Turkey lies on one of the most active fault lines in the world. On one level, we who live here are always expecting “the big one.” But no matter how prepared you feel for the idea of an earthquake, there’s nothing like the terror of feeling the ground shake and tremble.
Despite knowing earthquakes are common in this country, we live most of our lives taking the ground under our feet for granted. But on February 6, everything changed in a moment. It wasn’t just “the big one.” Within 12 hours, there were four quakes that registered above a 6 on the Richter scale. The two worst registered at 7.8 and 7.5.
There are 10 provinces affected by this nightmare. Multiple cities devastated. Over 33,000 people now reported dead—and that number will surely rise. There’s so much to grieve. But at the same time, we can give testimony that God is at work through his people. Here are four things you should know about God’s people living through this tragedy.
1. God’s people are there.
Turkey has a small evangelical Christian minority. There are a few small congregations in the region where the earthquakes struck. Unfortunately, these believers are familiar with tragedy. Many have been involved in caring for refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria for the last 12 years. There were also major earthquakes in the eastern part of Turkey in 2011 (Van) and 2020 (Elazığ). Through various crises, Christians have been faithful to carry out relief efforts and show the love of Christ. But they’re also weary.
Many believers in these small churches have been personally affected by the quake. Some have lost loved ones. Some are unable to return to their homes. Some are going into the affected areas to get loved ones out. Those who themselves are tired, weak, and struggling to survive are trying to help others in their time of need.
2. God’s people are meeting physical needs.
Within hours of the first quake, local Christians left their homes in unaffected parts of the country to travel to the region with clothes and blankets. Many are opening their homes for folks to stay with them.
Those who themselves are tired, weak, and struggling to survive are trying to help others in their time of need.
Meanwhile, those who’ve lost their homes are traveling to safer parts of the country to seek shelter. Congregations are housing survivors in their church buildings as they try to find new homes. And local pastors are striving to care for their flocks and those connected to them.
One way churches and believers have been practically serving in the devastated areas is by passing out soup and water after the major relief organizations have come through an area or finished for the day but where people are still hungry. That’s also a parable of what we hope will continue after the media attention fades—after the world’s attention moves to another tragedy. Here in Turkey and in Syria, faithful servants will work to meet needs that outlast the global attention, as an entire portion of this country needs to be rebuilt.
3. God’s people are testifying to the gospel.
One pastor and his wife were among those who lost their lives in the rubble. The title of his final sermon was “The Resurrection of the Dead.” Despite the tragic loss of our brother and sister, we rejoice they’re now beholding the face of our Savior, awaiting the resurrection of their bodies in the comfort of his presence. And though this brother has died, his gospel sermon lives on (publicly available on Turkish social media).
Right now, the tragedy we can see with our eyes is the physical loss and sorrow. But there’s also the greater tragedy: most of these thousands who have died weren’t prepared to meet their Creator and Judge. We’re surrounded by immense physical needs, but this catastrophe reminds us of the far weightier need: for the forgiveness of sins and peace with God through Christ Jesus.
As John Piper reminds us, God has gospel purposes amid tragedy. Local believers aren’t forgetting that. One Christian who’s been driving into the affected areas multiple times a day encourages believers to “give water in Jesus’s name, pray in Jesus’s name, drive in supplies in Jesus’s name, and proclaim God’s love in Jesus’s name.”
4. God’s people are working together.
Before the earthquake, there was already political and economic strife in this region. This tragedy could bring people together or cause more division. Sadly, in the coming weeks and months, there will likely be all kinds of finger pointing that fuels mistrust.
Here in Turkey and in Syria, faithful servants will work to meet needs that outlast the global attention.
But we praise the Lord the small association of Protestant churches in Turkey is working together on relief efforts. In one instance, a pastor and his wife—who are first-generation believers—already have plans to provide group counseling for the congregations in the region. They’re working with local pastors to both care for believers and train them to care for others in the coming days.
Very few of the church’s relief efforts here are the work of one congregation alone; they’re believers from multiple congregations traveling together, counseling together, giving food and blankets together. Money is being given by churches farther away to those closer to ground zero. And everyone—including those in our churches—is crying out in prayer.
Help Us by Prayer
You too can cooperate with the saints in this work. The way to help is to pray. As Paul said, “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 1:11).
You can join us in praying for comfort amid excruciating grief and for strength amid exhausting days. You can pray for Christians to work together in unity and love, showing generosity and hospitality in ways that bring honor to God’s name. You can pray for resources to reach those who truly need them. And you can pray for people to receive what they need most—the hope of life through Christ.