RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--Hamit Kaya's* ministry has a distinct rhythm: tea before medicine, medicine before words.
Kaya is the first indigenous church planter to the Zaza of eastern Turkey. Once a month he travels to his hometown and its surrounding villages. He uses his medical training to minister to villagers' physical needs, while using his understanding of the culture to communicate God's love in a language they the Zaza can understand -- the language of relationships.
"The first day and a half of our trip, he drank copious amounts of tea and visited with group after group, individual after individual, deepening friendships and trust all the while," recounts a Southern Baptist worker who has traveled with him.
"He is practically required to visit everyone each visit or relationships will suffer and the intimacy of friendships will fall away. People become offended."
After Kaya re-establishes relationships, the Zaza are ready for his help. A man calls after a bad fall, describing his difficulty breathing. A young mother worries about her son's persistent cough. Kaya sees new patients and follows up on previous visits.
With help from Southern Baptists, Kaya buys medicine from a local pharmacy and distributes it to the community. He also gives out staple food items to each family, including cooking oil, flour and dried goods.
"He is well-known and well-liked, from the head of the local hospital down to the poorest village shepherd. He knows local teachers, doctors, businessmen, farmers, shop owners, hotel owners, restaurant owners and the town mayor," the worker notes.
Kaya has a long-term ministry vision that involves speaking the truth of Christ during teachable moments. His convictions grow out of his own experience hearing about Jesus during a long afternoon drinking tea with a believer he met in college. After earning his medical degree and helping injured Turks following the 1999 Izmit earthquake, Kaya's heart turned toward his own people.
Today, with a handful of believers and one outreach group, Kaya is seeing God work. The people in Kaya's home province follow a strain of Islam that tends to be respectful of other belief systems. As a result, opposition toward believers so far has not been pronounced.
The Zaza number 2 million to 3 million people in Turkey. Another 200,000-300,000 live in Europe, primarily Germany. In addition to the ministry available through Kaya's work as the first indigenous church planter, the first portions of oral Scripture in the Zaza language are now available.
Pray for Hamit Kaya as he works to reach the Zaza. The present focus of his outreach is a small town of 3,000 people, most of whom never leave their community. The closest church, which has about 30 people, is 100 miles away in another province.
"If it weren't for , the chances of these people ever hearing the Gospel just one time in their life would be close to zero," says a worker concerned about the Zaza.
*Name changed. Reported by the communications office of the International Mission Board.
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