As I recently watched and listened to the news of the attack and subsequent slaying of those in the office of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, I found my thoughts immediately drawn to a comparable, yet very different story. Both stories share the similarity of bloodshed at the hands of adherents to radical Islam. Each story is painfully tragic. I wondered if any of those slain in France had met their attackers before that fateful day. I thought of the life and deaths of Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske, who were murdered in their office at Zirve Publishing in Malatya, Turkey on April 18, 2007.Nacati and Semse Aydin
Those who were responsible for the murders of Necati, Ugur, and Tilman weren’t all strangers to these men or their families. To the contrary, one of the murderers had sought Necati out earlier, pretending to be interested in his Christian faith. As described in the book Faithful Until Death, written by Wolfgang Haede, Necati was suspicious of this young man from the beginning. He and his wife Semse discussed this, and concluded that in spite of the young man’s motives, a meeting would still offer an opportunity to share the message of Jesus with him. Later Semse would refer to those who were responsible for the murders of her husband, Ugur, and Tilman as “their Judas.”
Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel, and Tilmann Geske didn’t have their lives taken from them, they gave them away, not unlike the Jesus they’d hoped to introduce to the five men who betrayed and murdered them that morning. Instead they were ushered into the heaven where they’ve now joined those robed in white, as they await the full number of their fellow servants.
11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.- Revelations 6:11
Following the killings in France I wondered how this news would affect those who live boldly in the shadows of persecution. Women like Semse Aydin and Susanne Geske. Both of them suffered great losses yet each found it in their hearts to publically forgive those responsible for the deaths of those they love. Would the images and commentaries being shared on virtually every media outlet bring vivid memories to the forefront of their minds? Would pain that lay gently beneath the surface be visible to them once again? More importantly, I wondered if those who live in the shadows of persecution like Semse and Susanne know they are not forgotten? Do they know they are not alone, that we remember them and are praying for them? While it’s true that God is faithful to those with broken hearts, it is equally true that a broken heart hurts. I am convinced that those who’ve lostSusanne Geske and Semse Aydin
their loved ones because of their faithful testimony are also those of whom the world is not worthy. When we remember, encourage, and pray for those who suffer for their Christian faith, let us not forget the living witnesses amongst us.
“It was not easy for me to say that I forgive the killers.” Semse said later at the memorial service. “To be honest, my heart is broken and my life feels shattered. I really loved Necati. He was the love of my life, my closest friend. But there is no one I love more than Jesus. Only because of this, I can bear it.” – Semse Aydin from Faithful Until Death.
Editor's note: Semse Aydin has spoken at several VOM Regional Conferences, and will be speaking at more this year. Watch www.VOMMeetings.com for regional conferences near you and those where Semse will speak.
Tami Yeager was first introduced to the ministry of VOM through a newsletter she was handed in 2003. As she began to read the stories shared within those pages she was confronted with a reality that did not fit into the package she had unknowingly wrapped her knowledge of God in. As she began to learn of the suffering of Christians around the world a desire grew to serve them. Today she serves as volunteer Community Coordinator in the Be A Voice ministry of VOM.
The evangelist, Andrew, stared into the gun, wondering why the man didn’t fire. The assassin grew frustrated, then frightened, and finally he fled from the room.
The phone rang, and Andrew found himself talking to the man who had come to kill him minutes earlier.
“The Muslim leaders offered me a big reward to kill you,” the would-be assassin explained. “I rode across Bangladesh to come to your office. The reward was mine. I was ready to shoot, but I couldn’t move my arm. I couldn’t pull the trigger.” The evangelist praised the Lord for protection.
Andrew found it somewhat comical. “So what can I do for you now?” he asked.
“Sir, I still can’t move my arm, and it’s because of you! Can you help me?”
Right on the phone Andrew prayed, and instantly the man regained full use of his arm. Astounded by the miracle, he returned to the evangelist’s office and began to ask questions about this “Jesus” of whom the Muslim leaders seemed to be afraid.
The evangelist patiently explained the good news of Jesus’ love, even offering tea to the man who’d come to kill him. After forty-five minutes, the man prayed to receive Jesus into his own heart. The former hit man’s ministry now is to destroy the works of the devil. To this day, he is a fellow missionary in Bangladesh.
The assassin’s would-be murder attempt was a comedy in errors. If it were a movie, the audience would have cheered aloud when the protagonist, Andrew, came onto the scene. Like any good movie hero, Andrew did not just defeat his enemy’s plans. He confounded them, even to the point of having tea with the hit-man-turned-convert. This was not going according to plan. The devil constantly has to go back to the drawing board to rethink his plans for our destruction. Andrew was not a victim of his circumstances, and neither are you. If he had been shot, his death also would have been a witness, and so will you. Unlike the devil’s schemes, God’s plans for your life cannot be thwarted.
This is one of the readings from the book, Extreme Devotion, available from VOM’s online bookstore. You can also sign up to receive Extreme Devotion daily via email.