In the hours after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck southeast Turkey on February 6, the thoughts of one Reformed pastor in the region turned to the book of Job: "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I shall return; The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).
By the end of the week, the losses were soaring in Turkey and neighboring Syria. Officials reported more than 21,000 people dead, and expected the death toll to climb as rescue missions turn into recovery efforts among mountains of rubble. Thousands more are injured, homeless, and shellshocked by the deadliest earthquake to strike Turkey in nearly a century.
Three days after the earthquake struck, the OPC’s Committee on Diaconal Ministries (CDM) established the Turkey Earthquake Fund, offering an avenue for OPC members to assist with ministries of mercy to this devastated region.
David Nakhla, the coordinator for OPC Disaster Response, says the funds administered through the CDM will go to fraternal connections in the region seeking to offer tangible relief in the name of Christ. The OPC has avenues for ministry through sister churches in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC).
"Given the magnitude of the destruction and the loss of life that occurred almost instantaneously in both Turkey and northern Syria, the OPC is compelled to be involved in showing the compassion and mercy of Christ, even in the form of a cup of cold water given in His name," said Nakhla.
The magnitude of the needs is overwhelming.
A Reformed pastor serving in the region reported that he and other church members in the western part of the country were unscathed by the quake in the southeast, but he described the scale of the disaster for those directly affected: "This is one of the biggest catastrophes that has ever happened in our country."
He said Christian families were waiting to hear from their loved ones in the southeast, as the window narrowed for rescuers to reach victims trapped under the rubble in freezing temperatures: "On top of this, millions of people are homeless and almost all families have lost someone."
The spiritual needs in Turkey are overwhelming as well. An estimated 97 percent of the country's 84 million people are Muslim. The number of Protestant Christians in the Middle Eastern nation is tiny, and conditions for churches are often difficult.
But the small churches have big opportunities for ministry in the days ahead, as believers seek to care for their members and to love their neighbors in need of physical help and the spiritual hope of the gospel.
Some have noted that the quake struck near the city known in the New Testament as Antioch— the place where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11). As believers offer urgent help in same region thousands of years later, they're praying for many to call on Christ again.
Nakhla says the OPC is grateful to have avenues to help through sister churches, and the CDM trusts the funds will be used responsibly and get to those who need help most.
"It is the privilege of the CDM to serve the church by opening this fund and by communicating the needs and the ways to help, as those become apparent," he said. "May the Lord be glorified in using this awful event to draw his people to himself, even as the gospel is demonstrated tangibly through this ministry of mercy."
To contribute online, please visit the Turkey Earthquake Fund Page.
To contribute by check, make checks payable to "Orthodox Presbyterian Church," and designate for "Turkey Earthquake Fund." Mail to The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 607 N. Easton Rd., Bldg E, Willow Grove, PA 19090
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