SAT-7 TÜRK producer Gülsüm was a young teenager when her parents divorced and her family became homeless. Her prayers seemed unanswered so she gave up on God, until more than 15 years later when she heard His voice calling her.
Growing up as the middle child of three in a family in Istanbul, Gülsüm was used to her parents’ frequent arguments. But nothing really prepared her for the day her father left home. Like many Turkish women, her mother had never worked before and the low wages she now began to earn were not enough to pay the rent. Faced with losing their home, the only alternative was to stay with relatives.
“We were not a religious family, but I remember praying to God every day in those hard days,” Gülsüm says, “But nothing was going well. God was not answering my prayers and I decided only I could help myself. It was up to me to fix my life. I focused on school and studying and gave up praying. They were very hard days and it seemed they would never end.”
Gülsüm’s hard work at school and then at university paid off. In 2001, she graduated from the Department of Radio Television and Cinema at Marmara University. That same year she moved to New York and began working in various jobs, all with the aim of earning enough to continue her education further. In 2006, now clutching a master’s degree in Media Arts from New School University, she started work in the media career that she hoped would bring the security and fulfilment she was looking for.
It was a year later when she returned to Turkey that Gülsüm started working as an editor in a small, fledgling Christian TV channel called TÜRK-7 – the precursor to SAT-7 TÜRK.
Coincidence or God’s plan?
“It was either a big coincidence or a part of God’s plan!” Gülsüm said. Her cousin, who had come to Christ years before, told her about the channel and his wife sent Gülsüm’s CV to them.
“I heard about Jesus for the first time there,” she says. “I wrote scripts for Christian TV shows and read the Bible.” But, despite this, she admits, “My eyes were totally closed. My teachers at college used to always say that media and religion do not mix and I believed that. Though I heard the good news, all I was thinking about was my career.”
After nine months of working on TÜRK-7, Gülsüm left the job and worked for several other production companies. But she was not happy: “There were so many problems in the media sector,” she says. “I was entering my 30s and I felt things still weren’t working out the way I hoped. In spite of my master’s degree, I had no connections to the right people – which is very important in Turkey – I could not get my dream job in media.”
She also started to compare the very competitive culture she found in secular media with her experience at TÜRK-7. “The way people treated each other in TÜRK-7 was very special,” she explains. ” “Everyone was working and serving as one body.”
Gülsüm decided to take a break and, at the last minute, joined her mum and aunt on a short holiday in Cappadocia. This picturesque region of Turkey is famous for its strange pillar-like rock formations and rock-cut homes and underground cities. Here, from the 4th century, Christians sheltered from persecution and later came to live in monastic communities.
While there, Gülsüm visited some of the preserved, centuries-old churches and chapels and also watched the renowned local potters, whose every pot is unique.
It was in Cappadocia that Gülsüm sensed God speaking to her. “I saw a very short dream or vision,” she says. “I saw myself in a church and I was praying and making the sign of the cross with my hand. I felt so relieved and peaceful at that moment. It was a feeling I had never felt before.”
After the trip Gülsüm wasted no time and went to visit her cousin’s wife who had helped her get the job at TÜRK-7. She invited Gülsüm to visit the church she attends with her husband, and challenged her: “Before you go, ask God one of the most important questions of your life; I am sure he will answer.”
So she did. “The day before visited, I asked God, ‘Why does nothing go well in my life? Don’t you love me?’”
A question answered
Gülsüm kept this question to herself but soon after she arrived at the church, she realised God had heard it.
“The sermon started with a question I had asked,” she explains. “The preacher said: ‘Much of the time we ask God, “God don’t you love me?” But God treats us like a potter does the clay pots, shaping us, sometimes painfully, to the unique shape of a useful pot.’”
As the preacher began to read the passage from Jeremiah 18 where the prophet is told to visit the potter’s house and see him shape the clay, Gülsüm was gripped: “I saw that God was trying to communicate with me.”
After that day, she says, she went home and started to read the Bible again – “but this time with a changed heart”. During that year, she committed her life to Christ and, following the merger of TÜRK-7 with SAT-7 in 2009, she was asked to return to SAT-7 and start working as a Programme Manager.
Listen to Gülsüm speak about her own spiritual journey and about the growth of SAT-7 TÜRK – from a team of five to 36!
Since then, with a break when she married and had her first child, Gülsüm has been producing Christian children programmes, documentaries, women’s and youth shows for SAT-7’s Turkish language channel. No longer a tiny channel producing a few hours’ output a day, it is available 24/7 on the country’s national satellite TV platform.
Through her difficult childhood experiences and after years of graft and struggle to establish her media career, Gülsüm says God has equipped her with the empathy and vision for her work at SAT-7. After years of seeking, she has found the fulfilment she sought with SAT-7 TÜRK, a channel that is in a unique position to share the Christian message in her culture.
She says, “I think it is fair to say that for Turkish-speaking people, inside and outside Turkey, SAT-7 TÜRK is the main source for them to hear the Gospel. I am thrilled to be part of that!”
Hear Gülsüm at Envision Exeter
Gülsüm will be one of the SAT-7 speakers at Envision on the Road in Exeter on Saturday 16 March (1-5 pm) at Wonford Methodist Church. Reserve your place now!