Muslim Outreach celebrates 40th anniversary
He went to Turkey to serve for the U.S. Air Force, but found an even greater purpose.
Steve Hagerman fell in love with the Turkish people and their culture back in 1968–69. As a Christian, he found himself in the minority in the Eurasian country whose dominant religion is Islam.
“I would stop and sit down with these bus drivers from the military base at their depot,” Hagerman said. “We’d drink coffee and I would talk to them about Christ and they would say ‘We believe in Hazreti Isa,’ which means the respected Jesus in Turkish. ‘Why don’t you believe in Muhammad?’ That frustrated me. At that time, I didn’t know a lot about Islam and since then I’ve done graduate studies.
“I began pondering, there’s got to be someone to reach these people and explain the Christian message to them. I began praying about that. The idea that came to me was getting Christians in America and other countries to send what we call gospel letters to Turkish homes and businesses.”
Hagerman started the Friends of Turkey, now known as the Turkish World Outreach, shortly after that. It is a nonprofit religious organization. The outreach doesn’t have worship services, but board members and volunteers meet on a regular basis for prayer.
This weekend the outreach is celebrating its 40th anniversary from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Turkish World Outreach, 508 Fruitvale Court.
“You should’ve seen some of our early offices,” said Hagerman, reflecting back on 40 years. “It’s amazing how we got this building.”
The outreach bought the 9,300-square-foot building during the oil shale bust in the early 1980s for $118,000, Hagerman said. It includes a three-bedroom apartment unit. By renting out the apartment, they were able to pay off the building in 3½ years.
The outreach has an extension office in New York and other offices that work independently in Canada, England, Finland and Germany.
The outreach mails more than a thousand letters to Turkish homes now.
“I don’t want to tell Muslims how many we send,” Hagerman said. “Muslims don’t believe in giving religious freedom to non-Muslims normally. They persecute Christians and if a Muslim becomes a Christian, he is supposed to be killed. That goes back to the Quran and the Muhammad.”
The Quran is the holy book of Islam.
“We do advertise a Christian Web site, where people can contact Turkish Christians, who share Christian perspectives with them. They are having an average of more than 1,000 visitors a day,” said Hagerman, who was born and raised in Grand Junction.
While Hagerman was stationed in Turkey, he went to every bookstore in the city of Izmir without finding one Bible.
“I wrote to the American Bible Society and asked if they had a Bible in Turkish and they did,” Hagerman said. “It was printed in Istanbul. I ordered two or three and hurried off to show to my Turkish friends. They said, ‘This is very nice. What does it say?’ What do you mean, this is your language, not mine. They said, ‘This is old Turkish, you have to go to the University to understand this.’ “
The copy Hagerman had was based on a translation in 1666.
“I had a friend that was a translator, so I hired him to translate the Gospel of John into modern Turkish,” Hagerman said.
The new testament was completed in 1987. The entire Bible was completed in 2001 and copies are now being printed in Turkey.