In 2007 Evangelical Times reported the martyrdom of three evangelical Christians in eastern Turkey. Recently, an ET correspondent in the USA ‘happened’ to encounter the widow of Pastor Necati Aydin. Our correspondent writes:
When I asked a new adult English student a routine question about her husband, she replied confidently and directly, ‘He died for Jesus’ sake’. I knew then that I had met someone who would change and enrich my life.
Actually, I felt like I had already known Semse Aydin since I read about her in the June 2007 issue of ET. Now I have the privilege of a personal friendship and caring for this martyr’s widow and her children.
After three missionaries in Turkey were killed, the widows publicly forgave the attackers, sending a powerful message of forgiveness and faith in Jesus. Subsequently, a book and movie have further spread this testimony.
But six years later, where is Semse? How does she deal with grief? What is she doing? How has the Lord faithfully led her and her children? How does she continue to live in that forgiveness and spread the message of hope to others? What does she see for her future? How can people care and pray for her?
I met with Semse in a local library for an interview, before she needed to pick her children up from school. Her face was radiant with a big smile and her arms ready with a warm hug.
We sat down at a sunny table in a busy part of the library, people carrying on with their business around us as she talked about her grief, life, changes and hopes. She first acknowledged that her grief is still as strong as the first moment and that life’s struggles are hard.
But she quoted Jesus’ words with assurance, ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’. She stated that even if her husband were here, he would be busy, so she doesn’t need another shoulder to cry on, ‘other than Jesus’. This strength in character and faith has carried her through the darkest days.
On 18 April 2007, in Malatya, Turkey, her husband and two other missionaries were killed because of their Christian witness. When she first heard the news, Semse felt God’s peace ‘like she was in an airplane watching’.
After the initial impact and media attention, Semse moved her family to western Turkey to be closer to her sister and brother-in-law, who work as missionaries and church builders there.
During this first year, she had a choice to stay sheltered or to keep sharing Jesus and his power, even in loss. She chose to travel internationally and not hide her light. Then a church in the United States invited her to visit and rest, so she followed God’s leading.
After a few months, she travelled to another state to receive counselling for six months. Semse is quick to add that the Holy Spirit is the perfect counsellor and that she does not think that she ‘lost’ her husband — this verse from her husband’s baptism encourages her: ‘My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand’ (John 10:29).
During this initial time in the United States, Semse had the help of a translator and some driving lessons, but when these services ended, she felt handicapped and alone. She remembers crying out with a sinking feeling, but these pressures pushed her closer to Christ, who brought more help than a husband.
For the next two years, people helped drive her children to a private Christian school. Semse started to learn to drive in the United States, so now she can drive her children to a charter school.
She took some language lessons, where I met her, and she continues to learn from her children’s homework and from the computer. Language skills are an important prayer request, so she can share her testimony effectively.
She speaks powerfully to both large and small groups about her past testimony of coming to believe in Jesus in Turkey and working with her husband as missionaries there.
She also sees it as a privilege to proclaim God’s present provision in her life since the martyrdom. She cherishes opportunities to share the gift of knowing the Lord Jesus with all people, even those with the same background as the men who killed her husband.
Her message of forgiveness is practical for all Christians today, to strengthen the church’s heart for future persecution, even in the West. Since she has been granted asylum, she feels that the United States is her country, but confidently believes her real home is in heaven.
When I asked Semse about forgiving her husband’s killers, her first reply was that forgiveness is not a feeling that goes up and down. Forgiveness is complete and never changes or shakes.
Even when her children ask difficult questions about why God doesn’t bring their father back to life, like Lazarus (John 11:44), she is clear that their father belongs to Jesus more than to his earthly family.
Semse cannot ‘work on’ forgiveness or force herself to feel a certain way. Instead, she and her children pray for the murderers every day, not for justice, but for their salvation, so they can glorify God like her husband did.
‘My future is Jesus completely’, Semse concludes. Even though her husband is gone, her Saviour is living, so her future is not finished. Following in Christ’s footsteps; raising her children with his help, and sharing his beautiful name and love: these goals are her happiness.
For more about Semse’s ministry, e-mail [email protected] or see Voice of the Martyrs website: