Turkey (MNN) — It's called the largest unreached people group in the world. It's a country that was the focus of the Apostle Paul's writings in Scripture, yet today it's a spiritually dark place. We're talking about the country of Turkey. It's a country in which being a Christian can cost you your life, or at the very least can cause you to be an outcast of society.
Why? Kerem Koc, pastor of the Antalya Protestant Church in Antalya, Turkey, says the number of Christians is just a blip on the radar. "I personally believe there are about 2,500 Christians in Turkey among 75 million Muslims. 1,600 years ago there were churches all over. The seven churches mentioned in Scripture were located in Turkey. Antioch, where believers were first called Christians, was in Turkey. So, it was once a very Christian country. Now it's a very dry land of non-Christians."
To be a Christian in Turkey can cost you your life, like it did on April 18, 2007 when Bible publishers Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel, and Tilmann Geske were brutally killed in Malatya in what's being called conspiracy. A book has been written about the case.
While the widows of the victims were viewed favorably by national Turks, Koc says not much has changed as Turkish people think Christians are weird and are traitors because they're not Muslim. Koc says, "People still think the same way. We still receive threatening phone calls, and people still want to kill the Turkish pastors. However, it has changed in one way: the government tries to help us more than they were doing before."
The Evangelical Alliance Mission, or TEAM, operates the government-approved St. Paul Cultural Center in Antalya. It had been closed because of bureaucratic red tape. TEAM Missionary James Bultema says, "The issue with our architect has been fully resolved, and SPCC Antalya is advancing by the day toward full operational mode. Each week, the number of activities picks up, and by the end of October we will be, Lord willing, back into full swing. One final permit is yet to be obtained, but no significant barrier stands in the way of our getting it, just a bit more work."
Pastor Koc came to Christ through the Cultural Center. "I went there to meet with a Turkish pastor and heard the Gospel; I quickly changed my life and came to Christ."
As he was discipled and received Bible training, Koc started only the second church in Antalya with a couple of people. In 18 months, 10 people have given their hearts to Christ. Now he's the pastor of a church of about 20 families. Pastor Koc says it's a challenge being a new Christian in Turkey "because all of a sudden, everything changes. One of my friends who is a lawyer came to Christ, and he said, 'Now what am I going to do? If I can't lie, I cannot be a lawyer in Turkey.' In many jobs, they ask you to lie in many situations. So, it is very difficult for Christians to find a job."
Because of the few Christians, the lack of resources to help train new believers is a huge problem. That's why Pastor Koc has started Via Christos Ministries. "Via Christos Ministries basically will provide video and audio sermons and lectures which we don't really have in Turkish. Many Turkish people don't read, but they watch TV. So, it's a way to reach people easily."
Koc says this ministry will begin to publish thousands of pieces of materials to help Christians in Turkey. He hopes Via Christos will be ready for operation by the end of the year.
In the meantime, Pastor Koc is asking you to pray. "We really need prayer about security because especially Turkish pastors' lives are still threatened in Turkey. Pray for security for me and my family because we receive threatening phone calls and mail."