Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

One night in Turkey: an earthquake’s devastation and a family’s resilience

by Brian O. July 13, 2023

“The ground was shaking beneath me, I was falling, getting up, and rushing,” Yousef recounts. His mind raced, echoing the tumult outside, his thoughts solely occupied with the safety of his family. Yousef managed to wake his family, guiding them out of their crumbling residence and into the chilling rain.

Meanwhile upstairs, Yousef’s brother Abdul and his family were stuck in the dark. After making their way through the hallway, Abdul and his family were shocked when they reached the exit. A heavy cabinet, filled with books, had fallen in front of the door. He and his family pushed and pushed, but the cabinet wouldn’t budge.

Desperate to help Abdul and his family, Yousef ran up and down the stairs, searching for an exit. “I have never felt so powerless,” Yousef shares. With each passing moment, the threat of structural collapse increased. He ran back outside. The shaking became so strong that all Yousef could do was cling to a tree while the earth slammed him up and down, praying that no harm would come to his loved ones indoors.

Meanwhile, still locked in his upstairs room, Abdul, knowing he had no more options, looked to God to give him peace and clarity of mind. He realized that for his family to survive, he had to offer encouragement and guidance. He told his family to stay calm and pray. He then sacrificially laid on top of his children to protect them from falling debris. They prayed, at that very moment, that the walls would not cave in on top them.

When the quaking finally stopped, Abdul knew it was time to try again. Looking back at this pivotal moment, Abdul recalls, “I encouraged my family, saying, ‘God is with us. Let’s try to lift it again.’ God gave us the strength, and we lifted the cabinet. We were all afraid to go downstairs, but we prayed for protection and went down together.”

The reunion waiting for them outside was bittersweet. The brothers and their families wept together as they celebrated their lives being spared, but their joy was cut short when they received a call that their sister-in-law had not survived the disaster. They grieved together in the dark while listening to the sounds of neighbors’ cries.

When the morning light came, they saw the damage. Their home was barely standing. Walls were cracked and fallen, debris was everywhere, furniture was buried under plaster and ceilings were crestfallen.

Abdul stands in the remains of his apartment

Abdul stands in the remains of his apartment

Increased Faith through trials

Though the earthquake tested their resolve, Abdul described how this tragedy has grown his trust in God and deepened his faith. “Before the earthquake, I had faith in God. But now, my faith has increased beyond words. Even in times of tragedy, we must never lose our faith in God.”  His family’s steadfast devotion to their faith, a heritage passed down through generations, is a deep part of their identity as faithful Christians in Turkey.

Christianity has existed in this region since New Testament times. In fact, many events from the Book of Acts took place in nearby Antakya, known as Antioch. It’s where the term “Christian” was first mentioned in the Bible. For members of the church like Yousef, leaving the region is unthinkable. “Even if no one helps us or if we never live in a home again, we will not leave. We would meet as a church anywhere, even under a tree. Christianity originated here. There is no way we could lose this place.”

The earthquake has made it challenging for Christians to remain in the region. Many families have left, not knowing what the future holds, but there’s a stalwart remnant, believers like Yousef and Abdul, who want to see the Church remain as a light for Christ. They still don’t know when they will have a house again, what their children will do for jobs or how they will support themselves in the future, but they pray that one day this will become clear. But there’s one thing they know for certain: they can’t do it alone.

 

Standing with Christians in Turkey & Syria

Yousef, Abdul and their families were able to remain on their land, living in tents provided after the earthquake. Though the tents met their immediate need for shelter after tragedy, months of living in these cramped quarters and substandard conditions has taken a toll on their families.

The provision of food relief and container homes, made possible by the generosity of GCR supporters, has been a lifeline to the community, ensuring health and safety as it waits to rebuild. Although the containers are not a permanent replacement for the homes that were lost, they offer significant improvements and more sustainable living when compared to tents. Container homes offer shelter from the elements, a better quality of life and most importantly hope.

While families like Yousef and Abdul’s wait to rebuild, we invite you to consider giving to provide ongoing food relief and much-needed aid and support for Christians who’ve lost nearly everything—in Turkey and Syria and around the world.

 

Prayers for the family

When asked how the American church can pray for them, Yousef and Abdul have only two requests:

First, they ask for prayers that they’d never experience another earthquake.

Secondly, they ask that you’d pray for their family’s futures. They know they won’t quickly be able to rebuild all that they have lost, but like any good fathers, Yousef and Abdul desire the best for their children and grandchildren.

*Title image: Yousef in the rubble of his home

About The Author

Brian O. is a staff writer for Global Christian Relief, a nonprofit Christian ministry that works to strengthen persecuted believers and raise awareness regarding Christian persecution. For more information, visit our website at GlobalChristianRelief.org.

Give the gift of safe shelter now

In February 2023, a massive, 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, leaving nearly 60,000 people dead and millions homeless. Your gift today of $125 or more can help us provide critical, long-term support to believers in Turkey, Syria and beyond—including secure container homes for those who lost everything.