“A HERO ACCOMPANIED US IN OUR JOURNEY OF PAIN”

As this month marked the first anniversary of the devastating Türkiye-Syria earthquakes, special episodes on SAT-7 uncovered the integral part played by the Church in helping victims, and how the Lord brought comfort and strength to those affected by the disaster.

The quakes on 6 February 2023 claimed over 50,000 lives and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Rebuilding work is underway in Türkiye, but the pace is slow and the task colossal. Many are still living in makeshift homes, often re-purposed containers. Although destruction was less widespread in Syria, many factors are preventing recovery. After 12 years of conflict, over four million people in the area were in need of humanitarian aid even before the quakes struck.

Following the recent filming of a special episode of Worldview in the disaster zone in Türkiye, SAT-7 TÜRK Executive Director Melih Ekener said, “There is still a lot of chaos in the area, and the people are in desperate need. But the good news is that all the churches are still there and still helping people. Please pray for all of those people who are out there helping others.”

“WE WANT TO SERVE”

Worldview presenter Senem Ekener spoke to local Christians and church leaders who were involved in the enormous humanitarian effort.

One of the interviews was with Elmas Akın, a woman from Antakya (Antioch) Protestant Church, who lost her home in the earthquake. “As you all know, we had the scariest and most painful days of our life,” Elmas said. “During the first three weeks, we stayed in the car and had to move places, because we lost our house and everything else.” But soon her focus shifted away from her own needs and to the needs of others. “Because we are surrounded by people who want to serve, and we want to serve people in need, we did it with God’s help.”

Elmas and her husband stayed in the area and served people in need for seven months, describing it as a “calling” from the Lord. Elmas and her family had no resources to draw from, as they had just lost everything themselves, but the Body of Christ stepped in with donations from believers across the country.

Two interviews with local pastors followed, and the message was the same: a body of Christians working in unison, tirelessly, to help those in need. “Thanks to all our brothers and sisters,” said one of the pastors. “They came and asked how they can help, and through the grace of the Lord, I saw it happening: people were provided with shelter, food, and physical and mental protection. We tried together, we prayed together, and we managed to serve.”

Another pastor shared his experience:

“We distributed whatever came to us to everyone who needed it. We had a warehouse, and we sheltered people there… In the first two weeks, people were coming on buses to help. We were never fed up or tired. God provided us with all our spiritual needs to help and support our fellow people.”

More earthquake victims were also interviewed, commenting on how Christians helped them, opened their doors, and offered food, clothing, and shelter.

The Worldview episode also featured the work of First Hope Association, a Christian organisation with whom SAT-7 TÜRK collaborated to direct help to those in need. To this day they continue to provide containers for homes, food and clothing for those in need, and even schooling for children.

“A HERO”

Meanwhile, SAT-7 ARABIC program You Are Not Alone spoke to Syrians affected by the quakes and also heard about the work of the church there.

Despite all the pain, Pastor Ibrahim Noseir, from an evangelical church in Aleppo (northwest Syria), told presenter Sirene Semerdjian that he never felt abandoned. “A year after the earthquake that left a deep wound in the hearts of people in Syria – and especially Aleppo – we can only say that during such challenges there was a hero accompanying us in our journey of pain. This hero is the Lord Jesus Christ. He was with the hurt, the injured, and those who lost their loved ones and their possessions.”

Ibrahim was hugely thankful for all the help that poured in from different sources. “The disaster was huge; the situation was critical,” he said. “But as great as the challenges were, there was comfort. All the organisations and NGOs cooperated to help relieve the suffering of Syrians and those in Aleppo. The churches in Syria and specifically in Aleppo were up to the responsibility.”

Members of Ibrahim’s church, also interviewed by Sirene, continue to feel pain but testified to God’s comfort and care. “We built our home, and it was gone in seconds. The house was destroyed, and we had to find refuge,” one church member said. “Our faith in Jesus has kept us going, and the church and the prayers. We have faith in Jesus Christ, and in our church that never abandoned us. In my circumstances, the church helped me, and Jesus supported me. It is true I am in pain, but what comforts me is that God cares for me.”

Aurore Estefan, who lost her sister and other family members in the quake, testified to God’s care, which has come to her through many different people. “The Lord strengthened me and gave me peace,” she said. “The church supported us immensely during the trauma. They helped me and supported me, as did my relatives.”

Aurore finished the interview by asking for prayer. “Pray for us to pass through this difficult circumstance and for things to get better. We lost a lot, our homes and our work. The economic situation is difficult, and we lost loved ones. We ask for prayer.”

Please pray:

  • Continue to uphold all those who lost loved ones and homes in this disaster
  • Give thanks for the many people in Türkiye and Syria who are continuing to serve those in need, and pray for the Lord’s strength and encouragement for them
  • Pray that rebuilding work will be completed quickly
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