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Mission: Turkey 2019
Mission: Turkey 2019

The Word

This is my command be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9 (NLT)


Mission: Turkey 2019

Together, a world apart

The Turk and the American may be a world apart culturally and spiritually, but they share a love of cherries and friendships with Kurdish people. Governments cannot divide them even though we know our fights are not against flesh and blood but evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world (Ephesians 6:12).

Turkey is an amazing place, steeped in Biblical HIStory. We have followed in the footsteps of Paul. This was the birthplace of the early church. It is where the seven major churches of early Christianity were founded.

That was before the rise of Islam. Before the Turkic tribes of Central Asia invaded the Armenian highland of the Greek Byzantine in 1071. Before the establishment of the Seljuk Empire and then Ottoman Empire.

In the last century, Christianity fell from about 25 percent of the population to less than two percent. From 1914 to 1923 an estimated three million Christians (Armenian, Greek and Assyrian) were killed in a disputed (by the Turkish government) genocide.

Today only 0.2 percent of Turkey’s nearly 81 million people claim to be Christian.

Where the church started, churches now are so rare “that they are considered a foreign novelty, and are often visited by touring Muslims,” stated one of a series of articles on persecution in Turkey published by the International Christian Concern (ICC) in September 2018.

Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox church that became an Ottoman Empire mosque and now serves as a museum in Istanbul. The Christian art was painted over by Muslims. Some of the original artwork has been restored. But Islam is front and center. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

“Turkish people believe that if you aren’t Muslim, you’re an enemy,” another story said. Even a culturally brainwashed new believer felt “like I betrayed my country” when he became a Christian.

Turkish nationalism, fueled by a president who rose from mayor of Istanbul in 1994 to prime minister in 2003 to president in 2014 to autocratic leader, has produced Islamist propaganda: “A false stream of information about missionaries, including the idea that Christian missionaries in Turkey are trying to accomplish the failed objective of the Crusades by seizing Turkish land,” the ICC said.

One pastor who has been imprisoned and his family attacked said, “If you say, ‘I’m a missionary’ in Turkey, it’s like saying ‘I’m a terrorist.’”

That’s what Turkey’s National Security Council has argued. The council believes missionary activities should be regarded as a “national threat,” the ICC said.

Middle school social studies curriculum reportedly asks about the threats to national security. One answer: “Missionaries.”

But, the ICC concluded, “Sadly, the West still looks away as Turkey’s rich Christian heritage is on the verge of disappearing forever.”

Things have spiraled downward since we first climbed Mount Ararat in 2010 and then began friendships with semi-nomadic Kurdish families living on and around Ararat through expeditions from 2013 to 2015. Since 2015 a war has been waged between Turks and Kurds in southeast Turkey. Ararat has been closed.

“Christian missionaries have been imprisoned or deported while trying to minister and evangelize the Kurds. For this reason, the Kurds are an increasingly unreached ethnic group,” the ICC said.

Yet Christianity continues to spread despite this conflict and the opposition.

PRAY: For renewed church growth. As Operation World (the prayer guide to the nations) declares, “Turkey’s transformation from guardian of Christendom to unevangelized nation has been almost comprehensive. For more than 1,000 years the region was a bastion of Christendom, but it later became a strong propagator of Islam. The Christian population has declined from 22 percent to 0.21 percent since 1900. Only 0.008 percent of people in Turkey are evangelical; many are ethnic Turks and Kurds, but others are expatriate or from historically Christian minorities. Few of the 81 million Muslims have ever truly heard the Gospel. Turkey’s location along the ancient Silk Road routes connected it deeply to Islam for centuries; pray that it might also be used as a bridge between Europe and Asia for the transmission of a revitalized Christianity.” We ask for open doors if not back to Ararat then into other unreached mountain areas.

GIVE: To send staff to Turkey, especially into the mountains, where few if any are working.

GO: If Ararat does not open, an expedition is planned into the Aladaglar Mountain range of Central Anatolia. Anatolia is where the seven churches of Asia were located. We also will spend time with friends harvesting cherries. This trip is tentatively scheduled for late June-early July. Cost is estimated at $2,500, but does not include international and domestic airfare. These trips are for C4C members only. Email for a mission application and specifics about our expeditions.


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Learn more about Turkey and Climbing for Christ's activities there.  CLICK HERE

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