The stories and images coming out of Turkey and Syria are devastating. In the aftermath of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake near the city of Gaziantep in southeastern Turkey, buildings are flattened, and city blocks are reduced to rubble. The death toll is already well over 1,000. In the hours and days ahead, it’s expected to climb into the thousands, if not much higher.
Since the earthquake struck in the middle of the night, it caught nearly everyone at home and in bed—the worst possible time. Scores of subsequent aftershocks (one aftershock at a 7.5 magnitude would qualify for a major earthquake on its own) have further damaged buildings in towns and cities across Turkey and Syria and threaten to take down more structures in the future. Currently, residents are being urged to stay away from their homes, leaving a significant population on the streets and in the cold.
Reports of casualties and flattened apartment blocks are coming in from well beyond Gaziantep—large Turkish cities such as Hatay, Kahramanmaras, and Diyarbakir, as well as smaller towns and villages stretching into Syria. As one commentator noted, there isn’t so much an epicenter to this earthquake as an “epi-line.”
A truly international relief effort is mobilizing. But so is the local church.
Search and rescue efforts are already well underway. Countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic are flying in immediate aid, along with many others. A truly international relief effort is mobilizing. But so is the local church. In a country with a relatively small number of evangelical believers, the church in Turkey will be very active in the days ahead, just as they’ve been after major earthquakes in 1999 and in 2011.
Here are some specific ways we can be praying for those affected by the massive earthquake, and especially for local believers as they share the love and truth of Christ in the critical days ahead.
1. Pray for God to fill his people with peace.
Many have lost loved ones. Homes and possessions are destroyed. And the repeated aftershocks can have a profound psychological effect. But we believe God is with his people and can provide them with a peace beyond understanding.
2. Pray for Christians to reach out in compassion.
Many local churches across the region will be mobilizing to help in various ways. When a major earthquake struck the eastern Turkish city of Van in 2011, churches rallied to provide hot meals and water, blankets and temporary shelters, as well as medical supplies and care.
3. Pray for local civic and church leaders to have wisdom.
How do you respond to a natural disaster of this magnitude? How do you counsel the hurting, mobilize volunteers, assemble resources, acquire funding, coordinate with partners, and prioritize needs? The task is daunting, and it requires leaders with calm heads and clear thoughts.
4. Pray for the church to work with humility and unity.
During a crisis like this, good communication and collaboration is critical, but it’s also extremely difficult. People are struggling with emotional and physical needs even as they try to care for others. Unfortunately, it can often lead to confusion and division.
5. Pray for Christians to be well-received.
In Muslim countries like Turkey and Syria, local believers and churches are often maligned and mistreated. When churches reach out in love during a disaster, it can lead people to see Christians as those who are compassionate, trustworthy, and truly good people.
6. Pray for an open door for the gospel.
During a time of such devastation—and even for years to come—trauma can open people’s hearts to the message of Christ. As horrible as such an event is, it provides believers with the opportunity to give an answer for the hope they have in Jesus.
7. Pray for the Lord to show mercy.
Natural disasters remind all of us of our desperate need for God’s mercy. Unless we repent, we will all similarly perish (Luke 13:4–5). We pray this earthquake will lead many to turn to the Lord for salvation. We pray God will mercifully prevent further devastation and death. And we pray that he might graciously turn this evil into good and rescue those who are perishing.