|By “Samuel,” an AFM Cross-Cultural Worker
Recently, I spent a week in Antakya (biblical Antioch), one of the region’s most severely affected by the earthquakes in Turkey. From a distance, it didn’t seem so bad. It didn’t look nearly so serious as the horrible devastation we’d been hearing about in news reports. But as we drove closer, the scale of the tragedy became clear. We started to understand.
When we arrived in the city of Antakya, debris was everywhere. Virtually every building we could see from the main road had fallen or seemed on the verge of collapse. Tents full of newly homeless people lined nearly every block of the city.
We set up camp near another church from Ankara. We also worked with them, assisting them in the relief ministry they had already established. There were two main parts to this ministry: 1) help set up a soup kitchen in one of the nearby villages (Baliklidere) that had been struggling to receive aid, and 2) drive around in our van to pass out food, shoes, blankets, and hygienic supplies to people in need.
As quickly as donations came in, they were distributed out, as people were struggling to survive in the cold winter. While I knew that we were helping many people with these donations, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of helplessness myself amidst the massive devastation. There are vast numbers of homeless people living in Antakya now, people who are struggling to keep warm and who are unsure how their families will be fed. They are entirely surrounded by collapsed buildings, and the place that had been their home now looks like a warzone. And it strikes me to the core knowing that many have family members still buried beneath the rubble.
Antakya’s need for support will not end in a week, a month, or even a year. I imagine it will take five or ten years before the city is rebuilt and strong enough to endure another quake. What can we do to assist? It is such a tremendous task that it’s hard to figure out how a single person can be helpful. Plus, the needs will be changing and evolving throughout the relief process. Food and shelter are currently the main needs as we wait for rebuilding to happen. The people of this region will continue to need very practical kinds of help for a long time to come. But then there’s also the trauma that these people are living with. What might it look like to help so many people address their collective and individual tragedy? How can sorrow on such a scale ever be healed? The answer, of course, is Jesus.
We know that the best thing we can do is to pray for these people as they mourn all that they lost and struggle to figure out what comes next. Let us pray that they come to know Jesus as their Rock. May they know that even when the ground shakes and buildings collapse, as long as they are standing firmly upon the Savior’s love, they will endure to the end.
To give to AFM’s earthquake relief fund, click here and then select “Turkiye/Syria Earthquake Relief Fund (471.1).”