In 1984 we got a letter from Elise, a woman who had been searching for spiritual input. Her sister had gotten an offer for the Bible correspondence course and gave it to Elise. Through that she found our address and wanted to meet with us.
We called the telephone number she sent us in a letter and her sixteen year old daughter, Sarah, answered, speaking to Barbara in high school German. She was very relieved to find that we spoke Turkish.
This contact proved to be the most significant one in the fellowship. After she came to the Lord, Elise proved to be a real evangelist and eventually was instrumental in seeing twenty-three of her relatives become believers!
About the same time, the Smith’s oldest daughter, Alyn, introduced us to a man she was interested in. Ivan was a short, aggressive fellow, seemingly a hard worker who showed an interest in the gospel.
Although he had only a third grade education, Ivan was bright and was soon explaining the meaning of the gospel to the rest of the Smith family more effectively than we could. Ivan himself made a commitment and began attending the Sunday meetings at the Smiths. Soon he and Alyn married.
Another fellow, Harry, came through the correspondence course, and Dan began to disciple him, pouring lots of time and effort into his life. Harry showed signs of being a potential leader.
Then some months later, a worker from Germany came looking for nationals to work in his literature ministry, and sought out Harry. Dan talked with this man and warned him that Harry was just a young believer and needed time to mature before he could be put in charge of a foreign-funded venture. But the man did not listen.
We found out later that this was his way in many countries. He operated independently of any workers on the ground, taking one or two believers to himself and working exclusively with them. It led to the distribution of the man’s literature, but to the unhealthy separation and isolation of believers.
At this point our little group was meeting in homes, often in a different place every week. Although home meetings were not illegal, many people believed they were, and felt uncomfortable. As the culture was building oriented, it seemed strange to seekers that we had no official meeting place.
The Lord provided a solution to this through a friend who knew the priest in the Vatican Embassy. He allowed us to meet on their property, making it much easier to invite seekers.
One day after the meeting during the teatime, Barbara noted that each local was talking to a foreigner. The believers were not mixing with each other. This was not a new problem. Therefore, we decided to have foreigners attend, encouraging the locals to interact with each other.
One Sunday afternoon when we arrived at the gate of the Embassy, the head priest was there and took me aside. “This is the last Sunday you will be allowed to meet here,” he said,
“Why is that?” I asked.
“The authorities have come and told us we cannot accept you.”
“What would be the reason for that?” I exclaimed, “This is not local property, this belongs to the Vatican. This decision is contrary to the law!”
“Ah, my son,” said the priest, “Here the law and the authorities are two very different things!” He was right, of course, and that was the end of our meetings at the Embassy.
In one way I was thankful, for we had noticed that after our meetings, the two priests living at the Embassy would come down and mix with us. In the end we realized that they were trying to draw the believers into Catholicism. Separation from that was good.
The Lord had other things in mind for us; an Austrian believer was able to get permission for us to meet in a school. That was even better, because it was more centrally located and was guarded, making the believers feel even more secure.
Picture: street scene from 70s