A 6th century baptistry. See the steps on either side? It ain’t big.
In Turkish culture we don’t have baptism…’
We were walking through an ancient basilica, looking at an old baptistry– something from the 5th or 6th century, ironically when baptism was very much a part of Turkish culture.
The statement made me stop in my tracks. I thought about all the things I had learned and seen so far on this trip. The matter of factness with which she said it, juxtaposed with the lives of people who were giving everything they had to make it not true arrested me. It cut through the heat of the Ephesian sun. It snapped me out of my exhaustion. I felt tears welling up.
There are an estimated 4000 followers of Jesus in Turkey, a nation of 75million. For comparison, there are an estimated 4million followers of Jesus in Turkey’s southeastern neighbor, Iran. Those 4million Iranian Christians have happened in spite of [and most say because of] the immense persecution that followers of Jesus experience in Iran.
Turkey is by far one of the most ‘unreached’ places on the planet. The ‘big cities’ are in the western half– Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Antalya. They are more secular than Muslim. For example, we were with Turks for 8 straight days, the call to prayer went out 5 times every day, yet I never saw one person stop to pray. In the eastern half, the people live in smaller towns. There is more conflict and hostility [especially with the Kurds]. And the people are more conservative and adherent to Islam. Many different strategies are needed to build relationships and talk about Jesus. God give us creativity!
My friend was, of course [and sadly], correct. Culturally speaking, to be Turk is to be muslim. And so, ‘in Turkish culture we don’t have baptism…’
My heart has been enlarged for this place. My prayers have faces and names next to them. I join with those who say, maybe in my lifetime we will see something remarkable…
Come Lord Jesus with the mighty power of your Holy Spirit. Bring freedom, hope, and the Father’s love.
PS. Today we are in Istanbul meeting with a university professor. Our church is blessed with VERY good contacts. These conversations have been so good. I am so grateful to our Lord.