The people of Syria and Turkey are reeling from the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake on February 6.
With more than 1,200 recorded aftershocks, many people are terrified to go back into their homes, even if they’re some of the few still standing. Every time the ground shakes, they relive the trauma.
Tens of thousands of survivors are sleeping in the streets, in their cars or in parking lots to avoid being crushed by rubble if another building collapses. Families are spending excruciating nights exposed to the elements.
Currently, there is no electricity, clean water or food supplies in most of the cities impacted. Many left their homes so quickly they didn’t have enough time to gather their belongings. Even if families do have the money to re-purchase necessities, local grocery stores are either destroyed or inoperational, so some thefts have been reported, though not on the scale that we see in other countries. This stealing is absent of mob mentality and is mostly being enacted on an extremely small scale by desperate parents trying to feed their children for one more night.
As people wait for the aftershocks to fully subside, Send Relief partners and churches on the ground are distributing warm meals, water, blankets and winter clothing to try to make the situation more bearable.
As a safety measure, local authorities have begun checking vehicles and monitoring traffic in and out of the destruction zones. Supply deliveries from non-registered charities are slowing down, but thankfully, the local believers, churches and Send Relief partners are stepping up to help. Send Relief is providing real-time coaching sessions for local partners in disaster response efforts and meeting needs in emergency situations. These personalized sessions teach partners how to look for the most vulnerable, the most underserved and those who can’t make it to the government’s food lines—this is our niche.
We are so grateful to the local partners and churches who are showing up for their brothers and sisters amid tragedy. The Church in this region is small—approximately 6,000 people in a country of 88 million—so the fact that hundreds have mobilized in response to this disaster is a testament to their resilience. Many jumped in their cars at the first news of the fallout, taking the initiative to hand out bread and blankets, create mobile soup kitchens and take collections up across the networks of small house churches.
Send Relief’s Central Asia Associate Area Director, Scott, commented on the situation, saying, “The Turkish body of believers, as small as they are, are doing their best to show up because this is their home and their country, and they are proud of their people. One local church experienced severe loss, with their senior pastor and his wife being buried alive under the rubble, but they are still giving glory to God. Their lives have literally been shaken, but their faith has not been shaken. They’re staying adamant that God is in control, despite the circumstances around them.”
Because the area affected is remote, access remains difficult. Everyone served has been extremely grateful to be alive and to be receiving help from Send Relief partners so quickly after the event.
“The Christian influence here is minimal, but fortunately, we have a connection with local partners in this region, so we were able to arrive and start distributions swiftly,” Scott commented. “Send Relief is intentionally working through local partners because we don’t need our flags, T-shirts or tents to be the focus of this. We are doing everything in our power to equip those who have spent their entire lives here to be a blessing to the hurting. That’s what makes this unique in the mercy ministry space—we want locals to be at the forefront using their skills and relationships to be able to say, ‘I love you’ in their own language.”
As Send Relief partners have been helping those sleeping on the streets and in their cars, they have found that, while survivors are grateful for the blankets and bags of sandwiches, many have told volunteers, “Thank you, but we will only take a few. There are other people around here who are in greater need than us.”
Send Relief is working to develop partnerships with more locals in the region and providing training on trauma-informed care, as the emotional toll is going to increase greatly over the coming weeks. The number of confirmed deaths is currently estimated to exceed 23,000 people as more bodies are excavated from the rubble.
“After three days, there’s typically no chance of survival if your building has collapsed,” Scott noted. “Now that we are several days out, people are realizing they won’t see their families alive again and are starting a mass migration away from the destruction zones. As this happens, we’ve heard many locals are opening their homes to strangers who have lost all hope. We’re also seeing tent cities start to emerge, and we’re trying to anticipate the coming needs as the emotional and physical exhaustion of winter recovery efforts hit.”
Pray for Scott and local volunteers to keep their eyes on Christ and to be protected from the overwhelming feelings and secondhand trauma that often come with this kind of work.
Pray for disaster relief volunteers to formulate well-thought-out, long-term plans for recovery.
Pray for survivors and those who are suffering to find hope in Jesus and help in the forthcoming humanitarian efforts. Pray for this hope to invade every space and for local believers to have the courage and wisdom to lovingly share the gospel during this tragedy—for many, it will be their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear about Jesus’ love.
Published February 10, 2023