Clare (surname not given for security reasons) is married with two children and is a member of her local Baptist church. She has worked in Turkey with the Kids in Turkey children’s ministry, helping at the outreach camps in particular. She is a founding KIT Trustee and will be leading a short-term team to Turkey in July this year to help Ibrahim and his team celebrate the 20th anniversary of the camps. Here she tells the story…
In 1990, two single women – one from Germany and one from Holland – were strongly advised against starting a children’s ministry in Turkey. It’s too dangerous, they were told – and indeed it was. Yet their love of children, the belief that God had called them, and the sheer number of children under the age of 18 years (almost half the population) spurred them on.
As a result, 1990 became the year of the first Children’s Outreach Camp in Turkey.
The first miracle was that these two women, only one generation removed from the atrocities of the Second World War, were called to minister together. Then there is the miracle of Turkish parents releasing their children to be looked after by foreigners. In Turkish culture parents do not always trust their relatives, let alone “yabanci’s,” or non-Turks.
At the first camp, three children came. By the third there were more than 20 camping in the most rudimentary of conditions. A breakthrough was starting to happen, trust was strengthening, and the reputation of the camps as a safe, fun and loving place to be was being established.
At the third camp, death threats came because of their Christian faith. Guns and knives were brandished. The teachers had to make a decision: stand on their calling to minister to the kids, or give in to fear. They and the kids stood their ground, and prayed hard all night … and were spared.
The reigning spirit over Turkey (and some would say over Islam), is fear. Yet the Bible teaches us that the Christian response to fear is love, for perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
From such a violent attack on a ministry that had just been birthed, the children’s workers have continued to stand on God’s love for the children of Turkey as the reason for continuing, no matter what. They have pioneered Christian children’s literature, children’s ministry training seminars, leadership development, and continue to invite Christian and Muslim children to their annual outreach camps. It’s incredible, as the camps are only legal because parents give written permission to let their kids go, with the police checking this out every year.
The risks are just as real now as they were 20 years ago, and the miracle of kids hearing the gospel at camp in a Muslim nation is a testimony to the God we serve. From the two women who started the ministry, it has now been in Turkish leadership for several years. That in itself is amazing, given that there are only between 3,000 and 4,000 known Christian believers in a population of around 73 million.
As Ibrahim, the current Turkish director of the ministry, says: “God has not given us permission to stop the work, so we do not give ourselves permission to stop, despite difficulties.”
Wayne, a Trustee for Kids In Turkey (KIT – a New Zealand Charitable Trust that supports the children’s ministry), shared Ibrahim’s testimony this way:
“His personal story is hard for a lot of us to comprehend ... born in a strong Muslim household, accepting Christ as a young teenager (after his mother became a believer), and having his father abandan the family after he gave them the ultimatum of ‘Choose between me or Jesus.’
“His father had nothing to do with his family after that (he didn’t even attend the funeral of Ibrahim’s mother two years ago), but Ibrahim did not give up on him. In fact, over the last two years he found where he lived, visited, and ... presented the Gospel to him more than once.
“Forgiveness is not common in Muslim society. In fact, it would be seen as a sign of weakness in a culture where acts of revenge are accepted as the norm. I am sure that many of us would fully understand if Ibrahim had wanted nothing to do with his father after he left the family. Ibrahim had to leave school and take whatever menial jobs he could get in order to support his mother and sisters. He suffers from some spinal problems that are partly caused by the lack of healthy food in his teenage years.
“But that’s not what happened. Because God reached out to Ibrahim and showed him forgiveness through Jesus, Ibrahim wanted nothing more than for his earthly father to discover the same thing for himself” (from the KIT February 2010 prayer newsletter).
Love and forgiveness are two ways of opposing Islamic strongholds of fear and retribution. These are at the heart of what spurred those two women on 20 years ago, and what Ibrahim and his team demonstrate today as they continue to reach out to children and families in Turkey with the gospel.
With Gallipoli on our minds this April, it’s an apt time to be challenged about how we can make a spiritual difference in Turkey.
Greg Fulton, who has attended Hamilton Central Baptist Church for 14 years, has taken up this challenge.
He was involved in fundraising to get a child to camp last year, and this year is “back for more.” He’s organising a church garage sale to raise funds to help a child or children get to the outreach camp in Turkey this June/July.
Greg sees organising the garage sale as a good opportunity for the church to get behind a good cause, meet new people, have fun, and have an opportunity to reach out to the public who come to the garage sale.
He’s excited about what his team can do to help beat the odds of so few believers in a land that was once the birthplace of Christianity.
It costs $450 for one child to go to camp. It’s an achievable goal, either by fundraising or by asking for donations. KIT is running a “Let’s get a child to camp” campaign with all proceeds going directly to Ibrahim and the children’s ministry.