Seeking God in a Foreign Land

Andreas Steffensen

God is reaching refugees from all camps in Turkey through World Challenge’s partners as these families dream of returning home.

“The Kurds are sometimes called the world’s largest nation without its own independent state.” The Economist reported this spring, “Some 30m or [sic] them are scattered mostly across Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

“They share a culture and language, and most are Sunni Muslim. But since the end of the first world war, all four countries have tried to suppress the Kurds’ culture and restricted the use of the Kurdish language. At times they have resorted to horrifying violence…”

The Kurdish refugees form the majority of the population that World Challenge’s partners work with in Turkey. Despite the nightmare they have survived, or perhaps because of it, many are coming to Christ in the refugee camps.

Embracing the Good News

Ahin* was a follower of Zoroastrianism who had been forced to flee Syria with his family. His daughter had just been born and was in an incubator at the hospital. One day, a lady came to visit them, and she told them, “I go to church.” They asked her, “Can you ask the minister if we can come to that church?” She told them to come.

A Japanese pastor was visiting the church, and they heard him speak and then went up to tell him, “We want to follow Jesus.”

He asked them, “Are you sure?”

They affirmed that yes, they did. Ahin explained, “When I was a Muslim, I saw many wrong things. When I would bow down to pray, I would think, ‘Who am I praying to? Does God exist in this house? Does he really need a house? Does he need us to worship him in a house?’ Not only that, but a prophet should prophesy! Muhammad did not perform any miracles or give any prophesies.”

Even in Syria, Ahin had friends who were Christian, and he knew at least a little about their beliefs. He also had learned all about the prophet Muhammad’s life, so when he was presented with the full gospel a few years later as a refugee in Turkey, he embraced Christ as the only true way to God.

An Uncertain Future in God’s Hands

The impact of accepting Christianity on Ahin’s relationship with his family was rough. There were fights in the house over religion, but Ahin would not be persuaded away from his conviction that Jesus as God was the truth. Eventually, his parents and his brother also came to know their Savior. His brother, who had been named Muhammad, even changed his name as a symbol of the life change he was undergoing.

“Praise God, my family is saved,” Ahin said. As for the future, his dreams have changed. He hopes that his daughter will be dedicated to the Lord and live in a way that benefits society.

One day, he dreams of returning to Syria, to the city of his childhood. The Islamic radicals’ military has occupied the city and houses of Kurds who were forced to flee the country, so he isn’t sure if he will be able to reclaim the family’s home. A Kurdish free army has taken over some cities and formed their own government entities, but nothing is very stable at the moment.

In the meantime, Ahin and his family are building a life in Turkey, seeking God’s will for their future and working to spread the good news that they now trust.


*Name replaced or omitted. For our ministry partners’ security, we don’t release names or locations for those living in highly sensitive areas or who have been targeted by religious extremist groups.