Having This Ministry
A Digital Newsletter from Living Stream Ministry

A Brief History of the Literature Work in Modern Turkish

Background of Christian Literature in Modern Turkish

Modern Turkish, with its Latin alphabet, was introduced to Turkey in the 1930s to replace Ottoman Turkish with its Arabic alphabet. Today, there are approximately 84 million Modern Turkish speakers worldwide. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a great population exchange of about 2 million people between Greece and Turkey. Approximately 1.2 million Christians left Asia Minor, East Thrace, the Pontic Alps, and the Caucasus to move to Greece. This reduced the percentage of the Christian population in Turkey to next to nothing. Today, the regenerated Christian population is under 7,000 in all of Turkey. The Turkish Bible Society published its first Modern Turkish Bible in 2001, and there are only two Christian bookshops in Istanbul (the largest city in Turkey) besides the Turkish Bible Society. Christian publication works in Turkey are primarily funded by missionary groups and limited by the size of the Christian community.

A Brief History of the Literature Work in Modern Turkish

A Move to Turkey

In 2006, a couple from Hong Kong received the burden from the Lord to move to Turkey at a time when there was a call to spread the gospel of the kingdom to those Asian countries in which there were no churches as the Lord’s expression. Under the Lord’s arrangement, there was an Armenian sister living in Istanbul before this couple and their two children moved there in 2007. At that time, there were no hymns, literature, or even gospel tracts in Turkish. These saints began learning Turkish after they arrived in the country. Initially they could read only small portions of the Turkish Bible when they met together.

To prepare gospel materials for the local peoples, they found some Turkish friends who knew English to translate the six rainbow booklets from the gospel messages that were preached when the saints first went to Russia. One of these friends refused to translate the booklet Christ is God because the message was not acceptable according to her beliefs.

The Beginning of Turkish Translation Work

While the couple was trying to seek further advice on translation work, a brother serving with Rhema Literature Distributors was transiting through Istanbul on his way to Russia in May 2009. He had a layover for a few hours at the airport and asked the couple to come and have some fellowship with him. During that fellowship, he told the couple that Rhema was still willing to add some new languages to their distribution service and that Turkish was among their considerations. He asked the couple if they were interested and if they could begin the translation work. The couple felt that this was of the Lord and gladly agreed to the proposal.

With the help of the Rhema serving saints, the couple began searching for local Christian translators and publishers. The first Christian publisher they met was working on the translation of the New International Version Study (NIV) Bible in Turkish. The owner had met Brother Lee at a conference in Germany when he was translating the messages into Turkish for some attendees. However, he had doubts concerning some of our practices and teachings. Despite this, he was still open to fellowship and introduced some translators to the couple. After some translation assessments, three translators were chosen to work on Living Stream Ministry’s seven Rhema-distributed titles plus some gospel booklets.

Passing Through Death and Entering into Resurrection

A trial came to the couple in August 2009, just two months after beginning this translation work. The wife needed to be in Hong Kong for the treatment of an illness. The whole family moved back to Hong Kong for four months. By the Lord’s mercy, the wife fully recovered, and the family returned to Istanbul in January 2010. The Lord not only preserved the literature work, but also established His testimony in Istanbul in February 2010.

By 2012, all seven Rhema-distributed titles had been translated and were ready to be proofread and edited. Due to Turkish law, it was necessary and beneficial to publish our ministry books through a trusted and influential local Christian publisher. This would help for the books to reach and be accepted by local Christians. Through the Turkish Bible Society, the couple contacted a major local Christian publisher and printer. The owner of this publisher is an Assyrian Turkish believer who had the burden to work for God and spread the word of God in Turkey. This publisher prints over 90% of all Christian books in Modern Turkish. Most of these Christian books are translated titles, and he has several translators working for him.

Living Water Flowing Again in This Land

The publisher agreed to create a branch in his company under the moniker Akarsu, which means “flowing water,” for LSM’s titles so that all the copyrights to the Turkish translations would remain with LSM. He also introduced them to the main translator of the Turkish NIV Study Bible, who has been translating the LSM titles ever since. In Turkey, Christian translators will help to translate only books that they accept and recommend to readers.

After publishing the Rhema-distributed titles, the couple started working on other LSM titles, which are on the LSM priority list. One of the translators, who was translating the New Believer’s Series by Watchman Nee, told them that Turkish believers really needed these materials to help them grow in their spiritual life. Because most Turkish Christian books are for gospel preaching, she felt that books like these could meet their spiritual needs and that more should be published.

Since the Christian community is quite small in Turkey, local Christians are used to receiving Christian books (even Bibles) free of charge. A local Christian distributor really appreciates the publications of both Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, and he is willing to distribute our books as free gifts to local individual believers, to denominations, and to overseas Turkish Christian groups in Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. He also distributes these books at some Christian conferences in Turkey. The church in Turkey is receiving the burden to pay for these books and for this distributor to send them to his clients. Around twelve boxes of Turkish ministry books are sent to this distributor every year. He testified that he has not received any complaints from Christians about our books and that the local Christians welcome them very much.

The first Turkish ministry book was published in 2014, and a total of thirty-nine titles are now available. Through the Rhema distribution, we have received many contacts throughout the whole country. In the past two years, the saints have frequently visited Rhema contacts in a South-central Turkish city called Adana. Once, the saints met a Korean pastor there who reads Brother Nee’s books in Korean. When the saints showed him Brother Nee’s books in Turkish, he was surprised and exclaimed, “I cannot believe that Watchman Nee books are available in Turkish!” Another seeker in that city was saved by listening to a Turkish gospel video clip on YouTube during the pandemic. He kept searching for spiritual books for truth and spiritual growth. He even purchased many online books for reference. After he received the books from Rhema, however, he began to appreciate them very much. His eyes were opened when he read The All-inclusive Christ. He told the saints in a serious manner that God had really sent them to start this translation work for him, and he charged the saints to continue this work for God’s children in Turkey. May the Lord strengthen this translation work and spread His ministry in this land again before His return.