I was born in Istanbul in 1969. I finished my primary and secondary education in Adapazari. Currently, I am a student in the Human Relationships department in one of the Universities in Turkey. For about 10 years I have worked in various computer companies, and now I work for an Internet Provider Company in Turkey.
I was raised in a devout Muslim family. In fact, my father is a hafiz and has worked as an official imam in various mosques over the years. My siblings and I, in addition to the Islamic education we obtained from our family and the summer Qur'an studies, attended a boarding school after completing primary school and were well grounded in Islamic knowledge at an early age. Until I finished high school, I practiced Islam faithfully and lived as a devout Muslim.
After finishing high school in 1988, I moved to Istanbul and continued my school and work life there. My first encounter with the Lord Jesus was in Istanbul. One day while walking around Beyoglu, I went into a Church called St. Antuan out of curiosity. This was the first time in my whole life I had ever entered a church. When I first walked in, I was a little timid, intimidated, and excited. There were many other visitors in the church: women, men, old, young, families, singles, and sweethearts. They were praying, lighting candles, spending quiet time, or watching their surroundings in amazement, like me. In this house of worship, people greeted each other with big smiles, respect, and love that I had not seen before. In my lifetime, I have made long observations of people and their character, and have learned not to make many mistakes. I saw innocent, natural, unmasked faces that day. And this affected me greatly. Like many others that day, I sat on a pew and observed the people walking by and reviewed my life. However, I was not able to remember a time that was equivalent to the spirit of happiness and love I experienced at that moment. I was in a trance. When I came to my senses, I found myself praying, according to Islamic rules, of course. I was filled with a joy I had never experienced before.
Finally, I got ready and walked towards the exit. Outside the main door, there were a few steps that led down to the gate. I remember walking down the steps - my feet did not touch the ground. I felt like I was walking on air. I was looking at the people around me and feeling that I wanted to exclaim my love and happiness to them. After this experience, I had the urge to visit the church again. When I went there for the second time, I had exactly the same experience. This went on for a while. One day, when I was leaving the church, I met the director of the newspaper for which I used to work. Since we knew each other well, I didn't hesitate to ask the reason for his visit. He told me that he was there to collect some information. I knew him and his anti-Christian activities well; therefore, I was not surprised to hear this. He was from a devout Muslim family and didn't hesitate to sign any news that would persecute Christians.
I told him that my reason for being there was to "find peace". He told me that there was a Turkish service on Tuesdays at 11:00 a.m., and then we each went our own way. After this, at least once a month, I started coming to the Turkish Service in order to find the source of the peace I experienced there. After a while, I met the director of this newspaper once again. He seemed quite different to me this time. He seemed warmer, more peaceful, and closer, for some reason. After talking for a while, he asked me if I still attended this church. I told him that I tried to go there at least once a month. I didn't understand why he seemed so happy. He invited me to another place. He said that this was also a church. That Sunday, when I went to the meeting place, I thought that I was in wrong place. It was a small building in one of the embassy's back yards. I could hear the sound of music. I pulled together all my courage and opened the door. Then I was sure that this was the wrong place because the people there seemed to be dancing with the music. I was sure that this couldn't be a church. I closed the door and walked away, but someone walked out after me and invited me back in. With curiosity, acting like an experienced journalist, I did not refuse the invitation.
When I walked in, my bewilderment increased a hundredfold. I couldn't believe what I saw. Even my foggy glasses were not able to hide my astonishment. People were gracefully moving to accompanying music made by the guitar, piano, and drums, and singing songs - later I learned that they were hymns - that included words and phrases like "Jesus," "God," "Father," "Alleluia," and "Thanks to be God." The most puzzling thing was that my devout Muslim ex-supervisor from the newspaper was there. I thought that he was there to gather some information for his news, and I was sure that this was a cult. However, after the meeting, somebody explained to me that this was not the case. This person was one of the leaders of this church. I tried to use my Islamic knowledge to corner him with my questions. His style of talking, his ability to use the Turkish language, his carefully chosen words, his listening to my words, as well as the love I felt while he answered my questions, were shocking to me. Besides, my knowledge of Islam next to his was negligible. Who was this man - who knew Islam so well, who could quote Qur'anic scripture with ease, and who could interpret the Qur'an without difficulty? I was amazed. Later I learned that he was a graduate of Istanbul University's Arabic Language and Literature Department and a very respected former attendant of some of the Islamic groups.
After that day, I started to go there every weekend for the meetings. During the weekdays, I read the Bible which was their gift to me and compared it with my Qur'an. When I found a seemingly weak or meaningless point, I underlined it and tried to discuss it with them. Although I had a good Islamic education, I felt very inadequate in my knowledge of Islam. I was continually reading the Qur'an and talking to Islamic leaders to learn what I didn't know about Islam. I brought strong evidence and information that put Christianity down, but they still answered my questions with gentleness and without pressure. This surprised me so much. Although I had looked them in eye and told them, "I don't love you; you are my enemy," they told me that they loved me, and they were fearless. I could have complained against them and harmed them so easily. At that time, there was a significant rejection of Christianity and persecution of Christians. People were against Christians and intolerant of them, waiting for opportunities to harm them.
About four years passed by like this. In that time period, I tested their love, their sincerity, their "show", and their personality. I hadn't found anything negative. During that time, the enmity I had in my heart was removed, friendship was transformed to love, and a heavenly tie of brotherhood was formed between us. I was now totally assured that God lived in these people, and He spoke to me through them. With full confidence and at the cost of my life, I accepted Jesus as my Lord. I believe that He, as the gift of God, came to save us and died for our sins. On May 15, 1994, I was baptized as a sign of dedicating my life to the Lord Jesus. Thanks to be God that He chose me. Although I rejected Him, He did not leave me.
I invite you all to see and investigate the life of Jesus. You don't have anything to lose from it, but you cannot measure what you can gain.
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