Through the fire but not burned

AydinSemse Aydin, wife of Necati Aydin, who was killed in an attack on a Bible publishing house in Turkey’s southeastern province of Malatya, leaves the governorship in Malatya. “We had promised God that we would be His followers, and so we would share His love with people until we died,” Semse said.

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I did not grow up as a Christian. My sister, Janet, who is now a missionary in Turkey, was the first believer and follower of Christ in my family. Janet was always trying to reach me, but I was against what she had to say. I thought that God did not love me, and that as a woman, I had to please Him before He could.

I shared this with my sister, and she responded by showing me Scriptures from the Bible. After seeing what was in the Bible, I felt hope, and even though I didn’t know in depth all that it meant, I prayed and gave my life to Jesus Christ. As soon as I prayed, all fear was gone, I felt the presence of Jesus in the room, and I knew He had entered my heart.

After I had given my life to Jesus Christ, I wanted to share Him with everybody because to me, it was an emergency that I share Him with the people around me. It may seem crazy, but I did not care about my safety. In my thinking, if I cared about my safety, I couldn’t care about others and share with them the beautiful love of Jesus. So I created opportunities to share Jesus, and I acted on those opportunities.

“If I cared about my safety, I couldn’t care about others and share with them the beautiful love of Jesus.”

One day, on the public bus in Turkey, I shared Jesus with a man named Necati Aydin. I gave him my contact information and invited him to discuss the Bible with me. At the time, he was a young, very radical Muslim who had decided to talk to me about the Bible just to challenge me and my faith. But what started out as a motivation to challenge me ended with him becoming a Christian.

After one year of studying the ways of Christ, Necati left Islam and gave his life to Jesus. In an Islamic country, to follow Christ is shameful, and people reject you. Necati was hated, shamed and rejected by his family and community, but he continued to follow Jesus and share Jesus’ love boldly with the people around him.

Four years after Necati became a Christian, he became my husband, and together we started to share about Jesus. After our first year of marriage, God called us to Malatya, a dangerous city for Christians in eastern Turkey. Although it was dangerous, God prepared our hearts and equipped us to go. But before we were able to leave, my husband was thrown in jail for sharing the Gospel in a village.

I remember after Necati was released we sat down and talked about whether we would be more careful about sharing the Gospel, or if we would continue no matter the cost. The answer became clear to us through the Holy Spirit: We had promised God that we would be His followers, and so we would share His love with people until we died.

Determined, we moved to Malatya and served alongside German missionary Tillmann Geske (whose story was told in the April 2017 Decision) and other missionaries in the city. My husband, Geske and the other brothers led a home church in Malatya and were planning to start a new home church in another city in Turkey. But before this could happen, they were murdered by two men who my husband had tried to disciple every week for years.

“We had promised God that we would be His followers, and so we would share His love with people until we died.”

He had told me he knew these men’s hearts. He did not let them attend the home church because he wanted to protect the new believers. My husband said that even though the enemy had sent him two Judases, Jesus didn’t deny Judas, so Necati wouldn’t deny these men. Necati wanted to give these men every chance to know the Savior, so we agreed that he could disciple them but wouldn’t meet with them alone.

On April 18, 2007, my husband had a meeting scheduled at his office with the two men, so Tillmann Geske and Ulrich Sael joined them for a time of tea and discussion about Christ. The two men showed up to the meeting as usual, but they weren’t alone. They came with three more people.

The five visitors, Geske, Sael and Necati sat sipping tea and talking about Christ. But at some point things turned violent. The men started to beat Necati and the other Christian brothers in the office.

They fractured my husband’s skull and even tried to choke him to death with a rope, but in the end, they cut his throat and his back. They did the same to Tillmann Geske and Ulrich Sael, who were like my children’s uncles. These deceptive men took my husband—my children’s father—and my close friends. But they did not take my God.

When I first heard the news that Necati was dead, I couldn’t stand up. But then God’s peace flooded me from the inside to the outside. Today, we have that same peace when we start to share about the forgiveness that comes from above and not from our labor. To forgive the murderers is just a gift from Heaven.

I tell people, “This is a love story. Not a trauma. Not a drama.” Because God promised us, “When you walk through the water, I will be with you, the water will not sweep up over you; and when you walk in the fire, you will not burn because I am with you” (Cf. Isaiah 43:2). We walk through the fire. It’s like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and Jesus is with us. We are not burning and we are not sinking.