Gazi sat in front of his television mindlessly flipping through the channels. He was looking for something more than entertainment, but he didn’t know exactly what it was. He stopped at a Christian station called SAT-7 TV. He was intrigued by a Bible teaching and devotional program called Umut Dolu Sözler, or Words Filled with Hope.
The program connected to him on a very deep level. In the following years he watched the teachings and lessons of the program host, Haluk. Gazi was steadily but quietly becoming a follower of Jesus. Yet, he never attended a church once. Converting from Islam to Christianity is not illegal in Turkey, but Christian converts often face social persecution. They can face pressure at home and difficulties at work. In order to function in society, they are often forced to keep their faith a secret. It is only through media like radio and television that Turkish Christians are able to learn about Jesus.
Last fall, Gazi decided it was time for him to visit a church. He made the hour-long trip into the city to attend one of Antalya’s only four churches. He was overjoyed to be standing among this body of believers and found a seat toward the back of the room. To his amazement, he soon spotted a familiar face among the crowd of worshippers: it was Haluk, the host of his favorite TV program!
Gazi couldn’t wait until the service was over to greet Haluk with a hug. It was a joyful moment for both of them!
“You don’t know who’s on the other side of the camera, or who’s on the other side of the microphone,” says Haluk. “You trust that God speaks through you and that you would really be able to minister to people.”
Gazi regularly attends church, and on Pentecost Sunday he was baptized alongside seven other members of the congregation. Gazi and Haluk the two meet regularly to discuss and explore the many ways that God is with us in the world. Haluk even visits Gazi at his home where he lives with his wife, eight grown children, several grandchildren and great grandchildren.
As Haluk approaches 1,000 programs on radio and TV, Gazi is a reminder that many are hearing the good news and turning to Christ. Even though he may not have the opportunity to see them face to face, God does! Still, Haluk holds on to this truth: “One day in eternity we’re going to know who responded to that call.”