18 April 2007:
The young man brandished the knife in Necati’s face and shrieked, “We’re going to turn you back into a Muslim.” Four other young men with knives moved in closer to the bodies of Tilmann and Uğur stretched out on the floor of the modest office. Uğur quietly whispered,“Isa ... Isa.”
Necati strained against the cords that bit into his hands and feet, hoping to get a glimpse of his two good friends lying on the floor just a few feet away. His head throbbed from a hard blow and he fought to remain conscious.
Was this how it would end? He always knew that living for the Messiah in Turkey might also mean dying for him. The feet of his assailants shuffled around his head and their hideous laughter reached his ears, though the pain and wounds made them sound strangely muddled and distant.
Suddenly his body flinched with excruciating pain when one of the men pierced his abdomen with a knife and slowly turned it. He could hear more laughter and talking, mixed with groans he recognized coming from his friends.
Rapidly losing consciousness, Necati turned to see one of the young men wildly rummaging through his desk and stuffing his pockets. Uğur’s cell phone started ringing. Someone shouted instructions for him to calm down and answer the phone. A faint bit of hope touched Necati’s heart when he realized that someone outside the locked office had become aware there was a problem. The leader of the murderers ordered Uğur to tell the caller he was in a meeting in a hotel downtown.
One of the killers looked into Necati’s face. Though he could hardly focus with his swollen eyes, he glanced at the familiar face of Emre. Just an hour earlier Necati had sat with the young man and his friends in his office. Uğur had served them all tea according to polite Anatolian culture while they exchanged courteous greetings and introductions and began to talk in a relaxed way about spiritual matters.
Necati and Emre had met several times in the past couple of months to discuss the meaning and message of Christianity. Coming from a traditional Muslim background, Emre had raised many questions in their prior meetings about the Bible, Jesus and Christian discipleship, but showing a level of interest in the subject that seemed more or less sincere if not overly enthusiastic.
Necati had talked to hundreds of his Muslim countrymen about the Messiah, going over passages of Scripture, comparing them to the message of the Qur’an, listening patiently to questions, objections and outright misperceptions, helping people get a sound grasp of the essential ideas of God’s love displayed through the gift of Jesus the Messiah. Some had paid less attention than Emre had in their meetings and some more. When he did have moments of feeling uneasy about Emre’s true motivations, he simply reminded himself that even someone with mixed motives should have a chance to hear the Gospel.
Sitting around the tea table earlier that morning, Necati was completely unaware of the real reason Emre had said he wanted to bring some new friends to a Bible study. After a few sips of tea and a few minutes of calm discussion, Emre started to become visibly agitated. Anger filled his eyes when he accused Necati of spreading a false religion and plotting to undermine the stability of the Turkish state. Emre’s sudden change of mood heightened the tension in his friends. the room exploded with knives and fists and now Necati knew he was fading fast.
Finding comfort from somewhere deep inside, Necati thought about his wife. He thought about his children. He could see each of their lovely smiling faces. He thought about his Lord and Savior, for whom he had been called to lay down his life. He wept inwardly as he thought about the families and friends of Tilmann and Uğur; if only he could have done something to save them.
Yet with his moments quickly coming to an end, Necati felt reassurance that all was not lost. Holding steadfastly to his faith in the goodness of God he knew that he had not come accidentally to this final place in his life. He believed that long before he had ever heard of Jesus the Messiah and come to know him personally and powerfully, his life had owed like a stream in the desert, not randomly, but all the way back to the very headwaters he had moved under the watchful and careful eye of God. No, they would not turn him back into a Muslim. He belonged to Jesus for eternity.