A Victorious Family
Call it a divine appointment, fate, or poor city planning, but without it, Necati Aydin and Semse Kilciksiz never would have crossed paths.
Wearing the heavy beard that marked him as a devout Muslim, Necati (pronounced ne-JAH-tee) would never have taken a seat on the bus next to a Christian woman. But he was tired, and the public transportation system in Izmir, the city known in the New Testament as Smyrna, was overcrowded that day in 1994. He would never have spoken to Semse (SHEM-sa). But he was curious about the book she was reading.
Semse should never have told him about the Bible. In Turkey, Christians suspected of attempting to proselytize Muslims can find themselves under arrest. Necati accused her of being a foreign missionary. Semse considered herself a loyal Turk, and she boldly responded, "We should all be missionaries of our faith. Aren't you a missionary?"
Her response caught him off guard, and he inquired again with sincerity. And so began a friendship between Necati and Semse centered on Jesus. Each day they talked on the bus. As she went to her job as a secretary, he went to classes with a radical Islamic teacher. Within a year, Necati quit school and accepted the claims of Christ. He was disowned by his familywho threatened to kill Semseand lost his job in the process.
The two had also become engaged to marry. In a culture where family is everything, the couple was cut off and alone. "We were so scared, but in love," Semse told Christianity Today during an interview in Turkey.
A Last Goodbye
Necati soon grew as committed to outreach as his wife. In 2000, he served a month in prison on trumped-up charges when police caught him distributing Christian literature. The couple attended Karatas Christian Fellowship in Izmir, where pastor Zekai Tanyar officiated at their wedding. Tanyar describes Necati as "forthright, honest, and uncompromising."
In 2004, the couple relocated to Malatya, a remote eastern Turkey community known for its conservative Islamic and ultranationalist sympathies. Necati directed the local Zirve Publishing House and pastored a fledgling church.
Last April 18, Necati Aydin kissed his wife goodbye and left for the office. Two hours later, he and two other Christians, Tilmann Geske and Ugur Yuksel, were dead.
Necati's first appointment of the day was a Bible study with several Turkish youth who were exploring the claims of Christianity. Instead, these false seekers turned on the three men in the office. They tied the three up, then beat and stabbed them repeatedly.
As police arrived, the killers cut the Christians' throats. All five suspects reportedly carried identical notes in their pockets declaring, "We did this for our country. They are attacking our religion."
Geske, 46, a German citizen, left behind his wife, Susanne, and three young children who continue to live in Malatya. Susanne made a strong impression on the Turkish public by forgiving her husband's attackers as she spoke on national television. The third martyr, Yuksel, 32, had recently become engaged. His fiancée now lives with her Muslim family, isolated from other Christians. Necati is survived by Semse, 38; a son, Elisa, 7; and a daughter, Ester, 6.
Semse has also publicly forgiven the men who killed her husband. But when she looks into the eyes of their children, she hopes she can maintain a forgiving spirit. "I have not been able to do this," says Semse. "It's been Christ, a miracle from God."
The kids both have mops of thick, dark hair. Ester is outgoing and opinionated. She loves Barbie and ponies and the color pink. Elisa plays with his food and wants to be a pilot. He chatters excitedly, listing the treasures in life: Spider-Man and airplanes. Then he remembers one more and becomes somber. "My daddy died. Did you know my daddy?"