The holiday season can be difficult for missionaries who are separated from their loved ones and family traditions. Yet this family with roots in Mid-America is sharing with their chosen people groups the most valuable of all gifts—the love of Jesus Christ.

Pizza Makers and Paradise

By Barnabas Hope, AFM missionary to the Turkish people of Turkey

There is a hole-in-the-wall Turkish pizza place I like to visit. The food is cheap—and for good reason. They use broken chairs and cardboard boxes to fire the pizza oven. The bare walls are dirty, and lights are off to save money. Newspapers on the floor soak up drips from leaky plumbing.

I don’t frequent this pizza joint for the food or the atmosphere. I come here because of the owners—two brothers who knead pizza dough 70 hours a week and love me like a brother. While they sift ants out of the flour, I chat with them about their favorite subject, eternity. They are devout Muslims but unusually open to learning new things. About four months ago, I gave them a Bible. Yesterday when I visited them, they happily reported they had made it through Genesis and Exodus.

Rashat stands in front of the fiery mouth of the stone oven for hours each day. I asked him why he doesn’t have a fan overhead. “We are saving money so my father can go to Mecca,” he said with a shrug. “It will cost $6,000.” Rashat stared at the wall blankly. “Do you think it’s worth it?” he asked.

Here was a wide-open door for me. I began to tell the story of how, many years ago, a man named Martin Luther made a pilgrimage to Rome. There God opened his mind to understand that salvation comes through faith.

Rashat and his brother listened, but largely lost the point. Then they asked why I didn’t believe that Mohammed was the last prophet. “The Quran says Jesus will come again,” I replied. “That means Jesus will be the last prophet.”

Rashat stopped kneading. I continued, “What if the term ‘last prophet’ meant the last in a series?” Looking around the restaurant at the empty chairs, I smiled, “If I told you I was your last customer? Would I be telling the truth?” Rashat caught my point. I added, “The prophet Joel said the number of prophets would increase in the last days.”

“Can you come back so we can talk more about the end of all things?” Rashat asked. That was an offer I certainly can’t refuse.