15 February |Türkiye [Middle East and North Africa Union Mission, and Adventist Review]
An articulated lorry carrying drinking water that had been purchased by a handful of Seventh-day Adventist church members in west Türkiye was part of the heavy traffic heading eastward across the south of the country a few days after the February 6, 2023, earthquake.
Within days of the disaster that devastated southeast Türkiye* and northern Syria, the group had quickly combined their resources to purchase water for those in the stricken area. In the hours the group spent traveling together on a highway congested with vehicles sending aid, conversation brought the members together. Their driver, a local businessman who owned the lorry, had volunteered his vehicle for transporting the water.
One member accompanying the load recalled, “At one point, he started crying, as he told us how encouraged he was that even though we weren’t Turks, we were there to help his people.” His investment in the group’s project was personal; his two daughters, who live in one of the most devastated areas of Türkiye, had both survived, but they were sleeping outside in their cars each night in freezing temperatures.
While most of the world watched in disbelief as news of the earthquake slowly emerged from the rubble, Adventist members in more than two dozen sites in Türkiye met online the day after the quake to wrestle with what they could do in the middle of such a catastrophe. Because of logistical difficulties in the region, they knew it would not be possible to assist them officially.
They wrestled with how to help, asking, What can we do? What resources do we have? What can we give? How can we cooperate with the official channels of help? What can we do together, by combining our efforts?
They asked those questions with the sobering realization that every Adventist member in Türkiye had been accounted for. Considering the responsibility, one member observed, “We cannot just stand by and watch. We are here to offer whatever we have.”
In the face of such a crisis, every-person involvement is far more than a slogan, regional church leaders said. Within days, one group had raised money among themselves to buy 30 blankets. Others had collected food, blankets, and warm clothes from their own shelves and closets and delivered them to government distribution centres.
One church member who is employed at a local university is organizing her friends to buy and donate clothes for 16 individuals being brought to live in the university dorms, with more scheduled to arrive. Another member, who is immersed in helping collect and deliver goods, has lost more than his home. Some family members have been pulled from the rubble alive. Some have been buried. Some are still missing. The eight remaining extended family members have been “adopted” by several church members who are committed to relocating and settling them all in safe housing.
“So, We Pray and Work”
Across Türkiye, Adventist members are tirelessly investing their time and money, joining efforts with others, cooperating with government projects, and crying with those who cry. “Everything is broken. Death is everywhere. We can do so little,” one member said as he drove a load of food boxes toward one of the devastated areas. “But certainly, we can pray,” he added.
One church member, who is heavily involved in around-the-clock assistance, explained, “We are working closely with the government to contribute what we can, but the most affected areas are closed to civilians like us.” Their comfort — and hope — is in knowing that God can reach beyond every restriction, every limitation. “So, we pray and work,” he said. In addition to the scores of prayer groups that are meeting regularly across Türkiye, a call to prayer has engaged Adventist members across the Middle East and North Africa Union (MENAU), a church territory that includes the regions affected, and throughout the world field.
We Serve a God Able to See Beyond the Difficulties.
Middle East and North African Union Mission president Rick McEdward said he knows about the power of prayer. “The global prayers of the church are a tremendous source of encouragement right now,” he said. “Pray for our members in Türkiye as they help wherever they can. Pray for the ADRA Syria team who were engaged within hours, reaching out to a region where we have no Adventist members.”
Lifting the focus beyond human resources, McEdward appealed to the world church. “No matter how helpless we may feel in such circumstances, we serve a God who is able to see beyond the difficulties and to bless those who need so much right now,” he said. “Pray with us. Pray for us. Pray that God will work beyond anything we do to bring His presence and help near.”
* Türkiye – since 2021 the country began a push for the wider world to adopt the same spelling and pronunciation.
This article was first published in the Adventist Review online, 14 February 2023. Used with permission.