In the early hours of Monday morning, 6th February 2023, two thunderous 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes rocked south-eastern Turkey in rapid succession. As building after building tumbled down, the casualties spanned no fewer than ten Turkish provinces and right across northern Syria too. 56,000 killed, 120,000 injured, 400,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. One God, sovereign over it all?
The first prayer request pulsing through our prayer chain was for a Christian pastor who was unreachable along with his wife and son. After a day of anxious waiting and conflicting reports, it was confirmed that they had tragically lost their lives as their apartment block collapsed while they lay in their beds. Their 8-year-old little boy somehow miraculously survived.
This part of the world is one of the most unreached for the gospel. Resident visas for foreign gospel workers are practically unheard of and this pastor was one of scant local ministers for miles. Yet the few tiny churches scattered around sprang into action as support hubs offering food and aid. Across the country, churches like ours started organising trucks to take supplies to these hubs.
In this first ‘rescue’ phase, immediate needs were for diggers, food, water, tents, sanitation, and emergency healthcare. The one emergency relief charity in the country that is run by Christians brought in its search-and rescue team and eventually set up a field hospital, pharmacy, intensive care room and operating theatre. Their mobile ovens baked thousands of loaves of bread every day, even as they testified to the Bread of Life.
Mobile ovens baked thousands of loaves of bread every day, even as they testified to the Bread of Life.
As we raced around our city trying to find the supplies hardest to source, survivors were being pulled out of the rubble, only to contract hypothermia in bitter snowstorms. Days later, torrential flooding then took lives in some places. A whole nation was reeling from layers of loss. But our sovereign God was at work. These small churches were able to bring relief to villages that had yet to see anything from the authorities. One non-Christian local said, “If it hadn’t been for the Turkish church, I wouldn’t be here today.”
As weeks passed by, we moved into the second phase: recovery. Needs included sustainable accommodation, psychological support, and medical treatment for longer-term conditions abandoned in the wake of the disaster. Teams of Christians went to provide entertainment and care to children.
Just as Jesus taught us to expect in such situations, believers have also experienced opposition. In one province that has seen severe persecution of Christians in the past, a food service was shut down simply for being run very effectively by local followers of Jesus. However, the real story must be how the name of Jesus has been adorned by the good works of his church. Many are shining testimonies to God’s grace. As in life, so in death.
Just hours before meeting his Saviour that fateful morning, our friend – the pastor – was preaching, unbeknown to him, his final sermon in this world. The subject? He preached the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead! The God revealed in the cross of Christ truly is sovereign over death and disaster. And even in this earthquake disaster we can say: he is sovereign and he reigns.
M & S would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to everyone who donated to the UFM earthquake response fund. An amazing £30,000 has been raised to date, praise God! We continue to pray with, and support, M & S as they work with local churches in the recovery phase.
M & S serve in Eurasia, supporting the local church in sharing gospel hope with local people.