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Georgia Baptist woman loses 4 children in Turkey’s earthquake

MARIETTA, Ga. (BP)–Four of the five children of a Georgia Baptist woman were killed in western Turkey’s massive earthquake Aug. 17.
Jan Kilic, a member of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Sandy Springs, in the Atlanta area, and her 3-year-old daughter, Natalie, survived the earthquake.
The four Kilic children killed were Jeffrey Michael, 6, Jennifer Kayla, 5, David Tansan, 2, and Katherine “Katie” Michelle, 9 months old, along with Jan Kilic’s father-in-law, Nizam Kilic, also a resident of the Atlanta area.
The family members were vacationing in Turkey, where the Kilic family has relatives. Jan’s husband, Babur, was to join his surviving family members during the Aug. 20 weekend. He and two brothers are anesthesiologists who practice at Wellstar-Kennestone Hospital in Marietta in the Atlanta area.
Jan Kilic has been a member of Mount Vernon Baptist Church six years, said Bryan Pillsbury, the church’s business administrator and minister of missions.
Jan is “an extremely faithful church member … an extremely committed Christian,” Pillsbury told Baptist Press. “All of her actions really exemplify her faith in Christ.”
As a busy mother of five, Jan nevertheless was committed to working in the church nursery every Sunday morning at 8:30, Pillsbury said.
The Associated Press reported that church members spoke fondly of Jan and remembered her children’s smiling faces and bright eyes. “The nursery workers always fought over who would take care of her kids,” Gwen Jenkins, the church’s preschool minister, told AP. “It’s a big loss for our church.”
The church’s pastor, Sam Boyd, has changed his sermon topic to “Lessons from Tragedy” this coming Sunday, Pillsbury said, voicing a prayer that “God’s going to use this [tragedy] in a powerful way to draw more people unto himself.”
The Kilic family members were in the resort town of Yalova, 90 miles southwest of Istanbul, when the five-story building in which they were staying collapsed, the AP reported.
The AP noted that the four Kilic children are, thus far, the only known Americans to die in the Turkey earthquake, with a death toll continuing to rise by the thousands.
Jan Kilic and her mother-in-law, Turkan Kilic, were pulled from the rubble 16 hours after the earthquake, but it was the next day — about 36 hours after the quake — before a cousin and other rescuers were able to find Natalie, said Jan Kilic’s brother, Bill Kemp.
“They felt there were no more survivors. But my brother-in-law’s cousin … went back to the site. He kept digging. … He was able to find Natalie alive,” Kemp said Aug. 20 on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the Associated Press reported.
Kemp said the rescuers who saved Jan Kilic, her daughter and mother-in-law had ignored Turkish officials who wanted them to leave the building because there was a gas leak.
“She realizes that it’s a miracle from God that Natalie survived. That’s the silver lining in the tragedy,” Kemp said. He said his sister at first believed she had lost all five of her children. Natalie suffered only a black eye.
Cigdem Kilic, a sister-in-law of Jan Kilic, said Jan talked to her father-in-law, Nizan, for 12 hours as they were pinned in the rubble, the AP reported. Nizan Kilic did his best to comfort his daughter-in-law, Cigdem Kilic told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Then she couldn’t hear him anymore. He stopped talking.”
The Atlanta paper also quoted Cigdem Kilic as saying that “Jan heard the youngest baby cry a little bit. Then she didn’t hear her anymore either.”
Jan Kilic suffered injuries to her head, neck and lower back, Kemp said. Her mother-in-law suffered head injuries and internal injuries and is partially paralyzed from a stroke, according to news reports.