Herding lost sheep. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
Praying to see the unseen
By Gary Fallesen
Founding president, Climbing For Christ
“As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18
Unseen might be the word to sum up our fourth Evangelic Expedition in six years to Turkey. We returned from Mission: Ararat 2015 not really knowing what was accomplished.
Sure, we revisited every family we’d met or spent time with in 2014 on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey. God also put some new Kurdish people in our path.
One highlight for our team was worshiping for the first time in a church in a 99.8-percent Muslim country with a handful of Christ followers. They were the first Christians we’ve met in Turkey, a land where the early church first took root.
Another highlight was revisiting a blind Kurdish man who’d had a dream that we were coming, and then being asked by this man to pray for him.
But the rest of the time was spent facing uncertainty, praying for doors and hearts to open, hoping that the love of Jesus would capture souls the way the Kurdish Party won seats (for the first time) in Turkey’s Parliament.
“The trip didn’t go quite as planned,” said Jessica Jones, a member from Joplin, MO, who was on her first mission with Climbing For Christ.
Elaine Fallesen referred to the trip as “Plan B” operation.
Mount Ararat, which our team came to climb in order to evangelize semi-nomadic Kurdish families, was relegated inaccessible by late winter snowfall and national elections. Families had not moved up the mountain, where they take sheep herds from June-September (normally). We learned late in the trip that this was because voting is not optional in Turkey – any eligible voter who did not vote would be fined, which explains the 86-percent turnout at the polls.
As a result, Kurds remained in their villages around the base of 16,854-foot (5,137-meter) Ararat.
Making bread in a Kurdish kitchen. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
“Initially, having to reconnect with our Kurdish friends in their homes rather than on the mountain was disappointing, and threw me off,” said Elaine, a C4C staff member who was participating in her second straight Mission: Ararat. “It was a more challenging setting to try to share in.
“But in the end it went better than I thought it would.”
When asked if she felt God used her on this trip, Elaine said: “I think He did, in ways I can’t see right now and may never see.
“My impression is that this was a groundwork-laying trip for the future.”
It seems as if teams have been building a foundation every year. We first went to Ararat in 2010 and have returned the past three years. In 2013, we experienced a breakthrough when we started to visit Kurdish families in their camps between 8,000 and 11,000 feet up the mountain. We returned to those camps – and others – in 2014. But this year was different.
Patience is another crucial word (and characteristic) for work among a people who are 0.01 percent Christian.
As the Joshua Project, a ministry that monitors global work among people groups, says of the Kurds: “The Islamic faith is extremely hard to influence with the Gospel. Although a number of missions’ agencies are focusing on the [Kurds] of Iraq and Turkey, very little progress has been made among them.
“The Kurds have followed Islam for many years … there are few known believers.”
Not yet, anyway. We trust in the One sending us, repeatedly, to eastern Turkey. We know, as the author of Hebrews wrote, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen
” (Hebrews 11:1
). Or, as Jessica Jones observed, “God is moving in Turkey.”
We may not be able to see it. But He’s there among a people living desperately in darkness.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)
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