“How many of you have heard the story behind Christmas?”
Silence. No hands. None. Not one. It was December 2014. I was standing before a group of 80 Turkish Muslims at an end of year banquet at a hotel in Kadikoy, a suburb of Istanbul.
My last three Christmas mornings I’ve woken to the sound, not of Jingle Bells or Silent Night, but to the Islamic prayer singer emanating from the loud speakers outside my window. In America everything pretty much comes to a grinding halt during the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Years. But in a country that’s 96% Muslim (and less than 1% Christian), Christmas is just another day of the year. As a traveler in search of Kingdom opportunities, this definitely boosts my chances of making a difference!
So it was that I was tapped to be the guest speaker for this particular end of year gathering. The invitation came from the leader of an English conversation club I team with, as a relational outreach tool.
Since the after dinner topic I was given was Christmas, I figured my question was a logical one. “How many of you know or have heard the story behind the holiday of Christmas? Anyone?” I asked again, this time making extra sure my English pronunciation was slow and clear. Still nothing.
So I spent the next several minutes reading aloud the account of the birth of Christ from Matthew and Luke, explaining as I went. When I finished I sang O Holy Night. This was followed by 30-45 minutes of lively table discussions where each group of 6-8 shared (in English) concerning the message they had heard.
Our media would have us believe that Muslims are closed and even hostile to the message of Jesus Christ. This has not been my experience. Most Muslims I speak with are horrified by the behavior of ISIS and other terrorist groups, and are interested in learning more about Jesus.
The fact is, due to the international situation, the Muslim world is more open now than ever to the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is a great threat to Satan. His strategy? To intimidate believers into silence. That’s why in these last days it’s vital that we cling by faith to the truth of the Gospel. For Jesus said, “Look! The fields are white unto harvest.”
Eric Walker will be returning to Istanbul, Turkey on December 17th. Your prayers are appreciated. Please feel free to visit the Good Ground Communications website. Good Ground Communications is an Operating Project of Joy to the World Foundation.