Students share heritage and hope in Turkey
A lush nation on the shores of the Aegean Sea, Turkey proved to be fertile ground for a nine-day student trip over fall break, Sept. 28-Oct. 7. Six Southwestern Seminary students visited four of the seven churches of Revelation and talked with the Turkish people about their faith.
Christina Windom, a Master of Divinity student, says the group went as tourists hoping to learn about Islam and Christian heritage. With Western Turkey as their base, they were able to learn about both of these subjects as well as share their testimonies and pray for the Turkish people they met with a guide as their translator.
“It amazed me that in the town just outside of Ephesus’ ruins, people had never heard the Gospel, and it was such a humbling honor to get to be a part of telling them,” says RoChelle McMeans, secretary for Southwestern’s World Missions Center. “We were hopefully able to encourage them, and they were most definitely an encouragement to us.”
“Although Turkey is predominantly Muslim, it was wonderful to be able to witness and at the same time be a part of what God is doing in the hearts of people there,” McMeans says. “We were able to have many conversations and share about what Jesus has done in our lives and can do in their lives as well. At some point during the week, I lost count of the number of people we had shared with, but all of them seemed very intentionally orchestrated by God.”
Windom adds, “They said they had never heard the Gospel before. These are people who love to learn, and we did see some salvations on the trip. We stayed in Selcuk, outside the apostle John’s tomb. Turkey has such a rich biblical heritage, and people drive by these sites every day, completely blind to their meaning.”
The students found Turks to be very receptive to discussions about Christianity. “We often have an idea what people are going to be like,” Windom says, “but they were more open to talking about religion than people in the States.” Based on references to Jesus in the Quran, she says, they were able to expand on points in common.
The Southwesterners made it a point to develop relationships rather than launch debates, Windom says. “It was very conversational,” she continues. “[Our professor] told us that starting debates won’t win hearts.”
Because of her experience in Turkey, Windom, whose studies focus on North American church planting, plans to devote time to overseas ministry after graduation as well. “I had been praying for a ministerial directive. This definitely changed my perception of the Islamic faith, and is something I felt called to.”