Amidst Turmoil, God Revives the Lost

Across the southern portion of Turkey where multiple devastating earthquakes struck earlier this year, people continue to hurt physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Many first response and recovery efforts have run their course, but crises still remain. In all of this, God is working, stirring hearts and using the hands and feet of His people.

The most apparent crisis in this region is a lack of material resources. Aside from those whose bodies still bear injuries from the collapse of buildings, there are over two million that remain homeless, without adequate food, and lacking basic hygienic necessities according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Some communities are on the mend, but many cities have been reduced to rubble leaving thousands to seek shelter in tent cities, likened to temporary refugee camps.

A less obvious but significant emotional trauma is also rising out of the dust of the ruined cities. Many are hopeless and traumatized after losing countless family members, friends, and neighbors to the disaster. Parents are struggling to cope with their anxieties, leaving them at a loss to counsel their grieving and fearful children. Others have been confronted with post-traumatic stress, as memories of the 1999 devastating earthquakes resurface.

The third crisis is, of course, the most critical. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom, less than 0.2% of the Turkish population identify as Christians. Not surprisingly, those who embrace the Islamic faith and Muslim culture, as well as local governments, are hostile to public expressions of Christianity.

In the face of these crises and the subsequent challenges, the church in Turkey has not ceased to seek out opportunities to shine the light of the love of Christ. Various local churches and supporting denominations have not hesitated to set up places of temporary housing and distribute food supplies. Christian churches were the first to respond, even before the government and international humanitarian organizations were able to administer relief. As a result, there seems to be a softening of hostility toward Christians, in the areas of the earthquakes’ most devastated regions.

Now the church is working diligently to minister to the deeper, pressing needs of the people. It is developing extensive efforts to train and send lay people to facilitate trauma counseling, exploring opportunities for church planting in the most affected areas, pursuing the ministry of mercy to the displaced, and seeking to minister to children whose lives have been disrupted and forever changed. And yet, there is still much to do to aid and show mercy. For many churches engaging in this service, there seems to be no obvious end. 

Those once reluctant to the Christian church are now pleading with pastors to help them. One pastor simply stated, “The church has been winning a good reputation among the people.”  Another seconded that sentiment, observing, “The church is gaining a good reputation among locals as well as with some local governments, as the relief efforts have been in tandem with government relief.” This is a development of monumental earthly proportions, yet possible because of our living and active God.

As the OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries (CDM) has sought to better understand the current situation in Turkey, those ministering on the ground recently relayed each of these deep hardships and shared the positive progress that has been made in the Lord’s providential kindness. Consequently, the Refugee Ministry Subcommittee of the CDM recently determined to send $50,000 from the Turkey Earthquake Fund to OPC sister church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP), as they cooperate with partners in the affected areas of Turkey. With significant ministries of mercy already in place and an eye towards the ministry of mercy to the displaced and refugees, it is hoped these funds will be a direct blessing to the people of Southern Turkey.

The CDM is thankful for the over $150,000 in generous donations toward those who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the devastating earthquakes. The CDM will continue to work diligently to use as many of the remaining funds to aid in both Word and deed in this region through established Reformed agencies.


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