Susanne Teske came to faith in Jesus in her 20’s without the benefits of a Christian upbringing. Five years later she married Tilmann, a young pastor in their native Germany. She was 29. He was 31. Five years into their marriage, they landed on the mission field in Turkey – a Muslim dominated country yet it seemed to offer a semblance of freedom to do Christian work.
Though they didn’t realize it, they were being watched by Turkish government intelligence. She writes “while it is legal to be a Christian missionary in Turkey, it is controversial, and the subject of overwhelming slander by authorities who paint Christians as immoral people seeking to ruin the nation and its culture.”
Tilmann and Susanne had three children who grew up in Turkey. They felt safe and they had warm genuinely respectful relationships with their Turkish Muslim neighbors. These neighbors knew the Teske’s went beyond the negative stereotypes spread by the Turkish media. Their children who had grown to 13, 11 and 8 had scores on Turkish friends who were playmates and buddies. Tilmann earned a living teaching German and English while also helping translate Bibles and Bible-related material for the Turkish people. He and Susanne also helped launch several small home churches.
But then came April 18, 2007, it started as any normal day. The kids were in school and Susanne went about her daily routine. Mid-morning she had tried to phone her husband. But his phone was turned off. She thought it odd but was not particularly concerned. A bookkeeper was scheduled to come to his office that day. She thought perhaps they had gone to a meeting or a government building where phones weren’t allowed.
But as the day wore on, it became apparent something violent had occurred in the city. Reports came out that an American missionary had been killed but they didn’t know of any Americans in the city. After a flurry of activity and phone calls from friends and neighbors, she realized that Tilmann was missing. Having retrieved two of her three children, she went to a local hospital to see if she could find him.
The hospital personnel seemed to know who she was before she arrived, yet she couldn’t get a straight answer. After several hours of runarounds, she grabbed the arm of a Turkish official, something that females don’t do in that country. Susanne demanded an answer. Then she learned that Tilmann had been murdered for his Christian faith along with a local pastor and another Muslim convert to Christianity. Five Muslim assailants had tortured her husband and his friends in their small office before killing them. They declared that they were defending Turkish culture and Islam. Suddenly, Susanne and her children were plunged into a time of great spiritual darkness.
Where was God when all this happened?