This article was written by Kara Luiting and was published in the Word & Deed Summer 2023 issue of our magazine.
Crumbled buildings. Unrecognizable landmarks. Piles of rubble. Traumatized people. This is the reality that the two partner organizations we are working with in Turkey are facing. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey on February 6 has been hailed the disaster of the century for Turkey and it is obvious to all on the ground that this is not an exaggeration. Not only have entire cities been destroyed, but centuries-old biblical history has also been lost. Over two million people have been forced to leave their hometowns and over 60,000 people were killed as a result of the earthquake.
As Word & Deed contemplated how we could best become involved in the relief efforts in this hurting country, we knew that basic necessities were the priority. The $155,000 USD that we have sent so far to our partners has been used to provide food, water, blankets, clothing, and temporary shelters. We are grateful to all of you, the many churches and individuals in North America, who were quick to respond to this need. These supplies, along with encouragement from the Word of God by way of 500 Turkish Bibles, were distributed by volunteers from local churches in Turkey. It has been our experience that when disaster strikes, people’s hearts are open to hearing the message of salvation and this disaster has proven no different! In fact, the church is being recognized by many in Turkey for their love and hospitality. Even the government has noticed the orderly and efficient way in which the church is reaching out to people in their communities. On one such occasion, a container of relief supplies that was meant for the government was mistakenly delivered to one of the churches. The church distributed the supplies without realizing they didn’t belong to them. When they realized the error and notified the government, the government was quick to thank the church for its work and for distributing the container for them. It has also been noted, even by local media, that the Christians are doing very meaningful relief work in the country while help from groups of other religions is hard to find.
Our partners have also been hailed by communities in non-Christian areas where children’s programs are being organized. While other NGOs have dropped off supplies and moved on to other areas, church members from our partners are sticking around and developing meaningful relationships with the traumatized children and their families. In one of these areas, our partners are hoping to start a church plant due to the receptive attitudes toward the Gospel and invitations from the locals to stay. Praise the Lord! There is no doubt that the Lord is blessing the efforts of His people!
Word & Deed continues to be in constant contact with our partners on the ground. We recently heard of an NGO who sent a supply of water filters to earthquake victims. However, the people who received them did not have the necessary equipment to make use of them. It’s instances like this that reiterate for us the importance of developing relationships and talking directly to people on the ground to determine the local needs and priorities. Our partners appreciate the encouragement coming from you, our donors, through your generous monetary donations and through the prayers that you continue to offer up on their behalf. At this point in time, many NGOs are starting to pull out of Turkey because immediate needs have been met. Going forward, Word & Deed plans to stay involved through various means such as the rebuilding of homes and helping the local churches to reach out to these communities in the long term. Our prayer is that as this country begins to rebuild, and “as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (Isaiah 61:11).