A banner year for the gospel in Turkey was rung up in 2004, according to The Bible Correspondence Course in Turkey, which is the action-agency for AMG International and other missions supporting newspaper evangelism in that predominantly Muslim nation.
Spokesman David Wilson said the BCC runs ads in major national newspapers, sponsors free concerts, participates in municipal book fairs, maintains a resource-filled Website, and lets good old-fashioned word-of-mouth do what it does best. When someone contacts the BCC-as 35,000 people have over the last three years-each receives a free New Testament in his heart language and a basic study helping to introduce the significance of Jesus' life and death, and why God desires relationship with us beyond just religious observances. Further studies and Turkish worship resources are sent on request.
We tried a more varied method of advertising in 2004. In addition to our standard ad, "Have you ever read the New Testament?" we also tried a variety of ads throughout the year. Some of the titles were "Are you Still Fearful?" "It isn't propaganda, it's the true Book - the New Testament," and "Why Did 17 Turks Become Christians?"
Thousands visit Web sites and "hang out" in virtual "chat rooms" to discuss Christianity. Internet usage in Turkey continues to grow with high-speed Internet being introduced in many parts of Turkey in 2004. Both our evangelistic Website (www.kutsalkitap.org) and our apologetics Website continue to receive increasing amounts of visitors. In 2004, over 43,000 first-time visitors were recorded for the evangelistic Website and over 28,000 for our apologetics Website. Chat rooms on these sites provide a place for interested seekers to ask their questions and get instant responses from Turkish believers monitoring these sites.
TACO did six tours in Turkey in 2004. All the surveys completed at the concerts are immediately given to the BCC for follow-up, and correspondence courses and literature are sent. We had the highest percentage of people sign up for the course via TACO in 2004 (13%). In the city of Antakya, all of the 20-25 regular church attenders, with the exception of the leadership, listed TACO events as a key element in their spiritual pilgrimage.
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Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, came to Turkey in April and was shown in theaters throughout the country for a few months. This film stirred up controversy wherever it went, and Turkey was no exception.
BCC made two edited Jews for Jesus brochures available to individuals and churches for general use and especially to distribute in or near the theaters when possible and appropriate. Approximately 9,000 brochures were distributed at theaters in the larger cities: Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, Eskisehir and Adana.
In Izmir, the film opened at the same time as its annual book fair. We used the film as a main focal point of outreach. Over 15,000 brochures were distributed. We also had a Christian band in town to play two of those evenings and are aware of a few professions of faith as a result of this outreach.
The book fair provides a large number of contacts for us to follow up. Several hundred filled out a survey form and received a packet containing BCC information and evangelistic literature. A couple hundred of these requested a meeting with someone to talk about Jesus. I know of at least three who professed faith after an initial contact at the last book fair."
Probably the most unreached area of Turkey, along with the Northeast of Turkey, is the Black Sea area, an area of more than eight million people. A few years ago, there were no local churches and almost no believers anywhere along this area. Today there are perhaps 30 Christians, 11 foreign workers and a few small groups of believers meeting in various places.
More than 450 people in the Black Sea area have completed their initial course and are requesting a visit. We do not have enough people to visit them so we invited Turkish believers to assist us to reach these people. It was a benefit to the believers because it gave them the opportunity to reach out to people who were willing and waiting. One of the believers in a fellowship in this region was baptized in April, 2004. He had waited 10 years for someone to come and visit him!