Persecuted, But Not Forsaken

An Essay By Sarah L // 11/17/2007

We did not experience “summer” as the rest of the world did this year. I certainly intended to, but God had other plans. On April 18, a day forever seared in my memory, two Turkish believers and a fellow German worker were murdered by five Muslim men in Malatya, the city we lived in. That afternoon my life changed drastically, and I had never felt more alone. Our family sat with the German children that now had no father, and the wife and the fiancée of the Turkish men, isolated from family and most friends by their faith. No words came to my mind, just tears. Coping through a death always brings hardships on those left behind, and this one felt infinitely more challenging. Just a few days later, the German man’s wife forgave the murderers on television, and my own frustration and hurt with God shamed me. It seemed so effortless to turn my eyes on myself and focus on how my life lay in ruins. God used that tendency in me as a lesson to teach me to look to others, the others who had lost something much more precious than their safety.

No one thought of safety when a week later we attended one of the most powerful funerals I have ever gone to. In an old Armenian cemetery, about 65 people gathered to witness the moving burial of the German man in the soil, in the very country of the men that had so cruelly taken his life. As we stood singing, tears mingling with the light drizzle of rain, I felt God’s presence so mightily, and I knew that whatever had happened before, at that moment His glory filled the place. We left the funeral saddened but buoyed in spirit. I knew that we had just witnessed a monumental moment in history, and now I marvel at the fact God allowed me the privilege to behold it.

In the following weeks we needed to evacuate to a larger “less hostile” city for a week or so. We joined some friends in a city called Izmir, and there God taught me lessons of trust and contentment. Obviously we thought our stay would not last long and so prepared to leave in that mindset, never suspecting that the next time we returned home, more than a month would have passed and we would only come back to pack up everything and say goodbye. Once in Izmir, no one could find an available place for our family of seven to stay so we moved into a single man’s vacated apartment. This aggravated the situation tremendously considering the circumstances, but also in that place, our friends told us that we had to move from Malatya, all while we still reeled from the reality of our friend’s deaths. Unexpectedly, my sister and I had the privilege to visit some friends in Wales for one week which cemented in my mind God’s unfailing love and care for us and that He controlled the situation entirely. God’s message to me through our whole experience in Izmir blew my mind in that he showed me his overwhelming, all-encompassing faithfulness. I learned how better to trust him because of that. His grace and faithfulness were further shown through the people on our team whom I came to love during those hard months and through His providence in helping us decide which city to move to while showing us an apartment exactly suited to our large family’s needs. It hurt so much to say goodbye to our few friends in Malatya, though. We felt like we gave up and presented a horrible example to the other Christians. None of us wanted to start over in a new city, meet new people, or uproot one more time. But we had to follow wherever He led us, He clearly wanted us in Ankara, the capital city. Jesus showed me through it all that life could never all revolve around me, and if He planned my life around me and what made me comfortable, then what had happened would definitely show failure on His part.

Our family still feels grief over our friend’s deaths. Everyone misses our old, familiar friends and the comfortable small-city life that we enjoyed while living in Malatya. Because I have never experienced life in a big city, living here in the capital daunts me. Throughout this whole summer, which ended up as one huge growing experience for me, God has moved immensely in me, in our family, and in people’s lives. Even though I did not experience a “real” summer this year, the lessons I learned from it, despite the pain of them, invaluably enriched my life. I pray that I will not soon forget them or how faithfully God showed himself to me this summer.

Comments

Very powerful

Thanks for being so honest and sharing this with those of us who may never go through such trials. You are very encouraging. :)

Timothy | Mon, 11/19/2007

Sarah

Thank you so much for this piece, Sarah. It helps put some things into perspective. To trust God in something like that is like walking out on a stormy ocean. In the end, though, we'll realize that it was better that we braved the waves. :) That is quite a strong faith.
Blessings to you.

Brianna | Mon, 11/19/2007

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"We have been created for greater things. Why stoop down to things that will spoil the beauty of our hearts?" ~Mother Theresa

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