The fervent faith and sincere dedication of local leaders to make Christ known among the people in Turkey and social work among the Iranian / Syrian refugees can be admired!
In the end of 2019 I, together with Rev. Oeds Blok from the Netherlands, organized in cooperation with local Baptist leaders, a conference for church planters. Oeds is an experienced church planter who coaches many others, and Jelle van Luipen joined in; he is an engineer and member of the Baptist Church in Leidsche Rijn.
The conference was started by pastor Ertan, the chairman of Turkish Baptists with a Bible reflection from Ps. 126, prayer and welcome. There were 20 participants from different places in Turkey present.
Pastor Ertan has effectively led a Turkish church in Izmir since 1989, which is the very first Baptist church in Turkey that is associated with the EBF and the BWA. The congregation has a building in Buca – southern district of Izmir, which earlier used to be an Anglican church. The Baptists work among refugees from Syria who meet in the same church building. The second Baptist church has existed for 4 years in Menemen which is the north of Izmir. They also reach out to the Roma people. There are plans to start one other congregation in Pergamon.
Pastor Orhan has ministered in Samsun since 2003. He has established a growing “Agape Church” and a few years ago new church building was erected. Orhan has a vision to influence the numerous coastal cities on the Black Sea. The gospel mission started with the help of EBF in Amasya and later expanded to Ordu, Sinop and Giresun where besides Turkish groups there are also refugees from Iran.
Pastor Sükrü leads the church in Adana (south east of country) and is trying to plant another one in the north of this city. The congregation currently meets in a rented hall and the vision is to buy or erect a church building. There are many Syrian refugees in Adana and Baptists help them since the city is located near to the border with Syria.
One other congregation is in Istanbul which meets in a rented flat there. The leaders reported that hundreds of people every week contact them via internet.
The programme contained an overview of church planting in the Eastern Europe and the Middle East, including also some aspects of work among the refugees in Western Europe. The 2nd session discussed the important criteria that a church planter should implement, like: accepting a personal call, ability to build a team, having a vision and determining a target group, relationships with mentors / coaches and developing supporting partnerships, also avoiding numerous mistakes.