NRB International Insider
Interesting Impressions from Turkey
As I write this I am sitting in the beautiful Ankara airport, opened just two years ago. On the sound system, mixed in with traditional Turkish music and flight announcements…Frank Sinatra singing “Fly Me to the Moon.” It somewhat illustrates the contrasts I find in Ankara and Turkey today.
I took a bus from the city to the airport early Sunday morning, thanks to the help and gracious hosting of Sarah and Josh Wibberly. Weather at DFW airport caused a change in my flight schedule to Turkey, and that mixed up their system at Turkish Airlines. I ended up talking to nine people before I was able to get my boarding passes for my trip from Ankara to Tirana, Albania. The joy of international travel.
This stop on my trip has been one of surprises and contrasts. As the pictures show, Ankara is an interesting mix of the old and the new. Many shiny new office and apartment buildings are fitted around older neighborhoods and squatter’s homes. There is much history in this land…the land of Ephesus and Galatia…of Ottoman Empire and Turkish rule, of an almost total Muslim population but with theoretical religious freedom. The key word is “theoretical.”
Modern highways and infrastructure also coexist with fascinating cultural lifestyles. I rode a small bus that has a special name in Turkish. The English translation would be “full”. I’m told that’s because when the bus gets full, it goes. I think they come out of the bus barn full. It doesn’t have regular stops, so you just flag it down and get on. But hang on. The drivers are experts at catapulting you to the back of the bus without warning. Another “interesting” thing is that while the buses often have people standing, there is apparently an official limit. At one point on our trek the driver said something and I was instructed that we who were standing had to squat down while we passed some “official eyes”. After a couple of blocks we were given the all clear and could stand again. What an adventure.
Radio Shema is a shining light in Ankara and beyond. Its signal can be heard by about 7 million people in the greater Ankara area, and by countless others via the Internet. It is amazing to me that there are two Christian radio stations in Turkey (the other is in Istanbul). I am told there may be no more than a couple of thousand Christians in the whole country of 75 million people. That is hard to grasp. I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with about 5 million people. That means we might have a little more than 130 Christians in the whole Metroplex! So to think Evangelicals could acquire a broadcast license for Christian programming, especially in a somewhat hostile environment, is nothing short of a miracle of God.
Radio Shema celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. It is an unashamed witness for Christ. From the start the station read the Bible on the air. That continues today, but not without opposition. A few years back someone took the station to court to try to stop the reading of God’s Word. Sonar Tufan, the station manager, is a strong Christian with great vision. He also has a sense of what is right, and is not willing to give in easily. The Bible reading case went to the highest courts in the land before being decided in favor of Radio Shema. To God be the glory…His word is heard daily on Radio Shema…a bright light in the darkness.
The radio ministry struggles to gain financial support within the country. The Christians are few, and many are not financially able to support their church and a ministry like Radio Shema. While some of the six churches in the city give to the station, it is a small amount against the $14,000 US needed per month. It‘s a constant struggle to meet the budget, and Sonar has to give too much time to this part of his responsibilities.
While enjoying a time of fellowship and a wonderful meal in Sonar’s home…and with his delightful family…I asked him what he hoped to see happen with the ministry in the next 3-5 years. He and his wife both laughed and acknowledged that it is a question they don’t get to consider too often. But Sonar quickly had a response. He would like to enlarge the impact of Radio Shema to cover all of Turkey. Through satellite, Internet, and local community stations, he would like to see the message of hope in Christ be spread throughout this land that is hopeless without Jesus.
There is much to commend in Turkey. Major advances have been made in the past decades, especially since the leader in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Ataturk, made such sweeping changes in everything from education, the written language, women’s rights, and Western dress. Some of that spirit remains today.
But none of that matters ultimately…eternally…if hearts are not changed and lives put their trust in Jesus. One of the perplexing things here is that Christianity is seen as a Western religion. Imagine…the land where Paul brought the good news, the place where churches were formed soon after the resurrection of Christ, the region of the seven churches written about by John in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Along with Israel and Greece, there could not be a more logical place for the Gospel to take root than Turkey.
My prayer will be more focused now for Turkey and Radio Shema in the coming days. I hope God will show me how we can bring more support and encouragement to this great work in the coming weeks and months. Who knows? Maybe God will put Turkey on your heart, too. If so, contact me. With the Spirit’s help, we’ll figure out ways to help this light of the Gospel shine brighter and brighter, that many will come to know the Christ who died for the people of Turkey, indeed, for all of us.
Now, I'm off to visit Radio 7 and Radio Emanual in Albania, ELION Media in Serbia, and Radio Voice of the Gospel in Romania. I am reminded on these trips...God has his people, faithfully serving Him! It is a joy to know them and to serve them as we serve our Lord.
Ronald L. Harris, DD
Senior Vice President for Strategic Partnerships
National Religious Broadcasters
703-330-7000 (NRB HQ)
This is one in a series of occasional looks at the
need and the impact of Christian broadcasting around the world.
National Religious Broadcasters
Dr. Ron Harris
Senior VP for Strategic Partnership