Social Action In a Cross-Cultural Context

Michael Feulner has been living in Turkey for 17 years where he founded and leads the multi-ethnical Yalova Lighthouse Church which consist of Turkish, Iranian and Arabic speaking fellowships. In this Broadcast, Michael speaks about his social action works, including ministry with refugees.


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History

  • 1993 - God called Michael to go to a refugee camp in Germany, and to share and show His love there.  It was scary and took him months to do anything. Those who looked fierce at the beginning slowly started to smile, and He started to receive much love and hospitality. He was blessed and honoured in a way that he hadn’t been before. Lots of mistakes made through lack of appreciation of cultural differences on food and drink. Deep friendships were developed, and ones that overlooked his cultural mistakes! It’s important to see the person and have an interest in the person, and not the program you are part of. 
  • 1999 - Through an earthquake in West Turkey Michael went to get involved with helping to rebuild schools and building friendships with those in need.
  • 2011 - Refugees start to flood in from Iran, Iraq and Syria. First two Iranian families came to the Turkish congregation. They had left because of persecution for their faith. There are now 200 Iranians, 100 Iraqi and Syrians in the different congregations.

Refugee Project

  • The church has been training refugees to serve refugees. We wanted to provide food packages for the refugees, but didn’t have the financial resources though. God provided and what started with 17 families and Michael purchasing and distributing, now serves 200 families per month. The church that was once small and just not visible, now is visible in the city, and has a good reputation with local muslims. Some tithe into the local church because of the project with the refugees. 
  • We are one new man in Christ with Iranians and Iraqis praying for each other, and loving each other. They once hated each others people groups. We can’t meet everyones needs, but we care about people because God cares for them.
  • A team goes out 3 times a visit and visits 200 Syrian families. In winter we hand out stoves, and at other times books and school kits for children.

Church Congregation

  • There are three church congregations in Yalova that are led by indigenous leaders.

Bereket Project

  • This is an empowering project for refugee women. They come together and produce items that can then be sold, some in Turkey and in the UK via bereketproject.com. By selling the items income is produced and they can help add to the income of the family which bring honour and status to them. Refugees are not officially allow to work in Turkey. 
  • A new project for September 2018 is a school for refugee children - Want to help teach literacy skills for the children before they get moved to other places. We are looking to have up to 60 children. 

Summary and Future

  • We have learnt that it is important to be constantly learning from the people you are looking to serve. It honours them, and makes your work more fruitful. 
  • We hear many stories from those who move to another nation how they were loved, met Jesus and gave their lives to him as a result of the church project with the refugees. 
  • We are looking to raise Indigenous leaders who plant into other parts of the country and other countries
    • There are four new churches who look to us. 
    • The Iraqi congregations Sunday live stream reaches 7000 people in Turkey and in other countries. 
  • We have found that through helping the poor, God has established his church here in Turkey. 

Q&A

1. For our ministry we have been asked what is our main focus, church planting or social action. Obviously God has shown that both can be done, but what have been the challenges in balancing the two and can you give some advice on how you have done it?

  • We started with the earthquake relief and that helped to create a lot of influential friends. Then we focused on the church, and then after that we focused more onto social action. To move forward you put weight onto each leg at different points. Lack of resources is not the starting point, but trusting God is the starting point. The church of Jesus is always one that is involved with the poor and needy. 

2. With there being so many needs, how do you determine what needs to meet, or where to start?

  • We thought food would be the best place to start as everyone needs it. It’s the basic building block for life.

3. You started with 17 families and now serve 200. Indigenous leaders have been developed. Have you recruited or have people stepped forward into the needs?

  • The first person was recruited, and he was someone respected in his community. Michael then shared values and guidelines with him. 

4. You spoke about how God has supplied your needs. Have you a good network of supporters?

  • Michael's home church helped to support in the early days in response to the first food parcels. Through sharing at a leaders Prayer & Fasting, other churches have linked in. Churches in other nations have been developing links and relationship. We see there being strategic fund raising, and also growing funding through relationships. 

5. How did you work through people coming to the church or believers in the church feeling entitled and demanding the church has to look after them?

  • The indigenous leaders are crucial as they are able to understand each situation and to then help handle the different situations that arise.

6. Do you think that social action is something that we should pray and think about in advance, or just see what needs are in front of you?

  • It’s always good to pray! For me it was more about facing a need, and then starting to react. 

7. What does prayer look like for you individually and as a church as you handle all the different demands?

  • They largely go towards the church, and her becoming deeper and more mature. Where we see specific needs we pray for those, but we also pray that we become the light we are called to be, and for society being transformed. 

8. What are three things that people can pray for about your work?

  • The Refugees themselves -they are going through a lot themselves. They can be in Turkey for 5-6 years while waiting to be processed. Pray for patience and for them to use the time well.
  • The Church - prayer for united leadership and that we grow in love for each other through strong relationships.
  • Many Turkish people are watching us - we want to see them come to know Jesus. 

9. How could people get involved?

10. What are your hopes and dreams for the next few years?

  • Based on two prophecies we have received it would be planting many more churches in Turkey, and then for the standing together of the various people groups so that through it the harvest of the Middle East can be brought in from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.