In the past four weeks we have continued the earthquake relief.
We have an ongoing presence in Adiyaman, while some members of our church continue to serve in Antakya and the surrounding locations in Hatay.
We have continued to work hard to help those who are suffering in Turkey because of the earthquakes. The official number of earthquake causalities is somewhere between 50,000-60,000. However, many experts believe this is a very conservative estimate and that in reality the numbers are much higher. A devastating amount of buildings were destroyed completely and many more were left uninhabitable. Thousands of people are currently living in tents and container houses. Unfortunately, because of the degree of destruction, it may take several years to rebuild these cities.
Because of your generous response to help our church with relief efforts, we have been able to provide thousands of people with assistance such as food, water, clothing, and container houses. Up to this point we have spent $180,000 of gifts of support. This is amazing! This has only been possible through the generosity of you and your churches! And we stay committed to this project. As a church, we have focused on helping the displaced people that have relocated to Antalya during this time. Currently we have 18 people living at the church building. We provide meals for them and support their basic needs. Additionally, we continue to help support the work going on in the city of Hatay and Adiyaman. For these two cities, which have been left in shambles from the earthquakes, we have joined forces with other Turkish Christians and churches to bring assistance. We are providing food, water, clothing, and toiletries to the people in these areas. One of our goals is to provide more container houses for people to have better temporary housing.
Every three weeks, representatives from our church go to the city of Adiyaman to help hands on with the earthquake victims, and we have been building special relationships with the people there. Adiyaman appears (at first glance) a difficult place to reach for Christ, yet we have found the people there to be very open to us. There has been no Christian church in the city, and as we have been working there, it has occurred to us that this is the ideal time to start a church in Adiyaman. We have begun to discuss this plan with several other Turkish churches in nearby cities. Our goal is to partner with them to plant this church if the Lord allows.
As you can see, it has been a fruitful time for the Turkish church to be able to use earthquake relief as a way to be a light to many unreached people in Turkey. It has allowed us to have a presence in cities and areas that we would really struggle to get into otherwise. It has also been a tool which has helped to unify the countrywide Turkish church as we come together to serve and help those in need.
One of the families that we have helped stay and now return is in regular communication with us. They are beginning to work their garden and living in their shed while they wait for the container space to be cleared and the container to be delivered. They are looking to the future with hope and have witnessed the love of Christ shown through the members of the church in Antalya, and soon in Hatay too. Thank you for praying and giving to make this ministry of God's love possible.
Antalya Evangelical Church Leadership
Adiyaman and Antalya
We are thankful for your ongoing interest and prayer for those who are impacted by the earthquakes in eastern Turkey. We are now approaching a month of hosting those affected in our buildings and five weeks of sending people back and forth to Adana, Antioch, and Adiyaman.
In the Antalya, we continue to build strong relationships with the guests staying in the church. We have seen them attend all aspects of the churches activities including Wednesday women's ministry events, Wednesday night soccer games, Thursday night prayer meetings, Friday night youth group, Sunday services. Their needs and interests are being met by many from the community here and our hope is they will leave with a strong sense of everything that life in Christ offers a person of faith in this place and time.
We will be sending out another wave of helpers next week. Those who went to Adiyaman are returning in the middle of this week. If you are still looking for ways to donate towards the work you can continue to visit the linked donation sites at our Donate page. Some have shown concern about SSL and our sites lack of protection. Please feel free to look up the websites through Google for "People International" or "Ilk Umut Dernegi" as well and continue to follow our payment protocols as listed in our donate page.
A prayer for this week:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
- Hebrews 12:1-3
Here is a message written by Head Pastor Ramazan. He composed this while being in Adiyaman this week helping with a group of nearly 10,000 displaced, tent-dwelling, victims.
A Letter from Adiyaman,
I would like to start by saying thank you so very much for the huge response of thoughts, prayers, and support we have received over the last month since the devastation of the earthquakes. I wish that I had time to reply personally to each of the emails that we have received. We have truly been touched by your compassion, generosity and desire to come alongside us during this critical time. When I first thought about how we (as a church) could help after the earthquakes, I really felt that it was a task far beyond our capabilities. We certainly had the desire, but we really didn't see that we had the means to do very much to help. But God has reminded me these last few weeks not to focus on what we can do, but instead on what he can do! I have been shocked by how people have come together to help with the earthquake relief efforts. People are sacrificially giving of their time, energy, and finances. And whatever they offer, God is multiplying all of it for an even greater impact. It really reminds me of the story of the two fish and five loaves of bread and how Jesus took that small offering and fed 5,000 people with it. In spite of the deep sadness I have for those who are hurting, I have been very encouraged by those who have responded to their needs. I am hopeful and excited to see all that God will do in spite of this tragedy. Thank you for partnering with us and for caring for those who are suffering so greatly on so many levels. I am grateful for you.
We currently have a full guest house at the church with 23 people staying there! We would host more people if we were permitted to. We have a waiting list of people who would like to stay at the church or in homes with church families. We are providing two meals a day for our guests and the other meal is provided by the Turkish government. Although only two of our current guests are Christians, the others have felt welcomed and appear comfortable staying in the church. One of the guests expressed that a church was not her first choice as a place to stay, but came because it was the only option she could find. But after arriving at the church, staying for a few days, and getting to know some of the Christians, her apprehension dissipated. She said to me, "I was only looking for a roof over my head, but God decided to put me amongst the angels."
In addition to hosting people from the earthquake zone in our church guest rooms, we have been collecting and buying supplies to take to the cities in the east that have been destroyed. We have taken three trips with vans full of clothing, blankets, toiletries, and other basic need items. Others from our church have gone to serve the Samaritan's Purse hospital in Hatay and a soup kitchen set up in the same city. This week we have arrived in Adiyaman to help the efforts there. The local people have given a large tobacco factory depot to the Christians to use for their work. Churches from all over Turkey are sending supplies to the depot. Near the depot is a tent city with 10,000+ people living in it. They come to the depot to get some of their basic needs and supplies. Depot workers are also preparing boxes of clothes, shoes, food, drinks, and toiletries. These are being delivered to neighborhoods and villages in the surrounding areas. Also next to the depot is a place where they are making tents. These tents will also be delivered by the Turkish believers to people in nearby areas who need them. The interesting thing about this area is that people don’t seem to be leaving it, as they were in Hatay. The people are more eager to stay here. So the work in Adiyaman is quite great—to provide for these people. Because they have been so receptive to the Turkish church in this area and have provided a great place for us to work out of, we are really blessed and see that the opportunities here are huge! We have found the people to be very kind and open to us.
I just want to share with you some of our goals for the next few weeks and months. We would like to continue to provide the needs of the people staying in the church guesthouse for the next 3 months, perhaps longer if possible and necessary. This will include meals, clothing, toiletries, etc. We also want to support the soup kitchen and church in Hatay. 17 people from our church have been sent so far to serve there. Our goal is to send as many church members as possible that want to go help. Supplies are also being collected, bought and sent on a weekly basis as needs are made known. We would additionally like to send workers who can support the leaders and help with the work going on in Adiyaman and Diyarbakir, as discussed above.
As you can see, the work and needs are great. We have had to shift our priorities at home and in ministry to accommodate the most urgent needs of the day. It has been exhausting, but also a sweet honor for us to serve in whatever small way we can. Please pray for all of us to have energy and stamina that surpasses what we normally have. Please pray for unity among our leaders and ministry team. Please pray for wisdom to care for people who have lost everything: friends, family, homes, and jobs.
We are beginning our fourth week since the earthquakes first hit and confirmed numbers of people killed by the earthquake have exceeded 40,000. There is much mourning in the region and recovery is slow, but the progress of the service and help that is being provided to the people of the region grows. Having primarily helped with the church in Antakya for the last two weeks to provide food, shelter, and basic needs are growing in our service to meet the call for aid in other regions too. This week Ramazan and Özgür will be going to Adıyaman to determine what help we can provide there while others are continuing to be sent out to Antakya.
Many of our second wave helpers have come back from Antioch. Our third wave of helpers will arrive back this evening. A message arrived yesterday showing that the electricity has come back on on the street where the church has set up its tents and soup kitchen. This was the first evening lighting from the city in the last three weeks and many see it as a sign that infrastructure is starting to be repaired. It was a hopeful sign in the night of despair that many are continuing to feel at this time.
The church building has been a buzz with activity. Meals and housing are provided for many who have been displaced. Those who are not able to stay in our church guest facilities are staying in apartments of members of the church. Some families have opened wide their doors to house family and strangers, followers of Christ and many unbelievers. The all encompassing love of God is being reflected through the hearts and actions of the church.
On Friday night, we hosted a meeting on the basic principles of grief and trauma counseling. Because of our daily participation in communication with survivors of the earthquakes, and because Turks are very social people, we have found it helpful to talk about good and bad forms of communication in the midst of trauma. The meeting, which was facilitated by Olive Tree Counseling Center counselors and was hosted during our regular youth group meeting time, was packed to capacity with people representing most of the fellowships in town and many other workers, as well as youth and church leaders who helped facilitate.
Sending our third wave of relief workers
We had at least 9 of the 22 guests (unbelieving families who were left homeless after the earthquakes) attend our Sunday service where we prayed for those who had suffered deep loss. We even had Muslim women crying and praying in the midst of a service where we praised Jesus as Lord and preached on the roll of God's church in times of trouble - we must be the hands and feet of Jesus as we stand between the house of God and the ruins of this world.
We prayed and blessed those who we were sending out as our third wave of relief workers. Last night, as the two vanloads of workers and supplies approached the most heavily impacted zones, another "aftershock," if you can call it that, struck the region. The shacking was violent enough, that our relief workers paused and spent the night with the Adana church. Much of what we can bring into the region is being purchased from suppliers in Adana. The team will continue on to the tents in Antakya today where they will be preparing meals, distributing needed goods, and ministering to the needs of the people in the city of Antakya, located in the Hatay.
In Hatay, the people are seeing the outpouring of love from the church. I have receeived messages of gratitude from teachers whose students have been blessed with food and care. We are receiving messages of thanks, and hearing about the good works that are being done in the name of Jesus and we are also hearing of ongoing terrible need. After spending five days in the region one brother mentioned the need for the most fundamental things - running water for toilets and showers. Our workers are presently going a week without showers along with those who have been almost three weeks now without. Large orders of clean drinking water are being shipped in at high cost and are being used to feed thousands of people.
Meanwhile, in Antalya last night the shocks of the latest earthquake in Hatay were felt in our church building, and sadly the electricity went out in the neighborhood for a period of time long enough to scare many of the earthquake survivors. With the whole country on edge the building was evacuated and everyone followed proper safety precautions and thankfully know damage was done in Antalya, other than the ongoing psychological damage that we face as we are daily reminded of the devastation of earthquakes and the great need for those who suffered.
Following our Sunday service, I had the opportunity to briefly speak with one of our guests (this is how I will continue to refer to those displaced by the earthquake who we are housing). She told me she was a renter and her building and all her earthly possessions were gone. She asked us to pray for her. We pray that in the days ahead a clear path for her to find a place to live will open up. Whether that place be here in Antalya, or back in Hatay we do not know but you can pray for the church as we continue to grapple with the hardest questions people face after an earthquake. Do we rebuild our lives in the same place or do we move on?
How to pray this week: