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Persecution of Christians in Turkey is more subtle than blatant. Ever since a public debacle involving an American missionary, the government has followed a new tactic. They assign various codes to the identity of foreigners that they wish to keep an eye on—or maybe eventually deny permission to stay in Turkey. Like “security threat” or “health threat” or any number of options. One of our contacts in Istanbul said that they know of hundreds of foreigners who have had this happen to them—many of them eventually had to leave the country since the courts will not hear their cases. Some are left in limbo in the country, knowing that if they leave they won’t be allowed back in. You can imagine that this is cause for great distress. The other main type of persecution is social. Muslim neighbors often file complaints against Christians, leading to police involvement, questioning, fines, denying rent—and so on. You get the idea. It just makes life difficult. Turkey is made up of so many cultures and ethnicities—but they are all held together by Islam. That leaves the Christians out in the cold.
The goal of this trip was encouragement. Turkish believers face constant pressure and opposition—it just wears on them. Matt prayed on the way over that God would allow me to be an encouragement to the believers. By His grace, God answered that prayer. As you can imagine, the government responded strongly with lockdowns during Covid—but looked the other way when Muslims ignored the restrictions—not so with Christians. They have not been able to hold any children’s programs for several years (including camps). After one of our teams stopped by to visit Pastor A on their way back from Bangladesh in February 2021, it was agreed that CampsAbroad would return when they were able to hold camps again. They have three different camps scheduled in various areas around Istanbul—for different ages. One each month.
Pastor A and his team are very committed to camp ministry because they have such a burden for the youth of Turkey. In such a hard field, where most adults are closed to the gospel it is important to plant the gospel seed in young people before the prejudices of their culture take hold. Pastor A asked Matt to teach basic counseling for young people in three different settings: with his small, camp team, with a larger group of youth workers from various churches, and with his own congregation on Sunday afternoon. It was a joy for Matt to go through the basics of “our gospel foundation” and “help with assurance of salvation” and “the Tree Model of counseling” with these dear believers. While it is a bit unusual for us not to stay over for a camp, it seems best not to attract government attention with our presence for now. Maybe someday we can return to be a part of camp.
The training was really well received. On the way to visit the rental campsite they will be using in June, Mat was able to have a debriefing about the week. Pastor A said, ““The believers here have been taught truth, but it is scattered. Your teaching helped pull it all together for us.” His wife said later, “Having you here was like a breath of fresh air. Thank you for encouraging us.” And their key camp coordinator said, “The part about salvation not being attached to a feeling really helped me.” If only you could have seen their faces as Matt pulled out the large suitcase of camp equipment that he took to leave with them—it was like Christmas in May! (They were especially excited about the megaphone 🙂
After preaching in the morning service, Pastor A asked Matt to go through some basics on the gospel and assurance of salvation (because they have several seekers and new believers attending faithfully). He didn’t know how many would stay for the discussion on a Sunday afternoon and was thrilled when practically all of them did! It was a sweet time of mutual encouragement.
Please pray for the believers in Turkey. They may not be thrown in prison or killed for their faith as is common in more radical Islamic countries, but they do face many difficulties and are plowing in hard soil. Pray that they will remain faithful to their calling and that God would continue to draw people to himself in Turkey. Ironically, they are seeing more refugees come to Christ than Turkish nationals—especially Iranians and Syrians. God works in mysterious ways, but He continues to build his church! Thank you for your support of CampsAbroad.

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