God using MBC to touch Turkey
Fruit bound to grow in Islamic nation
June 6, 2006
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Partnership Missions Specialist Norm Howell believes in the method of “tourist engagement” that Missouri Baptist teams have practiced in the Muslim nation of Turkey since his first trip there in December 2004.
On a return visit last April, Howell and his fellow team members stayed focused on handing out Arabic New Testaments and the Jesus film on DVD to Turks who were open to the idea of mutual hospitality. That was rewarding in and of itself, but on his most recent trip May 3-14, Howell experienced something that absolutely thrilled his heart.
“I saw the first church in Turkey,” he said. “They have pastors, they are working, functioning, doing ministry. I met some of the first believers. Two years ago, when we went, (there were) no believers.”
Howell has learned that teams of 4-6 Baptists work best in the Turkish culture as they walk about the countryside praying for God to open a door. Tourism is the venue by which these groups do their work. In this latest endeavor, Howell and his wife, Karen, were joined by: David Groves, pastor, Living Word Baptist Church, Poplar Bluff, and his wife, Karen; Ben Chapman, pastor, First Baptist Church, Adrian; and Tim McIntyre, pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Sparta, Ill. To the typical Turk on the street, they appeared to be six American travelers.
“We actually went to some citadels that would date back to 800 B.C.,” Howell said. “These were old Assyrian empires, Babylonian fortresses from the time of the prophets in the Old Testament.”
The Turks typically would be hospitable as they offered the Americans coffee, tea or candy. The American “tourists” would then offer them the Bread of Life.
“Only on a few occasions did anyone ever say to me we do not want the New Testament,” Howell said. “Eighty to 85 percent of the time people would take it.
“We met with some people who were not quite believers but they were so close. They were saying things like, ‘I don’t want to take the chance if the Koran isn’t true. That’s why I’m reading the Injil (what Turks call the New Testament), because I want to know God.’
“Whenever I would leave, I tried to give this message: I know one thing for certain, I have peace with God. I know what He did in my life and how He changed me, and it was all through Jesus Christ.”
Howell said about 12-15 more Missouri Baptist teams will be flowing in and out of Turkey from now until the end of the year. He is specifically recruiting to fill spots on three MBC-sponsored teams that are scheduled for Sept. 11-20, Oct. 9-18 and Nov. 13-22.
“If you will learn to be a planter and a seed sower, or come be the next wave that comes through and does the watering on that plant or seed, you can get tremendous benefits from that,” he said. “It’s a team approach. The Bible says when that one seed was planted in the good soil, it yielded forth a hundredfold. When we think of that, we’re talking literally hundreds if not thousands of people that will be influenced by the one seed that you plant. That’s what I’m trying to get us to focus on.
“It’s not like many places where we could go and do some mass crusade and thousands get saved, because we know the reality of that is that many times following the crusade we can’t even find those people. Here we’re planting a seed and somebody’s coming around a year later maybe and pouring some more water on that seed. I see God doing a great work in the heart of an Islamic country.”