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Sowing Seeds of Faith in Turkey: Missions Moments from the Silk Road

SEU Missions Turkey-Silk Road

As I begin to reflect on the fullness of this trip and all that transpired, I cannot help but get teary-eyed as I remember all the friends that my team and I made from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Türkiye, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and many other countries. I told them that I would forever share their stories, so I am writing this in honor of them.

From the moment my team and I arrived in the Silk Road (known as a network of communication paths and trade routes that connected civilizations in the East and West), the atmosphere was different. The air was crisp and everything around us was quiet. From the very beginning, I think each of us could sense that this trip would challenge us in a very rare way — simply because we would learn how to sit and wrestle with things that many of us had never taken the time to contemplate. 

The Practice of Presence

I will never forget our first day there. We started off with training overseen by the workers from the organization that we partnered with. They taught us what ministry specifically looks like in the Middle East with the unreached people groups and the local population. Sharing the Gospel in the Middle East is quite different than sharing the Gospel in the Western world. Due to this, the focus of the trip was to be people of invitation, curiosity, and generously present three things that I now live by today. It wasn’t about having all the right words or using terms that we had grown up on that sounded good. It starts with being relational and inviting them to connect with us. This could look like a friendly greeting, inviting them to play a game, or sharing a cup of coffee together and truly listening to their stories.  

Our trainers then brought us to a very popular park right downtown during the busiest hours of the day. Our assignment here: to just watch and observe the people and our surroundings. Ask ourselves what it smells like, what we notice, and what seems different. This activity was the most inspiring way to start the trip because it challenged us to be present and appreciate all that we would be entering into over the next few weeks. Along with being still and watching, we were able to pray for the spot we were sitting in, knowing that we were most likely the only Christians there and that we may be the only people to pray for that spot. It sounds small, but our spirits were moved to the core by this idea. While doing this, I could not help but think about how bright Christ’s light is. Like a city on a hill or the salt of the earth. At that very moment, I knew that our group had something that we could not keep to ourselves, and that we would spend the whole trip sharing that light the same way Jesus did during His earthly ministry.

After this, we headed back to an English learning center. This was where we taught a few days every week during the trip. While I was grabbing a cup of tea before we started the first lesson, I noticed two girls that walked into the building. These girls were incredibly fluent in English and their faces were beaming with the brightest smiles that I had ever seen. Their energy and enthusiasm was contagious. I went up to the youngest girl and was immediately greeted with the biggest hug. I think that hug symbolized that we knew we would be best friends. After talking for a few minutes, it seemed like we knew so much about each other already. We even found out we shared the same birthday, which was just another confirmation to me that the Lord had intended for me to be there at that moment.

After initially getting to know each other, the girls began to share that they were refugees. Many tears were shared through this interaction. It was an honor to hear them open up to us so quickly about all that they had been through. I felt my heart break over and over, and I knew the only thing I could do from that very moment on was to pray for them obsessively — that the Lord would plant seeds in their hearts out of love.


Sowing Seeds

After the first day, it was time for us to learn how to share the Gospel with these people, with the goal of it taking root in their hearts. The workers from our partner organization called this ‘broad sowing,’ after Luke 8:5–8, which says, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and were trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

After reading these verses, we learned that it takes between 18 and 30 conversations about faith for a person from this area to accept the Gospel. We then prayed about and learned how to practice difficult sowing opportunities. This all starts with being aware of our audience and their own religious beliefs, which leads to understanding how to present the Gospel in a way that shows the difference between grace and works as a way of salvation. 

After time in the classroom, we headed to a park where we did this in real life with a translator, since many locals did not understand English and all we knew was “hi,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” in the local language. After splitting up into groups with each of the workers, my group and I headed to a grassy area where we set down a picnic blanket and started to throw a frisbee. We strategically placed our blanket near a group of about four college-aged students. After we were there for about 10 minutes, we invited them to join us on our picnic blanket. They accepted and even offered us some of their snacks! We started by getting to know each other and asking questions about what they like to do. After about 45 minutes, we transitioned into talking about faith. In this conversation, we were in no rush to get anywhere, but instead shared about our religion with each other. This may have been the first encounter with a Christian in their lives and as I said before, it takes 18–30 faith encounters. Afterward, we took a group picture and shared numbers so that we could actively pray for them by name.

As the week went on, we began every morning of the trip with two hours of abiding and prayer. The first hour was spent interceding in the Spirit, reading Scripture, praying, journaling, or however the team wanted to spend that hour of alone time with God. We did the abiding time because it creates a deep, personal relationship and connection with God while dwelling in His presence and drawing near to Him.

Next, our whole team got together for one hour to pray for the country, the workers on the ground, and every person by name that we had met on the trip. Starting off every morning this way enabled us to lean on Jesus through all that we would encounter that day and bring it to His feet by being quick to listen, slow to speak, and aligning our will with His. I admire all that our partner organization does when it comes to the way they approach ministry and how one needs to be in the Word before the world.


Building Community and Fellowship

While every part of the trip was touching to our team for many reasons, the most memorable were the nights spent at coffee shops. This is the way community is formed and relationships are made. We started by asking the locals that we had met throughout the trip — whether at the English learning center, during broad sowing, or through a mutual connection — to meet us at a coffee shop. These meetups frequently turned into five-hour gatherings. Gathering means simply sitting and hearing each other’s life stories, passions, past, and dreams. In addition, many laughs were shared and games were played! What left me in awe was that every time we would meet at the coffee shops, which was just about every night of our trip, more people would be added or invited. More seeds were planted. More doors and opportunities opened. Everyone had a seat at the table – and if there weren’t enough seats, we would all squish together and keep pulling up more chairs and tables. This was the purest form of Kingdom building. At this table, the cultures of multiple countries were represented in this space. I know Jesus was with us at that table, too.

Along with meetings at coffee shops, we also had the opportunity to commune over meals. One night specifically, the two sisters that we met at the English learning center had invited us over to their house for an unforgettable, authentic meal prepared according to the customs of their home country. Not only was the food incredible, but the hospitality of this family was unmatched. After what they had been through, and previously having no place to call home, they made each of us feel welcomed and at home.

Because of their invitation, my team and I were able to share the Gospel with these girls after dinner time in a private conversation. I remember when I shared it with the 16-year-old girl, the one that quickly turned into my best friend. She had goosebumps on her arms and she was heartbroken when she found out people would kill Jesus. After this, we told the workers on the ground about this God-ordained moment so that there would be a follow-up and the opportunity to disciple these girls long after our departure. This is a night that I still think about daily. Seeds were planted.


The Impact of Obedience

All of this would not have been able to happen without the Yes and obedience of the local missionaries to the call of God on their lives. Their wisdom and stories shared during the trip are some that I share with others today. They are people of strong faith — bold, yet patient. They are intentional and relational and continually show up for this nation out of love, not expecting perfection or anything in return. They walk humbly and selflessly. 

One night we were able to hear each of their testimonies and how they ended up working for our partner organization. A recurring theme from their life stories was endurance and learning how to suffer well for Christ. At the end of this night, each of us was deeply moved because of what God has done, and what He will continue to do, in their lives. The lead workers had been there for five years and only one person had come to know Christ during that time. While that number may seem small to some, that one was everything to them. Now, they spend their days discipling that one and giving thanks to God for His faithfulness. I will never have the right words to adequately explain my gratitude for them and the strength they have to give God their Yes in one of the hardest of places to do ministry.

This country and the people who call it home have captured my heart in far more ways than one. I learned what serving means; that great hospitality requires nowhere near perfection or status; that these people are some of the kindest people I have ever met and are easily misunderstood; and that obedience and faithfulness are some of the most essential aspects of walking with Jesus. I learned about the depth of what a refugee faces daily — like never being able to call their home home ever again. Although I will never be able to understand the feeling of coming from a displaced community, I can be present and listen to them well. I learned things that I would have never expected or prepared for, and my heart broke repeatedly for the things that break the Lord’s Heart. 

At the same time, I have this unfathomable feeling of joy for what the Lord is doing in that area of the world. He has not forgotten these people. To many, this area of the world is gray and quiet. But to my team, the Spirit is moving so tangibly and the word of the Lord is alive and active. Prior to this trip, I was ignorant of many things that I thought were true. Now that I have learned these things and heard the stories that I shared above, I continually ask myself how I can best love the people of this community and those who believe differently than I do. There’s no unknowing or going back now. I was able to see, smell, and touch so much more than my words could ever do justice. 

Today, I am dreaming of the moment I am reunited with this place. Until then, I will continually honor this area of the world with my actions, words, and prayers. I love this nation. To God be the glory. 

Written by Cassie Chapman, SEU Student

Edited by Mia Golding, Student Writer

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Hundreds of students, faculty, and staff travel the globe each year through SEU Missions. Each student-led mission trip has a specific purpose with one overall goal — to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth.

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