third edition) Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It is opened to pages 946-947, where you can see a picture of godly martyrs being burned together. I wish I could pull off the protective case that protects this book in a humidity-controlled environment and personally write the new addendum, for the story needs to be told.

What is God doing? Is the sovereign God of the nations positioning His work among those in Turkey, roughly the size of Texas? Is God moving full circle? Turkey experienced missionary work—awakening, persecution, advancement, establishment, corruption, overthrow—but now is back to missionary work, awakening, and persecution. Two of the seven wonders of the world were in Anatolia, The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus and Mausoleum of Halicarnasus (Bodrum). But there is a greater wonder. The one true God is on the move in modern-day Turkey! And I am thrilled! Someday soon, I desire to again step foot in this land where God is being glorified by the words and lives of the redeemed.

A Concluding Testimony

In my neck of the woods, LDS friends see some of the mockery in “faith alone” lifestyles of some evangelicals. But Necati was inwardly transformed and truly lived the “faith alone” doctrine. Just recently, SGI (Student Global Impact) e-mailed me this letter by Necati.

My Dearest Mother and Father and Brothers,

First of all, I greet you with the Almighty name of Lord Jesus Christ and kiss you.

After much confusion and clashes we had, I have decided with a definite decision to guard and to live my faith in Jesus Christ and I have also decided to be away from you, so that I can guard this truth dearly. This decision is not out of fear or out of something I desired, however it is purely my decision (reasoning) out of long long discussions with myself, going back and forth in my mind. I have returned back to where I belong; To Jesus and His church. As you are my biological family, I also have a spiritual family. Do not be afraid and worried about the fact that I am leaving you. Do not be sad and do not cause harm on yourselves. Because I am saved with a great eternal gain and I am not a loss. In other words, you now have a son who is saved. Rejoice for this fact! I have gained this salvation through my faith in Jesus Christ alone. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… or people? The strength that I have in my veins to live and to be saved is connected to Jesus by faith alone. To live without Him is to deserve death and eternal punishment forever.

In our relationship which will continue after this, I will love you as your child and brother and I will always be in touch with you and I will always pray for you, I will pray for your salvation. I would like to request from you to not call me in any way, but wait in patience a little bit until your feelings of hatred are erased and until those feelings are replaced with the understanding of love and compassion. And most importantly, I would like you to get to know Jesus who is the way, and the truth, and the life. I desire you to put your faith in Him and gain eternal salvation.

I love you. May my Lord cause you to meet His Truth. Amen.


Todd WoodTodd Wood is pastor of Berean Baptist Church (Idaho Falls, ID). He received his B.A. in Missions, M.A. in Theology, and M.Div. from Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC). But more than anything he hungers for the A.I.G. degree affixed to Apelles (Rom. 16:10). He also operates a blog called Heart Issues for LDS.
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