Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Wheely Magical Time in Turkey

From 9-23 June, seven of us set out on an outreach tour around Turkey. From beginning to end, we faced spiritual warfare which made this one of the more difficult tours many of us have experienced. We pressed on and know God was at work in spite of our difficulties and touched people's lives for eternity.

This UniShow tour unified the arts of unicycling, illusion and dance. World-Class illusionist Adrian Van Vactor wowed crowds with his mind blowing magic. World Champion unicyclist Dustin Kelm made jaws drop with mad skills balancing on one wheel. Katie assisted them both and filled in the gaps with a dance or two. Resident TACO members Dave, Safak, Hannah and Rosa joined in on the fun, as well.

Just before our flight from Istanbul to Diyarbakir in south eastern Turkey, a bomb was set off at a political rally in Diyarbakir, killing 4 and injuring over 100. Needless to say, the atmosphere in this city was tense at best. We went to Diyarbakir anyway hoping things would calm down but we were unable to do either of our scheduled shows since the performance location was across the street from the deadly bombing. Targeted retaliation killings on both political sides continued. Most of our 4 days in Diyarbakir were spent in the church because it wasn't safe to venture outside. We could hear clashes with police at night which resulted in more deaths.

From Diyarbakir we began zig-zagging our way back to Istanbul. Our first show was in Mardin in front of their museum. One man was really impacted and wanted follow-up information about Jesus immediately.

For our next outreach in Gaziantep we were joined by church members, increasing the diversity of our group to 12 nationalities. Many of the members of this only open church in Gaziantep are believers as a result of past TACO events. A guy who happened to be at our spontaneous show had been carrying Dustin's testimony/tract card in his wallet ever since the last show we did in the area 5 years ago!

In Antakya (Biblical Antioch) we performed in Palladium mall. Church members came to help out and connect with people. The mall organizers really liked our show and invited us to come back and perform the next night. The mall senior management didn't approve our return however, so instead we did a spontaneous show at a nearby park. There were many Syrian refugees in the area who were very responsive to our message. A Turk came to Dustin and Safak after the show wanting to discuss what he read on Dustin's testimony card. The man said that Jesus didn't die but was taken up to heaven. By the end of their deep discussion, the man really wanted a Bible so he could learn more about Jesus. After he received one, he was beaming, proudly and boldly displaying it for all to see.

Our next show was schedule to be for the Ramadan opening ceremonies in Manavgat. However, the festivities were canceled due to nationwide mourning for the death of a former Turkish president. We moved on to Antalya for our show at an amphitheater in the harbor where Paul and Barnabas set sail in Acts 14:25. Katie had a great discussion with a diamond expert and his friend who asked her to pray for them to soon become believers in Jesus because they wanted to but didn't feel they could yet.

When we arrived at the Sumer Park Mall in Denizli we learn that our show was scheduled 3 hours earlier than we thought. Thankfully we had arrived early and because the mall was impressively organized and prepared for us, we were able to start at their advertised time. There are only a few workers serving in this city. Two of them came to our event and will be following up on the many who turned in surveys requesting more information about Jesus.

We then performed at Next Level Mall in Turkey's capital, Ankara. This was the least open show of the tour as no surveys, DVDs or literature were handed out and the translator censored Adrian and Dustin's messages. Afterward, Adrian had a great conversation with a couple who seemed very close to giving their lives to Jesus!

Finally, we did two spontaneous outreaches in Karakoy, Istanbul, drawing our biggest crowds of the tour. It was special to see the dozen local workers who joined us, conversing and connecting with those in the audience. We were completely open in both shows and many requested more information about Jesus! Several interested people have already begun meeting with local believers.

In these 15 days, we traveled thousands of kilometers and performed 9 shows around Turkey. In almost every show the Gospel was shared openly. Thousands of Dustin's testimony cards, other literature and approximately 300 "More Than Dreams" DVDs were handed out in return for 256 completed surveys with 167 people requesting more information about Jesus!

On our last night in Istanbul before returning to the States, we connected with Ed Pratt who is trekking around the world on his unicycle.  It was fun to share stories of cross-country unicycle trips and hear about some of his adventures thus far.  He is about 3 months into his 2 year journey.  Cheer him on by clicking here.

Hello Turkey!  First show of the tour - Mardin.
Fun spontaneous show in Gaziantep.
Fans in Antakya.
Up close and personal in Antakya.
Good times in Antakya.
Chilling in Antakya.
Mall show in Denizli.
Adrian entertaining at the mall show in Denizli.
Freaking out the crowd at the mall show in Denizli.
Mall show in Turkey's capital Ankara.
Final spontaneous street show in Istanbul.
Our new friend Ed Pratt who is unicycling around the world.