A Divine Misdial

01 June 2024

Nurettin was born into a Kurdish family in eastern Türkiye (Turkey) and raised as a Muslim, but he never really believed in the Islamic concept of Allah. “I wasn’t an atheist,” he said. “I didn’t doubt God’s existence. I just didn’t see him in Islam.”

Not interested in religion, Nurettin instead focused on Kurdish politics and making as much money as he could. His political ambitions led him to become a city councillor, and his business interests flourished. Over time, however, he found those achievements unfulfilling.

When a friend invited him to meet with some foreigners in a part of the country not commonly visited by tourists, Nurettin was intrigued. During their meeting, Nurettin listened but wasn’t particularly interested. Then, when the strangers stood to leave, one of them offered Nurettin a book he had never read — a Bible.

“I didn’t expect much of it,” he said. “But because he offered it, I took it. Then I started getting curious [about] what was written and what it said, so I started reading it.”

As he read the Bible, Matthew 7:7–8 spoke to his heart: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Nurettin had reached a point where materialism no longer satisfied him. He was seeking something to satisfy his soul.

A Wrong Number?
A year later, Nurettin received an unexpected phone call from the man who had given him the Bible. The foreigner was a Christian worker, and he had called Nurettin by accident while trying to reach another man named Nurettin, whom he thought was more interested in meeting to talk about Christ.

But the ‘wrong’ Nurettin decided he should meet the Christian again. Without realising the mistaken identity, the two men arranged to meet at a bus stop.

“When [Nurettin] got off the bus, I thought, ‘No, this is the wrong Nurettin!’” the worker said. He suddenly realised he had dialled the wrong number. “Oh well, God knows,” he thought.

During their second meeting, Nurettin was astonished when another Kurdish man with the Christian worker prayed over their meal using Jesus’ name. The Kurds primarily follow Islam, and Nurettin had never met a Kurdish Christian.

“When he prayed, I realised he was Kurdish and he was a follower of Jesus,” Nurettin said. “Something just hit my heart. I thought, ‘How is it possible for a Kurd to be a follower of Christ?’”

That question remained on his mind as he continued to read the Bible. Then, one day while reading the Book of Revelation, Nurettin had a vision of Christ. “Jesus was standing right in front of me,” he said. “I confessed right then that Jesus was Lord.” In the vision, Nurettin sensed the Lord saying that God wanted to use him to save others.

After Nurettin called some Christian workers to tell them about his vision and his decision, one of the men began discipling him in the foundational beliefs of Christianity. As he grew in understanding through the next year, Nurettin decided to keep his newfound faith a secret from his politically active family. He said they wouldn’t have cared if he had become an atheist, but becoming a Christian would not have been accepted by family members and fervent Muslim neighbours.

“In that area of the country, there are some extremely conservative, very religious Muslims,” he said, “and they would definitely put pressure on you. They are very strong, and I was just a child in the faith.”

On 4 April 2010, Nurettin was baptised in secret. Twenty days later he received an early-morning visit from the police.

A Bible Behind Bars
Police interrogated Nurettin for hours, mostly about his Kurdish political activities, but to his surprise they also asked him about his faith. “Are you a follower of Jesus?” they asked. “How did you become a follower? Why did you become a Christian?” He later learned that someone had posted information about his baptism online. “I knew the basics,” he said, “and I shared the Lord’s Prayer with them. But all I could explain was the basics about the faith and the gospel.”

When he was finally locked in a cell, Nurettin was overcome with joy and peace. He realised that the Holy Spirit had enabled him to answer the interrogators’ questions despite his limited knowledge.

Turkish authorities sentenced Nurettin to two years in prison for his political activities. As he adjusted to life behind bars, he took comfort from praying the Lord’s Prayer each morning and night. Later, he found a Bible in the prison library that he read eagerly but cautiously. “I would try to read a lot … when other prisoners weren’t in the library,” he said.

After completing his prison sentence two years later, Nurettin had no income or social standing. But his faith had grown stronger; he spent hours each day praying and sharing God’s Word with his wife.

“I would read the Bible to her and with her,” he said. “I think [when] people come to faith it is primarily through the reading of the Word, because through the reading of the Word the Holy Spirit can touch their heart.” Slowly his wife’s heart changed, until she too came to faith in Christ.

In the months after his release, Nurettin sensed God calling him to leave his worldly pursuits, so he distanced himself from politics. However, the government still considered him a potential threat to national security because of his previous political connections. After 18 months of freedom, authorities rearrested Nurettin and sentenced him to two and a half additional years behind bars.

Nurettin had matured in faith since his first imprisonment. He found it less restrictive than before, enabling him to share his faith more openly. During his second sentence, he was also allowed to bring Bibles inside and give them to others. But finding a receptive audience was challenging. “No one came to faith during that period,” he said. “However, pretty much everyone heard the gospel. They knew I was a follower of Jesus, so they would always ask me questions and I would answer them.”

From Prison to Pulpit
After his second release from prison, Nurettin trained to become a pastor, and today he leads a small, thriving congregation of Kurdish believers. He said many Kurds are asking questions about the Christian faith and are knocking at the church door, seeking to know more.

“People come and sit and observe worship,” he said, adding that many Kurds are just as surprised as he was to see Kurdish followers of Christ. A Kurdish church is such a rarity that it has attracted the attention of local newspeople. “Journalists have come inside during worship and have written reports about it in the paper,” he said.

A few of the men he ministered to in prison have sought him out since their release, and he prays that they will come to faith in Christ. He wants more Kurds to experience what he did when he read that first Bible he received years ago.

“God willing, I will spend the rest of my life preaching His Word until I reach eternal life,” he said.

Nurettin wants everyone to know God’s love, a love he believes led the front-line worker to call him years ago. “It is not a coincidence,” he said. “God was orchestrating His divine purpose.”

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