A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna

[ I feel extremely sad reading such news on the persecuted church. There are many that are happening around the world… this I know, but I just cannot help but feel sad for the Christians in Smyrna. Folks, take sometime to read this, and for those who are evangelical christians, please take time to pray for them. ]

A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna

Dear friends,
This past week has been filled with much sorrow.  Many of you have heard by now of our devastating loss here in an event that took place in Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch, the city where believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). 
On Wednesday morning, April 18, 2007, 46 year old German missionary and father of three Tilman Geske prepared to go to his office, kissing his wife goodbye taking a moment to hug his son and give him the priceless memory, “Goodbye, son.  I love you.” 

Tilman rented an office space from Zirve Publishing where he was preparing notes for the new Turkish Study Bible.  Zirve was also the location of the Malatya Evangelist Church office.   A ministry of the church, Zirve prints and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and nearby cities in Eastern Turkey.  In another area of town, 35 year old Pastor Necati Aydin, father of two, said goodbye to his wife, leaving for the office as well.  They had a morning Bible Study and prayer meeting that some other believers in town would also be attending.  Ugur Yuksel likewise made his way to the Bible study. 

None of these three men knew that what awaited them at the Bible study was the ultimate testing and application of their faith, which would conclude with their entrance into glory to receive their crown of righteousness from Christ and honor from all the saints awaiting them in the Lord’s presence.

On the other side of town, ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they felt undermined Islam. 

On Resurrection Sunday, five of these men had been to a by-invitation-only evangelistic service that Pastor Necati and his men had arranged at a hotel conference room in the city.  The men were known to the believers as “seekers.”  No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel.  Were they touched by the Holy Spirit?  Were they convicted of sin?  Did they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts?  Today we only have the beginning of their story.  

These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of “faithful believers” in Islam.   Tarikat membership is highly respected here; it’s like a fraternity membership.  In fact, it is said that no one can get into public office without membership in a tarikat.   These young men all lived in the same dorm, all preparing for university entrance exams.

The young men got guns, breadknives, ropes and towels ready for their final act of service to Allah.  They knew there would be a lot of blood.  They arrived in time for the Bible Study, around 10 o’clock. 

They arrived, and apparently the Bible Study began.   Reportedly, after Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began.  The boys tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilman’s hands and feet to chairs and as they videoed their work on their cellphones, they tortured our brothers for almost three hours* 

[Details of the torture–
* Tilman was stabbed 156 times, Necati 99 times and Ugur’s stabs were too numerous to count.  They were disemboweled, and their intestines sliced up in front of their eyes.  They were emasculated and watched as those body parts were destroyed.  Fingers were chopped off, their noses and mouths and anuses were sliced open.  Possibly the worst part was watching as their brothers were likewise tortured.  Finally, their throats were sliced from ear to ear, heads practically decapitated.]

Neighbors in workplaces near the printhouse said later they had heard yelling, but assumed the owners were having a domestic argument so they did not respond. 

Meanwhile, another believer Gokhan and his wife had a leisurely morning.  He slept in till 10, ate a long breakfast and finally around 12:30 he and his wife arrived at the office.  The door was locked from the inside, and his key would not work.  He phoned and though it had connection on his end he did not hear the phone ringing inside.  He called cell phones of his brothers and finally Ugur answered his phone.  “We are not at the office.  Go to the hotel meeting.  We are there.  We will come there,” he said cryptically.  As Ugur spoke Gokhan heard in the telephone’s background weeping and a strange snarling sound.

He phoned the police, and the nearest officer arrived in about five minutes.  He pounded on the door, “Police, open up!”  Initially the officer thought it was a domestic disturbance.  At that point they heard another snarl and a gurgling moan.  The police understood that sound as human suffering, prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over again to burst through the door.  One of the frightened assailants unlocked the door for the policeman, who entered to find a grisly scene.

Tilman and Necati had been slaughtered, practically decapitated with their necks slit from ear to ear. Ugur’s throat was likewise slit and he was barely alive.

Three assailants in front of the policeman dropped their weapons.

Meanwhile Gokhan heard a sound of yelling in the street.  Someone had fallen from their third story office.  Running down, he found a man on the ground, whom he later recognized, named Emre Gunaydin.  He had massive head trauma and, strangely, was snarling.  He had tried to climb down the drainpipe to escape, and losing his balance had plummeted to the ground.  It seems that he was the main leader of the attackers.  Another assailant was found hiding on a lower balcony. 

To untangle the web we need to back up six years.  In April 2001, the National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Guvenlik Kurulu) began to consider evangelical Christians as a threat to national security, on equal footing as Al Quaida and PKK terrorism.   Statements made in the press by political leaders, columnists and commentators have fueled a hatred against missionaries who they claim bribe young people to change their religion.

After that decision in 2001, attacks and threats on churches, pastors and Christians began.  Bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written abuse are only some of the ways Christians are being targetted.  Most significant is the use of media propaganda.

From December 2005, after having a long meeting regarding the Christian threat, the wife of Former Prime Minister Ecevit, historian Ilber Ortayli, Professor Hasan Unsal, Politician Ahmet Tan and writer/propogandist Aytunc Altindal, each in their own profession began a campaign to bring the public’s attention to the looming threat of Christians who sought to “buy their children’s souls”.   Hidden cameras in churches have taken church service footage and used it sensationally to promote fear and antagonism toward Christianity.   

In an official televised response from Ankara, the Interior Minister of Turkey smirked as he spoke of the attacks on our brothers.  Amid public outrage and protests against the event and in favor of freedom of religion and freedom of thought, media and official comments ring with the same message, “We hope you have learned your lesson. We do not want Christians here.” 

It appears that this was an organized attack initiated by an unknown adult tarikat leader.  As in the Hrant Dink murder in January 2007, and a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, minors are being used to commit religious murders because public sympathy for youth is strong and they face lower penalties than an adult convicted of the same crime.  Even the parents of these children are in favor of the acts.  The mother of the 16 year old boy who killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro looked at the cameras as her son was going to prison and said, “he will serve time for Allah.”

The young men involved in the killing are currently in custody.  Today news reported that they would be tried as terrorists, so their age would not affect the strict penalty.  Assailant Emre Gunaydin is still in intensive care.  The investigation centers around him and his contacts and they say will fall apart if he does not recover.  

The Church in Turkey responded in a way that honored God as hundreds of believers and dozens of pastors flew in as fast as they could to stand by the small church of Malatya and encourage the believers, take care of legal issues, and represent Christians to the media.

When Susanne Tilman expressed her wish to bury her husband in Malatya, the Governor tried to stop it, and when he realized he could not stop it, a rumor was spread that “it is a sin to dig a grave for a Christian.”  In the end, in an undertaking that should be remembered in Christian history forever, the men from the church in Adana (near Tarsus), grabbed shovels and dug a grave for their slain brother in an un-tended hundred year old Armenian graveyard.

Ugur was buried by his family in an Alevi Muslim ceremony in his hometown of Elazig, his believing fiance watching from the shadows as his family and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had so long professed and died for. 

Necati’s funeral took place in his hometown of Izmir, the city where he came to faith.  The darkness does not understand the light.  Though the churches expressed their forgiveness for the event, Christians were not to be trusted.  Before they would load the coffin onto the plane from Malatya, it went through two separate xray exams to make sure it was not loaded with explosives.  This is not a usual procedure for Muslim coffins.

Necati’s funeral was a beautiful event.  Like a glimpse of heaven, thousands of Turkish Christians and missionaries came to show their love for Christ, and their honor for this man chosen to die for Christ.  Necati’s wife Shemsa told the world, “His death was full of meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ… Necati was a gift from God. I feel honored that he was in my life, I feel crowned with honor.  I want to be worthy of that honor.”

Boldly the believers took their stand at Necati’s funeral, facing the risks of being seen publicly and likewise becoming targets.  As expected, the anti-terror police attended and videotaped everyone attending the funeral for their future use.  The service took place outside at Buca Baptist church, and he was buried in a small Christian graveyard in the outskirts of Izmir. 

Two assistant Governors of Izmir were there solemnly watching the event from the front row.  Dozens of news agencies were there documenting the events with live news and photographs.  Who knows the impact the funeral had on those watching?  This is the beginning of their story as well.  Pray for them.

In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Tilman in a television interview expressed her forgiveness.   She did not want revenge, she told reporters.  “Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34). 

In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne Tilman has changed lives.  One columnist wrote of her comment, “She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000 years could never do.”

The missionaries in Malatya will most likely move out, as their families and children have become publicly identified as targets to the hostile city.  The remaining 10 believers are in hiding.   What will happen to this church, this light in the darkness?  Most likely it will go underground.  Pray for wisdom, that Turkish brothers from other cities will go to lead the leaderless church.  Should we not be concerned for that great city of Malatya, a city that does not know what it is doing? (Jonah 4:11)

When our Pastor Fikret Bocek went with a brother to give a statement to the Security Directorate on Monday they were ushered into the Anti-Terror Department.  On the wall was a huge chart covering the whole wall listing all the terrorist cells in Izmir, categorized.  In one prominent column were listed all the evangelical churches in Izmir.  The darkness does not understand the light.  “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.”  (Acts 17:6)

Please pray for the Church in Turkey.  “Don’t pray against persecution, pray for perseverence,” urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.

The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya …all these are not to be regretted.  Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.

This we know.  Christ Jesus was there when our brothers were giving their lives for Him.  He was there, like He was when Stephen was being stoned in the sight of Saul of Tarsus. 

Someday the video of the deaths of our brothers may reveal more to us about the strength that we know Christ gave them to endure their last cross, about the peace the Spirit of God endowed them with to suffer for their beloved Savior.   But we know He did not leave their side.  We know their minds were full of Scripture strengthening them to endure, as darkness tried to subdue the unsubduable Light of the Gospel.  We know, in whatever way they were able, with a look or a word, they encouraged one another to stand strong.  We know they knew they would soon be with Christ.

We don’t know the details.  We don’t know the kind of justice that will or will not be served on this earth. 

But we pray– and urge you to pray– that someday at least one of those five boys will come to faith because of the testimony in death of Tilman Geske, who gave his life as a missionary to his beloved Turks, and the testimonies in death of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, the first martyrs for Christ out of the Turkish Church.
Reported by Darlene N. Bocek  (24 April 2007)
Please please please pass this on to as many praying Christians as you can, in as many countries as you can.   Please always keep the heading as “From the Protestant Church of Smyrna” with this contact information:  izmirprotestan@gmail.com // http://www.izmirprotestan.org

Harry Trouble

This particular news item here, made me think:

What is the government’s stand on this? What is their motivation in sending Harry into the front line? I have a few theories, and all of them casts a positive light on the government and what they hope Harry would do to the current administration’s image. You have to admit, there is a very interesting and respectable element on hearing that a royal heir of the British monarchy is willing to RISK his life for the country. This definitely will clear away all the negativity of the endless scandals that have permeated the royal family for the past few decades.

He will serve with his regiment, the Blues and Royals, for a six-month tour of duty. He is trained as a troop leader to take command of four Scimitar armoured reconnaissance vehicles and will be deployed in Iraq alongside 11 men who will serve under him.

However, despite the deteriorating situation, Prince Harry will not receive extra security in Iraq. ‘He’s surrounded by a lot of heavily-armed men,’ said a Whitehall source yesterday.

Politically, this is a very strong move to bolster support from the British commoners. Military, I believe, they are taking extra precautions for Harry… they have too… would be very interesting to see how this develops.

Genius MMO Developer

I always find myself learning new things when I visit Radu Privantu’s Eternal Land’s Development Blog. Example:

As I explained in one of my articles, I don’t really like storing the players data in a database. Instead, we use flat files, which, IMHO, are easier to work with and faster.
But a disadvantage of flat files vs. a database is that it is hard to obtain statistic information. For example, checking to see the total quantity of an item in the game using flat files requires opening every single player file, which is slow and inconvenient. Then if you want to determine some other statistic information, you will need to reopen all those files again.

Luckily, our server is designed not to need any such statistics. If some statistics are needed, they are saved in a special file, and loaded whenever they are needed, or just kept in the memory.

But often times it is a good idea to have a quick glance at some stuff that is going on, for example seeing how many gold coins are in the game, and the top 100 players in terms of how many gold coins they have. This is useful for many purposes, including balancing the economy, creating new formulas, adjusting some rates, and even checking to see if there are any item duplication bugs.

As previously mentioned, it is hard to get all this data without a database.
Which is why I worked at actually storing all the stuff I am interested in an
Sqlite DB.

I highly recommend this blog for research purposes, as he really does spill the beans over the things that goes through his mind about MMO. Best of all, he gives the readers links to further their own understanding of a concept or software (often, the latter).


Stuart is RIGHT on Referencing

Only for comic book artists, ok? This is not about academic research in any ways… so don’t get yourself too happy!


Stuart, stuart, stuart… is one of my (if not my current favourite) artist! He really excelled in Superman: Secret Identity.  But this article, really is a good summary of his own thoughts on the drawing process and the issues that are plaguing comic book artists all around the world.

I guess I really have to check out Google’s Sketch Up soon.

Face it, deadlines are murder, especially when they come around every thirty days or so. The sheer volume is astonishing; even with a lowball mean estimate of four panels per page, the typical monthly superhero comic boasts nearly 90 separate drawings each issue– that’s over a thousand a year! I don’t think there’s another job in the commercial arts field which is similarly demanding. The comic artist’s motto might very well be “by any means necessary.”

It’s no wonder artists condescend to using various tricks in order to try keep up. Some have an arsenal of stock poses and expressions from which to choose; other use assistants to contribute to background drawings; others fill empty space with incoherent linework, or lots of silhouetted figures; still others use that dirtiest of dirty tricks– photo reference.

Recently, drawing the human figure from life has come under heavy fire, and indeed it seems like there have always been macho artists who have dismissed the practice, claiming some superiority through their intimate and intricate knowledge of human and animal anatomy; through their natural ability to “work it out with a pencil.” However, not all of us are so gifted, and when the editor starts to call for more pages, one is often forced to resort to the methods closest at hand.

I guess IF I am able to draw well from a photo reference, I will NOT be in this job that I am in 😛 hahahahaha… yes, the secret profession that I always dreamed off is revealed!

Schizophrenic Animals!

Underage prostitutes are made, and not born… and they are made by saddistic minds. Its hard to imagine, yet not too far from the power of our minds, how these things are happening in neighbouring countries, and how most likely these things are also happening in our country too… albeit, at a smaller scale in ours (I assume).

For 30 years now, the chairman has been trafficking girls. He used to be a police sergeant, but says he got kicked off the force for adultery. Twice.

His second wife worked in a brothel. One thing led to another, and soon he was travelling around the countryside, recruiting children.

He is disarmingly open about all this – explaining how he lies to the families, buys the girls, and then forces them into brothels.

No-one is sure about the figures. But it is thought there could be 100,000 Philippine children involved in the local sex trade.

Others are forced into domestic work or mining or sugar plantations, or shipped abroad.

They are victims of a trafficking empire that has become one of the world’s most lucrative criminal industries.

But God is just… such despicable people are brought down firstly in their minds…

I have agreed not to reveal his identity, so he is frank about the crimes he has committed – trafficking girls, bribing police and so on.

But sometimes the chairman in him takes over from the crook.

He suddenly insists he never pays bribes, then describes, with apparent conviction, how he no longer wants to hire under-aged girls.

And how he would like to pay for vocational classes for those working in his brothels – and how perhaps this interview can even help to clean up the industry.

The contradictions make sense.

He is 54 now, with eight children, 17 brothels, a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, and a certain status in his “profession”. It is hardly surprising that his conscience is nagging him.

The full article is available here http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6507495.stm … read and weep for such a cruel society that is the result of decadency in the moral arena, separated from God’s law and framework; a world of man and man’s own sin holding sway over all things.

Asimov: Robotic Thoughts

If man is the creator of Robots, Asimov is the visionary for them. Born in 1919… he grew in fame with his epic Foundation trilogy (then) and later with the short stories that made up the “I, Robot” selections and followed by “Robot Dreams” collections.

In his world, robots are mechanical and capable of some limited independent thoughts. Using his logic, based on the 3 robotic Laws, he put forth the conclusion of a zenith law (zero) that would have to restrict (liberate) the robotic way of thinking in relation to their human masters.

All in all, a very intriguing writer whom I highly admire for his span of grandeur in his writing… he tries to connect every book that he wrote with a singular thought and scope that can be read as a whole and yet be detached. Truly a master of epic writing.

But the other point of admiration is his use of science (true scientific knowledge) to fictionalise his stories. Good stories are truly made with a pinch of truth in them. And the truth needs to be researched well before it will work.

Check out his extensive bibliography at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Asimov

Richard Dawkins – #1 Atheist

I had it on my computer for quite a long time; The Root of All Evil – The God Delusion – The Virus of Faith was a documentary done by Professor Richard Dawkins, the most well known atheist of 2006. His disbelief in a creator (i.e. God) has compelled him to come up with the bestseller book entitled The God Delusion. What I downloaded was a BBC TV Special that summarises the points made in his book.

Clinton Richard Dawkins (born March 26, 1941) is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and popular science writer who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.

Anyway, in the show, he tries to attack the need of religion by looking at its effect and hypothises that the negative outcomes (i.e. war and differences of opinion) proves that the actual nature of religion is less than idealistic and more of just man-made excuses that enables man to perpetrate their own prejudices against others. This is done with him going around the world, hitting out at the main world religions and interviewing the ‘main persons’. His approach is problematic to say the least, since he uses an assumption of results rather than to start from the beginning. He also likes to employ a confrontation of ‘evolution as a fact and science’ against the ‘leaders’ chosen for his documentary. What ensues is of course chaos, which is what Dawkins want.

What do you hope to get when one thrusts forth an apple against a person who is carrying an orange? You get an explosive premise, especially when the documentary is edited by the one carrying the apple, with all the glamour and style necessary.

In all, Dawkins certainly has an interesting appeal, but his methods is nothing revolutionary in itself. Of interest is his dealing with a man who was formerly Judaistic, who converted into Islam… he flew into a rage and brought up the fact that ‘just because you claim to be atheist, does not in any way mean that you are not responsible for the environment you are living in’. I thought Dawkins was pretty shaken up by such vehemence, although he turned it around in the documentary to show how ‘irrational’ such people are.

Ah well…

I found some of these articles written by him on various topics within this subject matter:

Viruses of the Mind (1993) – Religion as a mental virus
The Real Romance in the Stars (1995) – A critical view of astrology
The Emptiness of Theology (1998) – A critical view of theology

I’m quite intrigued by the things being propounded by this man, especially since I see great worth in knowing the truth, especially those connected to God. And that’s the thing: for all the yelling and shouting that Dawkins have on religion being a ‘mindless’, ‘robotic’, ‘dogmatic’ concept, there are many who belief because of the logical thought and good evidences given.

I’ll probably have a short write up on the articles. No, I am not afraid of reading these articles. Never had after being truly converted.