Category Archives: short term missions

The Christian Church in Turkey: how one man started the first church in Antalya

A Muslim extremist tried to kill Ramazan Arkan in Antalya Evangelical Church, the only Christian church in Turkey’s fifth largest city.

“One nationalist guy, he came to our church service to assassinate me and he was planning to kill me, but we had police protection during that time,” Ramazan says in a Stefanus video. “Police realized that guy was there and they arrested him and they put him in jail.

“After that, police thought that behind this guy there is some group that wants me to be dead. When I was single, I didn’t care very much. But now I am married; I have two kids. When you face persecution and when you know that there are people that want to kill you, that is scary. Sometimes I feel scared and sometimes I feel worried.”

There’s a price to pay for converting to Christianity from a Muslim background in Turkey. Sometimes your family disowns you. Sometimes you can’t find a job because of religious discrimination. When the church first opened, Muslims threw stones at it, Ramazan says.

But the 200 Christians who attend Antalya Evangelical Church remain undaunted.

The only thing Ramazan knew about Christianity was what the Muslim propagandists had told him, for example, the Bible was corrupted and unreliable.

So, when a co-worker came out as Christian, Ramazan was curious to ask for himself.

“I was a member of one of the conservative Islamic groups,” he says. “I practiced my faith five times in a day, and I was a very serious, devout Muslim. I never met any Christians until that time, and then we start to talk about Christianity, he told me a lot of things about Christianity. I was shocked by what he told me because what I had learned all those years from my society about Christianity, everything was wrong.”

At the time, there wasn’t a single church in Antalya, a city of 2 million and a resort destination on the Turkish Riviera. So Ramazan started one in the year 2000.

“Jesus changed my mind and he changed my life,” Ramazan says “Now my goal is to serve Him. I’m pastoring this church, I’m teaching and preaching. But most of my time is more like spending time with people, and there are a lot of visitors that they are coming and visiting our church during the weekdays and I usually sit with them and talk to them hours and hours, because Turkish people are very much interested in spiritual stuff.”

Order up a Turkish coffee and while away the time with Christian apologetics.

Alper Gursu was one of the Turks who engaged in long conversations with Pastor Ramazan about spirituality. Today, he is one of the leaders of the church.

“I had dozens of questions, like is the Bible real? Because I heard that’s changed,” Alper says. “So he started explaining that starting from the third century and the Nicene council he explained to me all the history. He gave me this circle of evidence. All my questions were being answered.”

Pastor Ramazan gave Alper a Bible, and he started reading and ended up getting saved.

Melis Samur is now one of the worship leaders. She got into God because she liked architecture and studied churches. When she found one in her city, she begged her parents to let her go.

“It was a really peaceful, really really beautiful place,” Melissa says. “They got really upset at me. They were like, ‘Why do you need another religion?’”

Eventually, her insistence ,,, Read the rest: Christian church in Turkey.

Before there was Corona, there was crisis in Venezuela on border of Colombia

dr. bob hamilton and ligthhouse medical missions in columbia 2020Some of them walked 10 days to cross the border into Colombia in search of food or medical supplies they could take back to socialism-starved Venezuela.

Johnny Huerta and a team of six doctors, eight nurses and 24 other volunteers were in Cucuta, Colombia, on a temporary medical and feeding mission to show the love of Christ in a tangible way.

“We were swarmed by people,” said Johnny, who’s a painter and baseball player from Santa Monica. “They were grabbing us, grabbing us, like, ‘Pray for me. Pray for me.’”

food for venezuelan refugeesThe pleas for prayers grew to a fevered pitch after some miraculous healings and exorcisms, Johnny says.

The Lighthouse Medical Mission, which got its start 25 years ago in war-torn West Africa, landed on the border of Venezuela on March 7th — before most of the U.S. got locked down over Coronavirus fears. The humanitarian crisis of 40,000 daily border crossings there has been essentially eclipsed.

The Santa Monica-based team provided medical attention and drugs and handed out 3,000 meals a day in conjunction with World Central Kitchen in three areas: in Cucuta, in a Yukpa village on the outskirts of town and in nearby Pamplona. The 39 people divided up in teams to minister in each area.

Johnny Huerta Cucuta Columbia

Johnny Huerta shares fun with the kids.

Johnny was assigned logistics, took pictures, but mostly got roped into translation. The stories he heard of dead family members and left-behind family members appalled him as well as the squalor he witnessed. In the Yukpa village, there were no bathrooms and people lived in huts fashioned with tree limbs and plastic tarp.

“People can live with little and still be happy, but this was not healthy,” Johnny says. “They bathe in an unsanitary river, and that’s why they get lots of infections. They also drink out of that river.

“They have makeshift huts built out of garbage. Babies are walking around naked. They pretty much have nothing. It was one of those shocking situations where you say, ‘Wow people are waking up and living like this every day with unhealthy conditions.’”

The team brought two chefs, but they were prevented from serving until they scrambled to obtain Columbia food preparation licenses.

When they arrived at the border on the first day, “we weren’t sure how they were going to respond as we got out of the van to serve the food,” Johnny says. “They were desperate for food and outnumbered us. Immediately they ran over and we tried to get them in a line, which eventually became a crowd.

“As we tried to transport apples from the back of the van to the food serving area they began to crowd the back of the van as well. We ended up handing out the apples from the van as we were never gonna get through. The next couple of times we fed at the border we organized police protection in advance and were a bit more organized. Even then it was still a bit chaotic.”

Short-term missions are highly recommended because they can impact American church-goers forever: they broaden horizons, impart vision and erode entitlement.

“I was just thankful they gave me the privilege of being able to go with me,” Johnny says. “You feel like you get more out than you put into it. I’m more mature in my faith and in my life than I was before.”

As busy as he was being pulled this way and that, Johnny still found time to share his passion for painting with the kids. It was a personal connection he’ll treasure for life.

In Pamplona, the team attended 3,000 patients.

Many people are losing their eyesight because of rampant infections, Johnny says.

While the doctors saw patients, the pastors and lay leaders were praying for people, many of whom got healed even before they received medical attention, Johnny says.

That’s when they started getting swarmed.

Because witchcraft is widely practiced in the region, several people were delivered from demonic spirits, Johnny says.

“One lady was released from demon possession. She looked super oppressed beforehand and was all smiles afterward,” Johnny says. “They practice witchcraft and spiritism because of their circumstances. They’re reaching out for help. But when we came to them with the gospel, they were open.” Read the rest: Venezuelan refugees Christian response