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Turkish Christians aid earthquake victims

VAN, Turkey (BP) — A small evangelical church in eastern Turkey is helping victims of two earthquakes who are sleeping in tents around the church.

The city of Van in eastern Turkey became the hub for aid workers and reporters after the Oct. 23 quake, but not all the help is coming from outside Turkey.

Other churches from across Turkey also have sent volunteers to the evangelical church in Van, which is coordinating their efforts in food distribution and medical care.

People by the dozens gather at the church daily. Believers feed them and share Christ’s love.

“There aren’t many of us, and we are tired,” a member of the Van church said, “but we are doing all we can.

“They see the love and they are able to hear why we do this.”

Among the quake victims: Fatma and her family, who are homeless and sockless. The refugees from Afghanistan had just moved into new housing when a 7.2-magnitude earthquake occurred Oct. 23 in eastern Turkey, killing about 600 people.

Fatma said she hasn’t felt safe since. Neither do the others who share an open lot with her, living in tents between damaged buildings.

It’s hard to blame them. Fear is rampant. Dozens of aftershocks shake the ground daily. The area sits on several major faults. Many people lost family and friends in the quake.

Survivors sleep in tents in sub-freezing weather without proper clothing. They run the risk of bronchitis — and worse — from the cold as well as the smoky fires lit inside their tents for warmth.

Some buildings still standing could crumble at any moment. Others are safe, but officials can’t coax people back into them.

That task will be even harder now that a second tremor, a 5.6 magnitude, took down 25 weakened buildings on Nov. 9, just 17 days after the first quake.

So far the death toll from the second quake stands at nine, with 23 rescued from the rubble and about 100 unaccounted for, according to BBC News. While most of the buildings that collapsed were empty, rescue crews are focusing on two hotels and one apartment building known have people trapped inside. Journalists and international relief workers reportedly are among those trapped.
Ava Thomas is an International Mission Board writer based in Europe. Further reports are available at Baptist Global Response, www.BaptistGlobalResponse.com.

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  • Ava Thomas