Two bits of good news arrived last month!
Good news #1: Last week I got a text message with a thank-you note and a picture of the beautiful baptism of a Muslim-born friend in Turkey! I studied with this man’s sweet wife Nina and baptized her in the Mediterranean Sea in 2013. She is a customer-service specialist in a five-star hotel. Her husband was indifferent to her spiritual life and demonstrated his allegiance to Islam by not attending her baptism. He was the sort of man who we thought would never would come to Christ. More proof that “nothing is impossible with God!”
It took a big family of loving people to move that man’s heart. My wife and I befriended and visited him. Nena showed him years of faithful, humble Christian love and service. Other Adventists showed him non-judgmental kindness. The MENA Union held a special Bible and Quran lectureship that sparked his attention, and a sponsored missionary family from Brazil consistently included him despite his seeming disinterest. Above all, of course, was the magnetic wooing of Christ Himself.
At Nina’s baptism, I told her, “Sister, you are the only baptized believer in this city of 1 million. I not only welcome you to the faith, but am making you the leader of this new house church (of four persons). Carry it forward with the help of the Spirit of Christ.” She has done just that. Five and a half years later, she was so proud to send me her husband’s baptism picture and a picture of the house church that began in her home, now with about 20 people!
Good news #2: While I was still walking on clouds from the joy from Nina’s good news, an email arrived from a Turkish student named Yakup. “I am keeping the Sabbath and studying the Sabbath School lesson,” he reported. Yakup watched from the beach at Nina’s baptism years before. At that time I had just begun Bible studies with him. How we first got connected is a story in itself. He contacted me with a desire to debunk Adventism! As a young university scholar, he had already accepted Christ and had studied several religions including Scientology, Mormonism, Baha’i-ism and Jehovah’s Witnesses to disprove them. So he searched out an Adventist (me) through a chain of Facebook friends. It wasn’t supposed to be a long friendship, just a chance for him to meet a live Adventist and dismiss the faith. After a two-hour Bible study, he was overcome with the possibility that our gospel was true. What I shared about the cross, the law, Jesus’ ministry and hope in judgment made sense to him and connected some dots for him in his study of scripture. He began attending the house church my wife and I had begun in Nina’s home.
At that time in Turkey, our partners, the Massey and the Smith families, were working to get The Great Controversy printed. Taking a draft on a USB drive, I went to a print shop and printed the whole book on letter-sized paper—a 10-inch stack! I gave it to Yakup and said, “You will enjoy this.” He did. I will always remember him showing up at Nina’s home on Sabbath morning with bloodshot eyes. He had read The Great Controversy in a day and a night! “It’s all true,” He said. “The prophet Daniel said a little-horn power would change times and laws. Jesus created the Sabbath, and we must worship him as our Creator as He has commanded.”
Shortly thereafter, I took Yakup with me to a Waldensian Student (tentmaker students) meeting near Istanbul, and he gave his testimony. I had hoped he would enroll in the Adventist seminary, but then I moved away from Turkey, he began working for an airline, and we lost touch.
So when his email came out of nowhere this month, I was delighted. He shared that about four months ago he married a university professor. Unfortunately, she is on a totally different track spiritually. Here is a portion of his thoughtful letter:
“I cannot forget God’s Words and Sabbath. I will keep the Sabbath on Saturdays. Actually, I am trying to wake up early on Saturday, around 6, to read the scriptures, pray and read the Sabbath School lesson. I have opportunity to work on Saturday, but I am not working and instead focus on God. I am going to a Mormon Church with my wife on Sundays. This way, we don’t quarrel. But I don’t believe the book of Mormon. I believe the Holy Bible. When can I convince my wife? I don’t know. Maybe one day. I love God and His Word. I download books about the Sabbath and read them regularly. Do you remember when we studied about the Sabbath and other points together?”
As I read Yakup’s email, I was both elated and burdened. I must believe that if Nina’s husband is now baptized and worshiping Jesus, “nothing is impossible with God!” Seeds take time to grow, but the law of the planted seed prevails.