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UPDATE (27 March 2023): Thank you to everyone who gave to this project. Because of your generosity, our partners now have the finances they need to execute their vision for their earthquake relief ministry.
Adapted from a letter received from “Auntie” by Encompass’s Crisis Response Director
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Throughout southeast Turkey, hundreds and thousands of homes have been destroyed, and innumerable apartment buildings have collapsed. While homes around us were shattered and demolished, somehow our one-hundred-year-old house stood. God held our home in His hands and allowed us to survive the horrific earthquake. Because He kept us safe, we knew that He still had more work for us to do for Him.
Immediately after the first two earthquakes, our Christian brothers and sisters began bringing us aid. We praised God for this and shared that aid with those in our surrounding neighborhood.
For 30 hours—it felt like three days—no one came to our neighborhood to help. At first, it was just a few search-and-rescue men. On the third day, we had official teams of search-and-rescue people who started searching the pancaked apartment buildings for survivors. Since the morning of the earthquake, our neighbors pulled as many as they could out of the nearby collapsed buildings. They also extracted the bodies of many who did not survive.
When neighboring survivors came to us, they all said the same thing: “No one came to help from the government, BUT the Christians came and helped us. If it weren’t for the Christians, we would have died.”
One person being interviewed on television very openly said, “In the beginning, the Christians sheltered us in vehicles. They gave us warm clothes to wear and food to eat. The Christians met our immediate needs.”
After we were told that our home was condemned due to severe damage, we took much of the aid to a new (but unfinished) church building where we established a soup kitchen and aid center. That became the central hub for our relief efforts.
Then on 20 February as we were eating with a group of volunteers in the courtyard of our home, a third earthquake struck. Even though it wasn’t as powerful as the first two, it felt so much worse because it was closer to us. It was dreadful. It flooded my heart with terror because Omar was inside. I shouted, “Get out, Omar! Get out!” I staggered as quickly as I could to the front door but I stopped in the doorway, completely frozen. One of the Christian volunteers came up behind me and pulled me out into the street for safety.
I started sobbing because I thought I had lost Omar, but then he came safely out of the house. I immediately rushed over and embraced him. Even though he said he was fine, I couldn’t stop crying.
After that, I went to sit down in the van, and a fourth earthquake hit with a magnitude of 5.8.
Our home suffered even more damage, and we realized that it had now become too dangerous to continue using. We’ve been living in a church van ever since. We have nowhere to go because the entire region has been destroyed, and hundreds of thousands are now homeless.
Every day we wake up early in the morning and minister to our neighbors til about 9:30 pm. We aren’t getting much sleep because whenever one of us needs to get up during the night, the van’s sliding door wakes up the rest of us. We’re slowly becoming more and more exhausted, and on top of that, we are dealing with the emotional trauma from the aftermath.
Water is in short supply. For the first 15 days after the earthquake, we’ve only been able to shower once. (My hair feels like goat hair, full of dirt and dust!) We’ve been using the toilet in our courtyard, but we don’t have any water left to flush it. (Thankfully some of our volunteer friends are bringing us water from the mountainside.)
Some Christian brothers want to send us shipping containers to use for emergency housing, but there isn’t anywhere to put them. We don’t even have enough space to set up a tent.
As we thought about our options, we connected with some friends near the church. They knew about a 610-square-meter plot of land that the owner would sell for 1.9 million Turkish lira which is about $100,000 US dollars. If we could buy this plot of land, we’d be able to set up four container homes there which we could use for ministry and securely storing relief supplies.
For years we’ve been ministering to Syrian refugees out of the courtyard of our home. During COVID, we used it to distribute food, clothing, shoes, etc. And the two weeks after the earthquakes, we ministered to earthquake victims before it became unsafe.
If God is in this and provides the means, should we buy the property? If we did, our ministry to the homeless earthquake victims here could continue.
Right now we are using the van as our bedroom, and going in and out of our destroyed house when we need something. A shipping container would be a bit more comfortable than sleeping in a van, and it would give us better access to water. There aren’t any structurally reliable buildings with vacancies in the whole province, so it seems like setting up an emergency container home is our best option right now.
Please pray with us about our housing situation. If this is the Lord’s will, we will do it, but if it isn’t, we need to hear from him.
Thank you for holding us so dear to your hearts and for being here with us in the midst of our pain. We appreciate your love, prayers, and financial support. We thank the Lord over and over again for giving us such precious brothers and sisters all over the world, and we pray that God would abundantly bless each of you.
You can be part of Encompass’s ongoing earthquake relief efforts by donating at EncompassWorldPartners.org/Earthquake.