Church at Smyrna Makes Worldwide Prayer Request
[Smyrna or Izmir is where one of the Turkish martyrs was from]
24 April 2007
Revelation 2:8-11: "And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."
This past week has been filled with much sorrow. Many of you have heard
by now of our devastating loss here in an event that took place in
Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch, the city
where believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).
On Wednesday morning, April 18, 2007,
46 year old German missionary and father of three Tilman Geske prepared
to go to his office, kissing his wife goodbye taking a moment to hug his
son and give him the priceless memory, "Goodbye, son. I love
In another area of town, 35 year old
Pastor Necati Aydin, father of two, said goodbye to his wife, leaving for
the office as well. They had a morning Bible Study and prayer meeting
that some other believers in town would also be attending. Ugur Yuksel
likewise made his way to the Bible study.
None of these three men knew that
what awaited them at the Bible study was the ultimate testing and
application of their faith, which would conclude with their entrance into
glory to receive their crown of righteousness from Christ and honor from
all the saints awaiting them in the Lord's presence.
Tilman rented an office space from Zirve Publishing where he was
preparing notes for the new Turkish Study Bible. Zirve was also the
location of the Malatya Evangelist Church office. A ministry of the
church, Zirve prints and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and
nearby cities in Eastern Turkey.
On the other side of town, ten young
men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their
ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of
infidels who they felt undermined Islam.
On Resurrection Sunday, five of these men had been to a
by-invitation-only evangelistic service that Pastor Necati and his men
had arranged at a hotel conference room in the city. The men were known
to the believers as "seekers." No one knows what happened in
the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel. Were they touched
by the Holy Spirt? Were they convicted of sin? Did they hear the gospel
in their heart of hearts? Today we only have the beginning of their
These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of
Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of "faithful
believers" in Islam. Tarikat membership is highly respected
here; it's like a fraternity membership. In fact, it is said that no
one can get into public office without membership in a tarikat. These
young men all lived in the same dorm, all preparing for university
entrance exams. The young men got guns, bread knives, ropes and towels
ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would be a
lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible Study, around 10
They arrived, and apparently the Bible Study began. Reportedly, after
Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began. The boys tied
Ugur, Necati, and Tilmana's hands and feet to chairs and as
they videoed their
work on their cellphones,
they tortured our brothers
for almost three hours.
[Details of the torture-- *
Tilman was stabbed 156 times, Necati 99 times and Ugura's stabs were too
numerous to count. They were disemboweled, and their intestines sliced up
in front of their eyes. They were emasculated and watched as those body
parts were destroyed. Fingers were chopped off, their noses and mouths
and anuses were sliced open. Possibly the worst part was watching as
their brothers were likewise tortured. Finally, their throats were sliced
from ear to ear, heads practically decapitated.]
Neighbors in workplaces near the printhouse said later they had heard
yelling, but assumed the owners were having domestic argument so
they did not respond.
Meanwhile, another believer Gokhan and his wife had a leisurely morning.
He slept in till 10, ate a long breakfast and finally around 12:30 he and
his wife arrived at the office. The door was locked from the inside, and
his key would not work. He phoned and though it had connection on his end
he did not hear the phone ringing inside. He called cell phones of his
brothers and finally Ugur answered his phone. "We are not at the
office. Go to the hotel meeting. We are there. We will come there,"
he said cryptically. As Ugur spoke Gokhan heard in the telephone's
background weeping and a strange snarling sound.
He phoned the police, and the nearest officer arrived in about five
minutes. He pounded on the door, "Police, open up!" Initially
the officer thought it was a domestic disturbance. At that point they
heard another snarl and a gurgling moan. The police understood that sound
as human suffering, prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over
again to burst through the door. One of the frightened assailants
unlocked the door for the policeman, who entered to find a grisly
Tilman and Necati had been slaughtered, practically decapitated with
their necks slit from ear to ear. Ugura's throat was likewise slit and he
was barely alive.
Three assailants in front of the policeman dropped their weapons.
Meanwhile Gokhan heard a sound of yelling in the street. Someone had
fallen from their third story office. Running down, he found a man on the
ground, whom he later recognized, named Emre Gunaydin. He had massive
head trauma and, strangely, was snarling. He had tried to climb down he
drainpipe to escape, and losing his balance had plummeted to the ground.
It seems that he was the main leader of the attackers. Another assailant
was found hiding on a lower balcony.
To untangle the web we need to back up six years. In April 2001, the
National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Guvenlik Kurulu) began to
consider evangelical Christians as a threat to national security, on
equal footing as Al Quaida and PKK terrorism. Statements made in the
press by political leaders, columnists and commentators have fueled a
hatred against missionaries who they claim bribe young people to change
After that decision in 2001, attacks and threats on churches, pastors
and Christians began. Bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written
abuse are only some of the ways Christians are being targeted. Most
significant is the use of media propaganda.
From December 2005, after having a long meeting regarding the
Christian threat, the wife of Former Prime Minister Ecevit, historian
Ilber Ortayli, Professor Hasan Unsal, Politician Ahmet Tan and writer /
propogandist Aytunc Altindal, each in their own profession began a
campaign to ring the public's attention to the looming threat of
Christians who sought to "buy their children's souls". Hidden
cameras in churches have taken church service footage and used it
sensationally to promote fear and antagonism toward Christianity.
In an official televised response
from Ankara, the Interior Minister of Turkey smirked as he spoke of the
attacks on our brothers. Amid public outrage and protests against the
event and in favor of freedom of religion and freedom of thought, media
and official comments ring with the same message, "We hope you have
learned your lesson. We do not want Christians here."
It appears that this was an organized attack initiated by an unknown
adult tarikat leader. As in the Hrant Dink murder in January 2007, and a
Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, minors are being used to
commit religious murders because public sympathy for youth is strong and
they face lower penalties than an adult convicted of the same crime.
Even the parents of these children
are in favor of the acts. The mother of the 16
year old boy who killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro looked at the
cameras as her son was going to prison and said, "he will serve time
The young men involved in the killing are currently in custody. Today
news reported that they would be tried as terrorists, so their age would
not affect the strict penalty. Assailant Emre Gunaydin is still in
intensive care. The investigation centers around him and his contacts and
they say will fall apart if he does not recover.
The Church in Turkey responded in a way that honored God as hundreds of
believers and dozens of pastors flew in as fast as they could to stand by
the small church of Malatya and encourage the believers, take care of
legal issues, and represent Christians to the media.
When Susanne Tilman expressed her wish to bury her husband in Malatya,
the Governor tried to stop it, and when he realized he could not stop it,
a rumor was spread that "it is a sin to dig a grave for a
Christian." In the end, in an undertaking that should be remembered
in Christian history forever, the men from the church in Adana (near
Tarsus), grabbed shovels and dug a grave for their slain brother in an
un-tended hundred year old Armenian graveyard.
Ugur was buried by his family in an Alevi Muslim ceremony in his hometown
of Elazig, his believing fiance watching from the shadows as his family
and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had so long
professed and died for.
Necatia's funeral took place in his hometown of Izmir [Smyrna], the city
where he came to faith. The darkness does not understand the light.
Though the churches expressed their forgiveness for the event, Christians
were not to be trusted. Before they
would load he coffin onto the plane from Malatya, it went through two
separate xray exams to make sure it was not loaded with explosives. This
is not a usual procedure for Muslim coffins.
Necatia's funeral was a beautiful event. Like a
glimpse of heaven, thousands of Turkish Christians and missionaries came
to show their love for Christ, and their honor for this man chosen to die
for Christ. Necatia's wife Shemsa told the world, "His death was
full of meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ.
Necati was a gift from God. I feel honore that he was in my life, I feel
crowned with honor. I want to be worthy of that honor."
Boldly the believers took their stand
at Necatia's funeral, facing the risks of being seen publicly and
likewise becoming targets.
As expected, the anti-terror police
attended and videotaped everyone attending the funeral for their future
use. The service took place outside at Buca Baptist
church, and he was buried in a small Christian graveyard in the outskirts
Two assistant Governors of Izmir
were there solemnly watching the event from the front row. Dozens of news
agencies were there documenting the events with live news and
photographs. Who knows the impact the funeral had on those watching? This
is the beginning of their story as well. Pray for them.
In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey,
Susanne Tilman in a television interview expressed her forgiveness. She
did not want revenge, she told reporters. "Oh God, forgive them for
they know not what they do," she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with
the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke
In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing,
many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this
comment of Susanne Tilman has changed lives. One columnist wrote of her
comment, "She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000
years could never do."
The missionaries in Malatya will most likely move out, as their families
and children have become publicly identified as targets to the hostile
city. The remaining 10 believers are in hiding. What will happen to this
church, this light in the darkness? Most likely it will go underground.
Pray for wisdom, that Turkish brothers from other cities will go to lead
the leaderless church. Should we not be concerned for that great city of
Malatya, a city that does not know what it is doing?
When our Pastor Fikret Bocek went with a brother to give a statement to
the Security Directorate on Monday they were ushered into the Anti-Terror
Department. On the wall was a huge chart covering the whole wall listing
all the terrorist cells in Izmir, categorized. In one prominent column
were listed all the evangelical churches in Izmir. The darkness does not
understand the light. "These that have turned the world upside down
are come hither also." (Acts
Please pray for the Church in
Turkey. "Don't pray against persecution, pray for
perseverance", urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.
The Church is better having lost
our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning
desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya; all these
are not to be regretted. Pray that we stand strong against external
opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal
struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.
This we know. Christ Jesus was
there when our brothers were giving their lives for Him. He was there,
like He was when Stephen was being stoned in the sight of Saul of
Someday the video of the deaths of our brothers may reveal more to us
about the strength that we know Christ gave them to endure their last
cross, about the peace the Spirit of God endowed them with to suffer for
their beloved Savior. But we know He did not leave their side.
We know their minds were full of
Scripture strengthening them to endure, as darkness tried to subdue the
unsubduable Light of the Gospel. We know, in whatever way they were able,
with a look or a word, they encouraged one another to stand strong. We
know they knew they would soon be with Christ.
We don't know the details. We don't know the kind of justice that will or
will not be served on this earth.
But we pray - and urge you to pray
- that someday at least one of those five boys will come to
faith because of the testimony in death of Tilman
Geske, who gave his life as a missionary to his beloved Turks, and the
testimonies in death of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, the first martyrs
for Christ out of the Turkish Church.
Darlene N. Bocek
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for
theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall
revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against
you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great
is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were
before you." (Matthew 5:10-12)