When the Lutheran churches in Muslim Turkey have fewer than 3 dozen worshipers on a Sunday, why translate and print 1,500 copies of a Lutheran devotion book?
Anna Meyer*, a pastor’s wife who coordinates LHF’s publications in Turkey, is amazed at the thirst for God’s Word that she sees among the Turkish people.
While many obstacles exist to establishing churches and openly sharing the Christian faith in Turkey, small books like Only One Thing Is Needed – a book of daily devotions – are quietly but quickly claimed by people who would never openly identify as Lutheran.
“Only One Thing Is Needed is a book of daily readings that share the Good News, both for new believers and for people who already have been believers for a long time,” Anna explained. “For every day, there’s one Bible verse and an explanation. All the texts preach Jesus.
“One thing I am really glad about is that this is a book that other churches also want to read,” she continued. “So with this book, we can help Christians in other churches to get sight into God’s real mercy. These people may not want to read the Book of Concord, but they may want to read this book – and at the same time, get to know Jesus as a merciful Savior.”
This message is much needed by Turkish people searching for comfort and reassurance.
“It’s not difficult to be a Christian in Turkey if you are a foreigner,” reflected Anna. “But for a local person, it may be quite difficult. Some of them face problems daily within their families or at work, or some struggle to get any job at all, because they aren’t Muslim.”
LHF books have gained a reputation among Turkish believers for their high quality. “The language or translation is good. The book looks good, and the content is good, so Christians of other churches read LHF books too,” Anna said. “Last autumn, the printers asked whether we had a Lutheran group in a city in eastern Turkey, as this group constantly asks for Lutheran books from the printing house. But we do not know who these people are. So I can say that LHF books do help a lot when sharing the Gospel among Turkish-speaking people.”
LHF books are also important for helping to train up lay leaders in Turkey.
“It’s not possible to have any formal schooling for pastors or any other workers in Turkey because the laws for schooling are very strict,” Anna said. “But we can have small seminars for church members, and so we use LHF books as a help.”
The lack of schooling for pastors is but one reason it’s challenging to establish and maintain Lutheran churches in Turkey.
“It’s really a problem within all Protestant churches in Turkey,” Anna explained. “You may have people coming to church, even attending for some time, and then they disappear. One reason may be the Islamic background, because they are not used to being gathered together. In Islam, religion is mostly an individual question or experience.
“And then there are those difficulties of social life,” she continued. “It’s almost impossible to a Turkish person to forgive someone if they have had some misunderstandings. And the reaction is not to meet that other person anymore. However much we try to teach about forgiveness, it’s culturally a long, long way for Turkish Christians. And that means there are always a lot of people leaving the church, too.”
In this setting, other LHF translations currently underway will undoubtedly prove helpful: The Gospel of Matthew from the Lutheran Study Bible, and soon after, The Gospel of Mark.
Not only will these books be used in Turkey, but also distributed to Turkish-speaking congregations springing up in Bulgaria and Germany. “Interestingly, the congregations in Germany aren’t Lutheran or anything; they’re mostly quite young congregations, and pastors are just chosen among brothers without any education,” Anna said.
How can Americans help their Turkish brothers and sisters?
“They can pray,” Anna advised. “Pray that the country will still be open for the Good News. It seems that the situation is not getting better for Christians, but let us pray God will show people new ways to share the Gospel. Especially let us pray for strength and courage and local believers.”
* Name changed for safety of the mission