Our family’s great adventure began one sweltering June evening when we landed in Istanbul - the city God had called us to. Four days later I started daily language lessons with Ali, a young Muslim who had just completed his military service and was unemployed. He needed the money from teaching and I needed a local friend to help me learn the language and culture. Little did I know he would become a great friend and a ‘man of peace’.
Within a few months spiritual conversations became a regular part of our language lessons and Ali was beginning to fall in love with Jesus. When I discovered he was a member of a political party my team leader suggested I offer to teach English to his friends at the local party HQ. In Turkey, almost all young people want to learn English so Ali gathered a group of 12 interested friends. However, when we told them the lessons would include using Bible stories some of them were put off. As lessons began only six students turned up. After lessons we would often go to a local café to discuss life, politics, football and faith.
During one of those conversations I invited one of the students, Gabe, to my home and showed him a passage from the Bible related to a topic he’d brought up in conversation. Having never seen a Bible before he was intrigued and as we read I could see he was moved. He eagerly accepted my offer to read again and this time I invited Ali to join us.
Around the same time Ali was meeting another student called Emir in a café to practice their English. Emir had no idea that Ali was reading the Bible and one evening as they were writing English sentences on a napkin Emir wrote, ‘Jesus is God’. Ali was shocked. No Muslim would ever make such a blasphemous statement.
On a napkin Emir wrote, ‘Jesus is God’
When he asked Emir why he’d written that he replied, “I don’t know. I just heard it somewhere and it seems right.” Ali knew this must be God at work.
The following week Ali, Gabe, Emir and I began reading the Bible together on a regular basis with Ali taking a lead. In the following months all 3 were baptised. This was the beginnings of the first house church in our district.
James in Istanbul
* Note names have been changed.