It’s so difficult to know exactly where to start with a report on our missions trip. The phrase I came up with while we were there was “expect the unexpected.” No matter what we thought might happen, there was a guarantee that it wouldn’t happen that way. The Lord had different plans for us, and it awesome to see His hand closing doors and opening different ones that His will might be accomplished.
The Iranian and Turkish cultures are very different from that of the United States, and there was a little bit of culture shock for us the first day or two, but it was a wonderful experience for us to be amongst our brothers and sisters and stay right with them in their homes. My wife, Amy, my pastor/father-in-law, Don Hoffman, his wife, Mary, and sister Evelyn from our church went with us.
Unfortunately, I cannot share all the names and the details over the internet and via email as this would expose the believers who hosted and worked with us to problems with the Iranian security agents. These agents watch their families at home and have even been known to attack and kidnap Iranian refugees in Turkey.
The situation is very difficult for refugees in Turkey. They are not legally allowed to work, but the majority of them wind up working “off the books” and thus no legal protection is offered them for their treatment in the workplace. Many of them work 12 to 14 hour days doing hard labor like chopping wood, washing dishes, or cleaning. A very good wage for a refugee is 20 Turkish Lira (about $13) a day, and many times they are not even paid at all. It is very hard for them to find an employer who is honest and trustworthy, and this can be especially dangerous to the women as there are reports of sexual harassment and rape. The cost of living is quite expensive compared to what they are used to in Iran. Often they rely on family supporting them to survive. We learned of a few Christians who were homeless and moving from house to house of people that would take them in because they couldn’t find work and had no support from family .
On our first night we stayed at an apartment in Istanbul with a sister there. When we arrived, we learned that a family had just fled Iran and had arrived at the apartment that morning. Many of the refugees come through this place on their way to one of the seven cities where Turkey allows refugees to settle. This sister has quite a ministry serving fellow believers as they pass through.
From Istanbul we went to minister at a church in Eskisehir. They were in a difficult situation because they were meeting in the home of a UPC believer and weren’t able to freely teach the new believers. While we were there, things came to a head and the UPC brother said that everyone was to decide right away whether they accept serpent’s seed and the message. As they have been without a pastor for quite some time, many of them did not know much at all about the message. So on Monday night they called a meeting and the believers had to decide if they would stay with the message or go to the UPC church. Myself and brother Don were asked to lead this meeting and answer questions about the message and specifically serpent’s seed. This was a difficult situation for us to preside over. When we got into the service the UPC brother asked us to explain the message “The Rapture.” Brother Don got up and gave a wonderful explanation of it along with a solid introduction to the message and the vindication of God’s prophet. Then the believers had many questions about serpent’s seed and we spoke for several hours on each aspect, even down to many specific details such as what was Adam’s sin, why is Genesis 4:1 translated that way if Cain was the Serpent’s seed, etc. God won the victory as there proved to be many hungry souls desirous to receive more of the Word of God. It was now necessary to rent a separate facility for church because the UPC brother did not want the message preached in his home. In fact, two days after we left, we received news that the Lord had provided a perfect meeting place for the new church, and they have already had their first meeting there. I do want to mention that it was actually the UPC brother and his family who opened his home to us and housed us while in Eskisehir. They were incredibly gracious and giving to us while we were there, and we were blessed by the hospitality. Also, when we were presenting the message, his wife was in agreement with the message, so there is definitely need for prayer there in that family.
Next we travelled on to Kayseri, where there are about 20 believers that gather together. For the service there, we opened the meeting up for questions and answers. This meeting ending up going until 2:00 am. We ask that you pray for them, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.
We were planning on traveling back to Istanbul the next day, but the Lord had other plans for us. As it turned out, all the flights were booked that day, and we were forced to stay one more night in Kayseri. This turned out to be quite the blessing in two areas. First off, we were in desperate need of some rest and recuperation. Secondly, we received word that a Christian family had heard we were in town, and wanted to meet with us to ask some questions and needed prayer. This family had endured great difficulty since fleeing to Turkey. The mother and two children left Iran without their father, as they were expecting him to join them shortly, but he never came. He died mysteriously, without any explanation or reason. Shortly after that, they found out that the mother had breast cancer. The son, in his mid-twenty’s, had to quit his job to care for his mother. This left a 19 year old girl as the sole supporter of the family. She had been blessed with a good job, at a factory where it is difficult even for Turkish citizens to get a job, not to mention a refugee. We had a wonderful time with that family. What a sweet and kindred spirit each of them had! We introduced them to the life of brother Branham, and told them briefly of the purpose of the message to bring us back to the original faith. They were very eager to receive the Word, and at the end of our discussion the Holy Spirit came down in a strong way and we prayed over the mother. I have not received word back from them, but I believe with all my heart she has been healed.
The next morning we were able to catch a flight back to Istanbul, where we had the opportunity to meet a community of believers from the Congo. The Congolese refugees have a very difficult life in Turkey. Many of them do not have any papers, and therefore must bribe the immigration police in order to stay out of prison. They also have very difficult work conditions and are persecuted for their faith. We were invited to join them for their worship service on Sunday, and it was quite an amazing experience to walk out of the starchy atmosphere of Turkey and into a service where feelings, emotions, and worship is expressed freely. Brother Don and I both delivered short sermons encouraging the people in the Lord Jesus. We had a prayer line, and to hear the stories, the difficulties, and the desires of the people’s hearts were almost more than we could handle. In that short time they truly touched our hearts and we will never forget them
During our trip, we met with a brother who had been in prison in June of 2010. He was in Evin prison in the Ayatollah’s security services area, an area of prison reserved for the worst offenders against 12’er Shi’a Islam. While he was there they put a hood over his head, bound his feet and hands then slowly walked him down several flights of stairs. Then they put a noose over his head and said, “prepare to die.” He said he began to shake and he prayed, “Lord, you didn’t show me this was going to happen. I don’t believe you are done with me yet.” Then the Holy Spirit spoke to him and told him that they were bluffing. After letting him stand like that, that they took the noose off and brought him back up to his cell. They were trying to put pressure on him to recant his beliefs. We were having coffee with this same brother one morning, and we were interrupted by a phone call he received from a family member in Iran. Now, this brother had only been gone from Iran for about a week. The security services of Iran were calling his family to tell him to come back to the security office. His family told them that he was not in the city, and they replied saying that they knew he was not in the city, in fact they knew that he had left Iran, knew exactly what city in Turkey that he was in, and that he was traveling with “Americans and holding evangelistic services.” Hearing first hand accounts like these really opened our eyes to what our brothers and sisters are going through in Iran and Turkey. While Turkey is safer than Iran, it is by no means safe. It is common for Iranian secret agents to infiltrate house churches there. Believers are frequently followed, spied on, and there have been reports of them being kidnapped and taken back.
After having gone to Turkey to see the churches and saw how few ministers are there, I see a great need for missionaries to visit and work with the people. There is a huge need and opportunity to help these refugees. Most of the believers that come to Turkey are applying for refugee status through the U.N. and are on their way to permanent relocation. This process usually takes 2-3 years, so there are always believers moving on and new ones coming in. Because of this, the church is in a constant transitional phase, and it makes the spiritual needs in the churches very unique. Secondly, we saw the incredible need for more of Bro. Branham’s messages to be translated. They have access to so little in their own language. Some of them are very new to the message, but some of them have been in the message for up to 8-10 years, but are at the same stages because they have read so little of Bro. Branham. Our church is currently working with a Persian translator and has a translation process in place, and we are praying that the Lord would provide the means to increase the messages translated. The believers that we met truly found a permanent place inside our hearts, and they need our prayers and support desperately. There is an opportunity in Turkey for major outreach to other Middle Eastern countries as well, and we ask for your prayers as we seek the Lord’s will going forward with this ministry there.
There is also a place for you to look at more pictures on Facebook. Even if you are not signed up for Facebook you can view the pictures at this link: Turkey Trip Photos