Reaching Turks in the UK

Maria Smith | United Kingdom

“Most people do not think of the UK as unreached,” says Deniz, an OM worker among Turkish people in England. “But there are hundreds of thousands of Turkish speakers in this country, and there is only one weekly [Turkish-speaking] church that we know of.”

According to Operation World, this people group is around 96 per cent Muslim, so having such a significant population of unreached people in the UK presents a great opportunity for sharing the gospel. That said, workers like Deniz are encountering some hurdles. Because many members of this community have poor English, they struggle to find jobs that pay a fair wage and may be forced to work long hours just to support themselves. “They work as many as 12 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week,” he explains. This leaves little time for rest, let alone spiritual exploration and growth.

There are challenges among the Turkish believers, too; Deniz finds that many people coming to the UK as Christians come from shaky theological backgrounds. Although believers may no longer follow false teachings, deep-rooted misconceptions can mean they are unable to sustain themselves spiritually and may be very dependent on external workers.

“So what we are doing,” says Deniz, “is trying to build them up and encourage them to study Scripture for themselves, so they are able to teach others.”

He shares that there are multiple Turkish fellowship groups meeting regularly, and they have plans to plant another church in 2018. In spite of the obstacles, workers have seen the gospel changing the lives of both believers and non-believers.

“I think a lot of them are people who desire to know God and see how that applies to their life,” says Deniz. “There was one Muslim lady coming [to our house group] for eight months, after she saw Jesus in a dream. She accepted Christ—it was a real joy for us. Now she brings another friend who is Muslim—she has not accepted Christ yet, but she has been coming for eight weeks.”

There are a lot of young people in this community, too; this year OM was able to send some Turkish background teens to TeenStreet, where they had the opportunity to encounter God along with an international community of young Christians.

“We have a lot of kids, too,” Deniz adds. “Altogether in London we have about 20 children.” At the moment, though, these young people lack a youth or children’s worker. Although the young people are enthusiastic, inviting non-Christian friends to meetings, Deniz shares that they are praying for someone to commit to and invest in the young people.

And Deniz’s own story is a reminder of God’s faithfulness in working through even the smallest ministries: Brought up in a nominal Muslim family, Deniz was first introduced to Jesus as a child—by a 15-year-old girl leading Bible studies for her peers in her basement.

“So you see,” he says, “people come to faith in very different ways, and we see how God shapes them.”

The work among Turkish people can be slow, according to Deniz, and it takes a lot of time, energy and visits to people. There is much work still to be done, and many have yet to hear the gospel, but God dearly loves the Turkish people, and they are not forgotten.

Pray for spiritual growth among Turkish believers in the UK, so that they can be equipped to serve, and to share their faith with family and friends. Pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to speak truth to those who have been taught false doctrines. Pray for someone to work with the youth and children in this community.

Published: Tuesday, 19 December 2017
Credit: Maria Smith
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