In the aftermath of February’s devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, Turkish Christians have been showing God’s love to survivors of the catastrophe. One moving example are the members of İzmir Işık (Lighthouse) Church in the west of Türkiye, who drove 14 hours east to cook meals, distribute clothes, and spend time with those impacted by the earthquakes in Antakya.
Ali Öztürk, pastor of İzmir Işık Church, was asked on SAT-7 TÜRK programme Worldview how he and his team ended up so far from their hometown. “When we first left İzmir, we came to this region by passing through Adıyaman, Malatya, and Kahramanmaraş, distributing aid,” he said.
On arrival in Antakya on Friday 10 February, the team of volunteers were met with a bleak situation. “When we got here, it was dark, there was no one [to help], and everyone was in trouble,” Öztürk said. The team got to work, cooking and distributing food around the neighbourhood. Soon enough, demand for cooked meals surged. “We gave out a little bit of food for the first three days, but after four days, other people started to come… I started serving thousands.”
More than six weeks on from the earthquakes, many relief teams have left the disaster area and Öztürk said locals have expressed their fear that his team will go too.
But Öztürk has no intention of leaving. He and members of his church are continuing to serve 24/7. A group of 13 people are staying in the village for around 20 days per month, and teams from a larger pool of 50 people are taking turns to come and help, flying in from İzmir. The nearest airport to Antakya is in Adana, a three-hour drive from where the team is stationed.
It is clear they are willing to make great sacrifices to serve in difficult conditions. What is the source of their strength?
“We attach importance to worshipping at least five days a week,” says Öztürk, “praying among ourselves for at least 20 minutes.”
A recent video shared with the SAT-7 TÜRK team showed a group of believers standing together in the dark and singing a beautiful Turkish worship song. Huddled around an outdoor table in hats and coats, the volunteers sing to God in unison. The words of the song could not be more appropriate: “You will come; you will help me in the night and heal my wounds.”