By Frank R. Parrish with Keith G. Balser
At least twenty people were saved and forty others filled with the Holy Spirit when World MAP Director Frank Parrish and other ministry team members from the United States held leadership training conferences last fall in Turkey. Several local pastors joined the ministry team as they preached and taught in the capital city of Ankara and the southern city of Adana (near the Apostle Paul’s birthplace in Tarsus).
Open And Responsive
The attendees were “very open and responsive,” Frank said following the conferences. The Turks, he noted, are “wide open to the Gospel.”
Prayer times following the day-long teaching sessions lasted up to two hours, during which many people were healed and some delivered from demonic bondage; others spoke in tongues for the very first time.
Who is Jesus?
Can I trust the Bible?
Is it true what the Imams (Muslim teachers) have told us about Christianity?
How can I talk to another Muslim about Christ?
What can I believe in?
What is real?
These are the kinds of questions people were asking. Frank and the ministry team answered them clearly and authoritatively, yet “with gentleness and respect” (1Pet 3:16 niv).
“Turkey is ripe for wholesale evangelism,” Frank observed, “but it has to be done carefully, since there is still a lot of antagonism against Christianity. But if it is done wisely, with good leadership, I think there could be a phenomenal growth in the number of Christians in Turkey virtually overnight.”
Clarity And Candor
In every message he preached, Frank included a bold Gospel message. “I presented it clearly so that there was no misunderstanding.”
Frank talked about three things (among others) Christianity offers that no other religion in the world has:
- Salvation is a gift from God. You don’t work for it; you can’t earn it. It is given as a gift.
- Believers have the presence of God – both within us when we receive Christ as Savior (Eph 3:17,19), and with us when two or more believers are gathered (Matt 18:20). No other religion has God’s abiding presence. This is unique to Christianity.
- Believers have the power of God available to us. He is willing to give His power to us, to touch and change our lives; and through us as we pray for others.
Frank also candidly acknowledged the historical failures of Christians through the centuries. “What God gave us in Christ is perfect,” he told the seminar attendees. “However, what we’ve done with it – how we’ve twisted it for selfish gain, ignored parts of it, not understood it – that’s our failure, not God’s.”
Approximately three thousand of Turkey’s estimated 63 million people are Bible-believing, evangelical, Spirit-filled Christians. The rest are either practicing Muslims, or else “nominal” Muslims who see Islam primarily as a cultural tradition and lack the religious fervor found in Iraq, Iran and the Arab world.
There is a huge population of educated 15 to 25-year-olds, who are westernized, secularized and agnostic – yet spiritually hungry. Millions in Turkey are yearning for something that neither Islam nor secularism can give them: salvation and the assurance of eternal life.
Turkish people are eager to hear the Gospel, but care must be taken in presenting it, Frank said. It is best, he added, to “show people the truth without openly criticizing Mohammed or Islam.”
It is important to remember that even the highly educated, secularized youth have been indoctrinated by the Imams on the “evils” of Christianity. As an example, Frank cited the Crusades of the mideaval ages.
While it is perfectly legal to become a Christian and practice Christianity in Turkey, those who convert from Islam to Christianity still face persecution. They are considered “infidels” by Muslims, and may lose their jobs. Some are completely rejected by their families, a costly sacrifice since the extended family is extremely important in Turkish culture and society.
Although they pay these costs for accepting Christ in Turkey, it is a far cry from 26 years ago when Frank made his first trip to this suffering nation. Back then, Christians could still be executed for their faith!
“Please Pray For My Daughter”
“We’re happy you’re here,” Frank said, welcoming the Turkish police who appeared at every conference meeting, carrying radios and taking notes. “Any one of us on the team would be happy to talk with you about any question you have about anything we’ve said or anything that’s happening in this service. We’re here to support the nation of Turkey. We’re not here to take anything. We’re here to give!”
The officers, though not unfriendly, were noncommittal.
“Please pray for my daughter,” he asked. “She needs to be healed.”
The team prayed for her, and Frank saw to it that “every one of those Turkish police officers heard the Gospel – several times!”
The Lord Is Drawing Them!
Even when there is no one to preach the Gospel to them, God is drawing people near in Turkey.
Pastor “John” (not his real name) is one of those people. Now a Turkish pastor, the young man was formerly a “thoroughly committed Muslim,” said Frank.
“He had become increasingly dissatisfied with Islam,” Frank explained. “Spiritually he was feeling terribly empty.” Like many Turkish Muslims, John eventually abandoned Islam and became agnostic, pursuing a secular lifestyle.
Yet he still felt that terrible emptiness….
He was exposed to the Gospel several times; finally he reached a point where he cried out, “God – I want You in my life!”
A short time later, a man gave John’s roommate a Bible. The roommate wanted nothing to do with it. But John remembered the visitor who had come and left the Bible.
Later, John met another man who told him, “I read my Bible every day!”
So John thought: “Here are two people who think the Bible is really important and read it all the time. Maybe I ought to read it….”
John began reading the Bible his roommate had rejected. Simply by reading the Scriptures, John was saved and gave his heart to Christ.
“It’s exciting what the Lord is doing in countries like Turkey to reach out to these people,” said Frank. “Even when there are few Christians witnessing to them, the Lord is still drawing them!”
A Recurring Dream
The Lord is drawing them in other ways, too.
We have heard reliable accounts of Turkish non-believers having dreams – often recurring dreams – about Jesus.
It is always the same dream, no matter who has it:
The face of a man appears in the dream. It is a man whose name they do not know, whose face they do not recognize. It is a gentle, kind face, surrounded by a bright, white aura – clearly supernatural.
Soon after having this dream, the non-believer, by an apparent “coincidence” (but really by God’s timing), meets a Christian; the Christian, when told of the dream, informs him that the man who appeared in the dream is Jesus.
“Anna” (not her real name) is a highly intellectual university graduate, born and raised a Muslim. (Like many young Turkish intellectuals, she was a Muslim only by culture and tradition.)
Anna became curious about Christianity. After two years of attending church, where she was exposed to the Gospel, Anna wanted to know God.
She turned to the Lord’s Prayer, which had been mentioned often in the church.
As she prayed and meditated, Anna felt a powerful yet gentle presence.
“What is it you want?”
“I want to know you, God,” she replied.
Suddenly a gust of wind swept over her face. A man appeared before her, and she knew it was Jesus.
His face was so bright she could only look down; when she did so, she saw the nail prints in His hands and feet. He reached out His hand, touching her, and she went down under the power of the Holy Spirit!
She awoke sometime later and immediately went to church, where she made a public declaration of her faith in Christ. When Frank spoke to her, it was clear by her expression and tone that something sovereign had happened to her.
“She was glowing,” Frank recalled.
Dreams and visions, like Anna and others are having in Turkey, are occurring more and more frequently all over the world – especially in places of hostility to the Gospel.
Frank is convinced that “God wants Turkey for His very own – very much.”
The strategically located country was the scene for the first major missionary endeavors of the Church. Now, 2000 years later, it can be a busy stepping-off place into the vast Muslim world.
There are Turkish-speaking people in northern Iraq and Iran, Afghanistan, and the southern republics of the former Soviet Empire. Turkish-speaking people in Romania and Bulgaria are also coming to Christ in large numbers.
There are people who are linguistically related to the Turks all the way across Asia into Mongolia.
“Turkey,” Frank believes, “represents the single greatest opportunity in a Muslim country for Christianity to take root and change the face of a nation, and thereby of surrounding Muslim nations as well.
“We need to make an investment in leadership,” he continues. “We need to train the leaders. We can’t always be there to answer all the questions people have; but if we teach the leaders – and provide them with materials that will enable them to teach others – they will be the ones who will bring in and conserve the Harvest.”
The Time Is Now
And that is what World MAP has been doing for four decades: Training Third-World church leaders who can, in turn, teach and train others.
The time is now to provide training materials to raise up and train Turkish church leaders and equip them to win their people to Christ – and even to raise up evangelists who will carry the Gospel even deeper into the vast Muslim world.
It is up to us to pray and provide: Pray for the church leaders in Turkey, and for laborers to go into the Harvest (Matt 9:37,38) – and provide them with valuable Christian training materials such asThe Shepherd’s Staff.
“Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” May we heed these words of Jesus, working together to “gather fruit for eternal life” (John 4:35,36).
SERIOUS THREAT TO HARVEST?
A Recent Update
An Islamic fundamentalist political party swept to power in Turkey’s November 2002 elections, winning enough Parliament seats to swing the control of the government.
This could be an ominous sign of rising Islamic fervor in that hitherto moderate, Western-supporting nation.
Please pray that God will protect and strengthen Turkish believers. Pray that religious freedoms will not be diminished. Pray for Islam’s influence to be broken, and for the Gospel to spread throughout Turkey “as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14).