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Persecuted Christians in Turkey survive harrowing earthquake

September 1, 2023 by Tim Dustin in Persecuted Christians in Turkey

John’s training kicked into gear instantly. Weaving his way through shattered glass, overturned furniture and cascading debris, he led his family to safety. On stepping outside, they met the frigid onslaught of rain and hail. “Neither the heavens nor the earth showed us mercy,” recalled John.

They clambered into their car and headed for the family property in Samandağ—the birthplace of their children, the site of family weddings and the grounds where generations learned to play marbles and hide-and-seek among the orange groves. However, when they arrived, the family home had also been damaged and they were forced to find shelter in a neighbor’s greenhouse, along with many other families, for nearly two weeks before they received tents of their own.

John felt immense gratitude that his family had survived the disaster, but a challenging new reality loomed: They were now homeless and residing in makeshift tents. Daily life became a struggle against pests, fluctuating temperatures and the confines of cramped quarters. The emotional strain and the abrupt loss of normalcy took a toll. “Living in such tight conditions strips you of your dignity,” John admits, adding, “It’s unhygienic, too.” Despite these hardships, John and his family’s faith in Christ remained steadfast: “He is the essence of life, the treasure I hold dear. His words purify my soul. His words are gems to my ears.”

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Living stones within an ancient edifice

John’s family belongs to Turkey’s Christian community, a minority comprising merely 0.2% of the country’s population. Despite the small numbers, Turkey is home to historic Christian cities like Antioch, Ephesus and Colossae, once central to early Christianity. The Turkish Christian community takes great pride in their ancestors’ contribution to the faith. Antioch, located near the earthquake’s epicenter, remains a hub for regional Christian gatherings, celebrating holidays, weddings and culturally significant events. The city represents a vibrant blend of customs, history and traditions.

However, the earthquake has thrown a shroud of uncertainty over this community’s future. The absence of their communal gathering place evokes a sense of profound grief and loss. John explains, “My house was destroyed, but the church is home for all of us. It feels as if we have been orphaned, as if we no longer have a home.”

The earthquake also intensified an existing issue: the church’s younger members often relocate for education and better opportunities, leaving a void in their place. The local lack of jobs and resources raises concerns about preserving their heritage.

Post-earthquake, John contemplated leaving Turkey for the first time—a thought he found agonizing. As he deliberated, he remembered the words he had promised to his church’s youth just months before: “The church is like a building, and each stone in its structure represents a member. When someone leaves, a stone is removed, weakening the structure. I vowed to stay here, to strengthen the church. So we must remain to protect and empower the church.”

John and his family remain resolute in their commitment to staying and reinforcing the Turkish church, but the road to recovery is fraught with challenges.

In conversations with earthquake survivors, the urgent need for shelter became abundantly clear. Tent living is neither safe nor sustainable, and legal and resource-related hurdles currently preclude permanent rebuilding.

This scenario raised critical questions: What then is the mid-term solution? How can we meet the need for safe and sanitary shelter without rebuilding permanent structures? How can we offer support to families like John’s who are living in tents?

Container Homes.

Thanks to the container home provided by generous GCR supporters, John and his family now enjoy air conditioning, insulation and protection from inclement weather and pests. Their living conditions are sanitary, fostering a renewed sense of dignity. While container homes are not a definitive solution, they provide safety and comfort as these communities prepare to rebuild.

We invite you to consider contributing to improve the lives of families, like John’s. Despite facing immense challenges, they persist in their commitment to honor God and serve their communities. Your thoughtful donations will ensure they have safe and sanitary shelter, enabling them to reconstruct their lives while steadfastly maintaining their faith.

 

Mending the shattered pieces

When questioned about his plans for the future, John was overwhelmed with emotion. “I feel like I have glued pieces of a broken vase back together. It’s not the original vase, but it’s a vase. It’s better than not fixing it all; it still serves as a vase where I can put my flowers. But I still know that it is a broken vase.”

John is doing everything he can to keep his family intact and rebuild his community, one piece at a time. Even though the land may be devastated and marred, he sees a glimmer of hope for renewal. With every sunset, he dreams of a dawn where the fragments of his world are rebuilt, stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Let’s pray for faithful believers, like John, who are committed to seeing the church thrive once more in Turkey.

Heavenly Father, we thank You for sparing the lives of John, his wife and his two precious sons. Lord, we cannot imagine the hardship this family endured as they lived in makeshift conditions during the chilly winter nights following the earthquake.

God, thank You for providing a new home for the Emecktis family through the generosity of the Body of Christ. We pray the container home will help the members of John’s church find renewed strength, fellowship and healing. We ask You to draw others to the light of Christ in this home.

Please bless John for his unwavering commitment to the local church. We pray that the church in Turkey will not only survive, but thrive. Amen.

About the author
Tim Dustin is a reporter at Global Christian Relief. He strives to awaken the Body of Christ to the growing issue of Christian persecution all across the globe. Get an overview of Christian persecution on our website and read the latest stories at GlobalChristianRelief.org.

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