God is on the move
By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ
Elaine, Gary, and Holly with Osman, an MBB with whom they had just prayed in Dogubayazit, Turkey. (Photo by Behzat Bucak)
It was a prophetic moment, a page out of the Old Testament delivered electronically from the United States to eastern Turkey. “I sense there is going to be a real special move of God on this trip,” the Climbing For Christ member and supporter emailed. “I am praying.”
His prayer was answered.
The following day, a 32-year-old Muslim man on his death bed with bone cancer accepted Jesus. One of several “priceless C4C firsts,” my wife Elaine dubbed it. The young man’s 18-year-old sister-in-law later expressed an interest in also joining our family of God, following in the footsteps of several other Kurdish men and women during our 16-day expedition.
Mission: Ararat 2020 was a highlight reel. One bright spot followed another. Just ask Holly DeSmitt, a 26-year-old from Rochester, NY, who was on her first Climbing For Christ mission. She listed the following God moments among her favorite memories (in chronological order):
- Meeting Behzat Bucak (another Muslim background believer and our Kingdom worker in Turkey) and hearing his testimony.
- Worshiping at the evangelical church in southeastern Turkey.
- Spending time with the many Kurdish children.
- Attending the Kurdish wedding and meeting Nisa’s family.
- Spending the night at the horseman’s house on Mount Ararat.
- Praying with Osman (the aforementioned Muslim) and seeing his response to the invitation to follow Christ.
- Witnessing Ece’s desire in the back of the van to follow Christ.
- The divine appointment with the Kurdish girl who was already seeking Christ.
- Behzat’s baptism.
Hiking near Mount Suphan on our way to Mount Ararat. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
There were as many lessons learned as highlights lived, such as:
- Obedience. GO when God says “GO!” People could not believe we were traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the beauty of what we do. It is easy to get lost in God’s work amidst a global pandemic in a country that the government claims is 99.8 percent Muslim, led by a nationalist president who is busy threatening Kurdish, Syrians, the French, Israel, Christians, and more. As we arrived in Istanbul the famed Hagia Sophia museum (an HIStoric Byzantine church) was being converted back to a mosque with all of the great Christian frescoes covered.
- “Step-by-step evangelism.” When Holly heard Behzat’s testimony, she saw how we had walked patiently and lovingly with our beloved MBB friend from our first meeting in 2013 until he became a brother in Christ in 2019. “Not pressuring people,” Holly said. “Starting with building trust in a relationship and following up regularly.” The Climbing For Christ way.
- Counting the cost. The notions of sacrifice and surrender become more real when you are walking with people who are willing to die to everything to live for Christ. “I even get to die for it,” Behzat said about spreading the Gospel in a place where the early church blossomed only to be nearly annihilated by the spread of Islam. “I’m ready to do everything for Jesus.”
- Never give up. We have seen what God’s love can do in the hearts of friends, which encourages us to keep praying. The same goes for miracles. Elaine has felt an enormous burden for years for a wheelchair-bound Kurd named Taner. When Taner was 8, he fell from a horse and was left paralyzed. Elaine has prayed for healing and Taner’s salvation. Last year, our guide Adem mistakenly told us Taner was walking. We had not seen him since 2015 and believed a miracle had happened. But Taner, 27, was still in his wheelchair when we saw him again. “My initial shock at seeing him still in a wheelchair was overwhelming,” Elaine confessed. But, she added, “The parable of the lost sheep always comes sharply into focus when I’m in Turkey. The Good Shepherd never stops searching. So, I should never stop praying and asking, either.
Elaine with Taner. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
There were other Biblical lessons. Especially for new believer Behzat, who gleaned many things from our team’s daily study of Romans. “Behzat is growing into his C4C Kingdom worker role,” Elaine noted.
Asked how he would respond if anyone wondered about his trip with us, Behzat said: “I will say it is a trip I will never forget in my life because every day we did Bible study and I learned about Jesus and the Bible more and we got more chances to talk to new people about Jesus.”
This happened at almost every turn.
“The most important aspect of this trip,” Behzat exclaimed, “was that we met new people and explained the name of God and told them about Christianity.”
Behzat did not stop when he said goodbye to us at the Van airport on July 30. He went home to southeastern Turkey and proceeded to lead two of his five brothers to Jesus. Since joining “the family,” as he calls becoming a Christ follower, he has helped a dozen other MBBs find Christ.
When he looks around eastern Turkey – at millions of Kurdish people who identify as Muslim (if only nominally) – he sees an entire region coming to Christ. “I hope that they will join the family,” he says earnestly.
Is this another prophesy of a special movement of God? I am praying.