Long-term workers Martin and Petro dream about a flourishing gospel movement among the estimated one million Turks living in France. However, the couple doesn’t want to plant Turkish-speaking churches.
“I don’t think there’s a future for a separate Turkish church because their children speak French. If you plant a Turkish-speaking church, it will last one year, maybe two, and then it’s done,” Martin explained. “Our vision is to integrate these groups with the French churches.”
However, finding a French church to accommodate the Turkish believers has been challenging, he admitted.
Once a month, the couple hosts a meeting for all of their Turkish contacts in a Paris church. They also have bi-weekly Turkish Bible studies for people in their neighbourhood and a youth meeting for French-speaking Turkish youth.
Beyond that, Turkish believers meet in less-formal locations around the country. Martin recalled an invitation to speak to a group of Bulgarian Turkish believers. “They were packed into an apartment, sitting on the floor,” he described. “I got my Bible out, they were taking notes, the women came, and everyone was sitting around my feet. I felt like [Apostle] Paul. There’s such a hunger.”
Same language, different response
In France, not all Turkish speakers are equally open to the gospel, Martin noted.
On the one hand, “you have this amazing movement of Bulgarian Turks moving into the west of Europe,” he said. “Many of these Bulgarians come from the south of Bulgaria where the church is very strong.”
These Bulgarian Christian believers arrive in France without spiritual leadership and without the local language. “We are getting contacted from people all over France, but I cannot find a French church to open their doors to these Bulgarian churches,” Martin said.
Although Martin and Petro continue to liaison with French churches, they meanwhile encourage six church plants across France. “It means a lot of travelling for us,” Martin stated. Furthermore, once a week, the couple holds a Bible study via Skype. According to Martin, three of the virtual attendees want to be baptised.
Anatolian Turks, on the other hand, who make up the majority population in the couple’s neighbourhood, are “very closed,” Martin said. “It’s hard to get into their community.”
Martin distributes literature at a Paris street market. He also visits a local mosque whenever he has opportunity. Three days after the newest Imam arrived in the neighbourhood, Martin invited him to breakfast.
While the two men were eating breakfast, the restaurant owner approached the Imam. “Watch out for this guy—he’s dangerous,” he warned.
Later, when Martin tried to follow up with the Imam, the Islamic religious leader told him it wasn’t a good idea for them to have contact. “Why do you come to the mosque?” he asked Martin.
“I’m a theologian. I want to talk about Jesus the Messiah,” Martin responded.
The Imam was not interested. “For the first time in my life, the Imam asked me not to come to the mosque anymore,” Martin said. “In my neighbourhood, a lot of people know about me and are warned to stay away.”
Pray for French churches to receive the Bulgarian Turkish believers. Pray for Martin and Petro to find open doors in their neighbourhood to talk about Jesus.
Nicole James is a journalist, ESL teacher and adventurer. As a writer for OM Middle East North Africa and OM's Muslim Ministries, she’s passionate about publishing the stories of God’s works among the nations, telling people about the wonderful things He is doing in the world.