Mission Moments: Turkey

Gary Fallesen

Mission Moments: Turkey


By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ

Monday, May 15

UPDATE: Run-off needed for presidential election

President Erdogan did better than expected in his bid for re-election, outdistancing his opponent but failing to reach the required 50 percent of the vote. That means Erdogan and challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who represents an alliance of parties including the Kurdish, face a May 28 run-off. That is unprecedented for Turkey, where Erdogan has ruled – with a tighter and tighter grip – since 2003.

“I’m so sorry (about the run-off),” Brother B said. “I hope (Kilicdaroglu) wins in the second round. If we do not take it, our job will be very difficult if Erdogan keeps his promise to Islamic groups.”

Erdogan is, of course, an Islamic nationalist, while his opponent is a secularist. The election has been viewed as East vs. West with Erdogan tied to the Muslim world and strengthening alliances with countries such as Russia.

A pitiful economy and a woeful response to the Feb. 6 earthquakes left Erdogan a purported underdog going into the election. Yet he received 49.4 percent of the votes. Kilicdaroglu received 45 percent and a third candidate, nationalist Sinan Ogan, picked up a surprising 5.2 percent with some votes still to be counted.

Join us in praying for Turkey and the outcome of this election. CLICK HERE to view Prayercast's video about Turkey.

Friday, May 12

UPDATE: Eve of elections – bewilderment and pain

Brother B, our Kurdish co-worker in Turkey, is stunned as he visits Adiyaman, Malatya, and Diyarbakir. “There almost no solid buildings left,” he said. “The wreckage and the damaged buildings were lined up left and right. I found myself bewildered as if in the three-dimensional version of a dystopia in a book or shown in a movie. This can’t be real.

“I couldn’t recognize it and I couldn’t find the places I knew before. These cities, which are lively in all seasons and chirping day and night, have suddenly disappeared. They have turned into desolate, abandoned, dead cities – debris fields where only the sound of construction machines can be heard. Tens of thousands of buildings that do not seem to have any signs of life.”

B said people wait by fallen buildings for crews to clear the wreckage. “People are still waiting to find the bodies of their loved ones that they lost,” he said.

“In some wrecks there is no one waiting at all. We learn that it is a family apartment. Three generations lived together in the same apartment, and there are no relatives to own the funerals. What a sad situation.”

In a tent city, an old man grieves. Ali Özdemir lost many people from his family, Brother B reports. “The earthquake took his two sons, a daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren.” Uncle Ali, as B calls him out of respect, waited for days in the rubble of his city apartment. He hoped for a miracle. Then he went and bought a tent from the AFAD (Turkey’s disaster management authority) and set it up in what has become a city of survivors with nowhere to go.

“The places where food and aid are distributed are far away and he is 71 years old,” B said. “That’s why they cook the food themselves.”

Ali tells B: “My heart is always broken. We lost both children and grandchildren.”

No one came to comfort Ali and his wife until Brother B arrived.

But officials from the AK Party, President Erdogan’s ruling party, came to visit. They were looking for votes for Sunday’s presidential election. Erdogan has promised to rebuild southeastern Turkey. No one is holding their breath. There is a feeling that Erdogan’s 20-year reign in Turkey could end. But there is also doubt about the election.

Uncle Ali threw out the party officials. “Bring my children and grandchildren who died under the rubble first,” he told them.

Ali is certain “they will steal all the votes in this region because we have no one to hold them accountable.”

Voting will not be easy for those in the earthquake zone. But nothing is.

Reportedly, of the estimated 3 million people left in the quake zone, only 133,000 have registered to vote at their new locations. Brother B is registered to vote. He will be casting his ballot for the HDP Kurdish Party. We are praying for the election and progress toward healing for this hurting part of the country.

Wednesday, March 22

UPDATE: Opening the tents door to Jesus

Tent city: The United Nations estimates at least 1.5 million were left homeless by the Feb. 6 earthquake that killed more than 50,000 in southern Turkey. Brother B visits these tents each night to share about Jesus. (Photo by Brother B)

Ibo was in the next tent listening intently as Brother B shared with another earthquake survivor about Jesus. Ibo lost nearly everything in the Feb. 6 earthquake that rocked southern Turkey to the core: his home, his job, and – most importantly – his two sons.

His world had been shaken from its moorings.

“He came to the tent where I was chatting,” Brother B said. “‘Please, after your chat is over, can you come to our tent and chat with us?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I will come now. My chat here is over.’

“I went to the tent next door. It was raining heavily. We almost had trouble hearing each other.”

But God had given Ibo ears to hear.

“I listened to all you said,” he told B. “There were some (parts of the) conversation that I did not understand. Could you please tell my wife and me about Jesus Christ?”

Brother B said he would be happy to share about Jesus. But first he asked his story. Ibo told him about the night of the earthquake, the collapse of their building in the dark, and waking up in the hospital two days later. Then he saw the news on TV. Their two sons, ages 16 and 14, had died in the earthquake.

“My heart was broken when I saw my children died,” Ibo said. “I took the serum out of my arm and started running quickly outside. The hospital security caught me, and the doctor came and gave me a sedative injection and they put me to sleep again.

“While I was experiencing all this, my wife was in a different hospital without knowing anything.”

Brother B said he “got a little sick” as Ibo described that awful night and the aftermath.

Now, sitting in a tent without most of their lives’ possessions, tears flowed. Brother B decided to change the subject. “I started to talk about Jesus Christ. Ibo and his wife’s eyes lit up. Ibo kept asking questions. I answered. Toward the end of the conversation, he was upset that they didn’t understand for years there is such a beautiful religion.”

It should be noted that this is not unusual. Four out of every five Muslims in the world have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is estimated there is only one missionary for every one million Muslims. Praise God we have been blessed to serve in Muslim countries and have Muslim background believers co-laboring with us.

Because of this people like Ibo can become believers.

“He decided that night to be our brother,” B said about this encounter with Ibo, “and I will baptize someone for the first time.”

We baptized Brother B in Lake Van in eastern Turkey in 2019 after he converted from Islam to Christianity. Last year, our Mission: Ararat teams baptized his daughters and brother. During the latter baptism, we showed Brother B how to provide instruction – explaining what baptism is and what it means – and he assisted in baptizing seven new believers. Now he is planning to do it on his own for the first time.

Friday, March 17

UPDATE: Flooding adds to suffering in earthquake zone

Vehicles were washed away in streets hit by flash floods following torrential rains on Wednesday.

The focus in Turkey has turned to May elections. The earthquake is old news. Promises made to those suffering have been forgotten, the people in southeastern Turkey say.

But then the Kurdish majority that lives there are a forgotten people. Except by God.

Now streets have turned to streams, co-worker Brother B observes. “Most of the people living in tent cities (since the Feb. 6 earthquake and tens of thousands of aftershocks) have their tents under water. Some of them were dragged away by the flood waters.”

More than 70 people have died in flooding this week.

There also has been flooding in the north along the Black Sea and huge wildfires in the south.

“The people in the earthquake area are going through very difficult times, especially Adiyaman, Malatya, Kahramanmaraş, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakir,” Brother B reported. “Red alert warning on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday against flood disasters. Nobody has anything to lose anyway.”

Friday, March 17

UPDATE: Into the Word

Furkan is 20 years old, preparing for university, and dreaming about one day becoming a mechanical engineer. He was invited to a Bible study by one of our sisters in Christ. She asked Brother B is he could attend, and B said, “Of course.”

The family welcomed him and proceeded to take turns reading the Bible. They also discussed what they were reading. Furkan was “very impressed and said, if B allows, I would like to attend every week.” Again, he was welcomed.

Three months ago, he became a part of the family.

Then came the earthquake. “I woke up with my mother’s screams,” Furkan shared. “The first thing I saw was the TV falling over and breaking. Then everything in the kitchen was spilling and breaking. I ran to my mother and shouted to get out of the house quickly.

“My mother took the Quran and started to read, so I ran back to my room again and took the Bible and started reading.

“When the earthquake stopped, the walls were cracked, the ceiling was destroyed.” But no one was injured.

“Five days later, my father saw that I was reading the Bible,” Furkan continued. “But he did not say anything.”

Not to his son, anyway.

“He complained to my mother. We are staying in the shelter. My mother told me, ‘Come out and talk.’ She said, ‘Your father told me you read the Bible. Is that true?’ I said, ‘Yes, I like to read, um, OK?’ My mom still doesn’t know I’m a Christian. If she finds out, she won’t talk to me for the rest of her life.”

Thursday, March 16

UPDATE: ‘Jesus Christ saved us’

Earthquake survivor Filiz. (Photo by Brother B)

Filiz was there last year when Brother B, our Kingdom worker in Turkey, argued with a Muslim religious culture teacher. She was the one who told him to never mind, there was no point in debating with the teacher, he was set in his ways.

Brother B agreed and walked away. Filiz pursued him. She wanted to talk about his faith.

Filiz’s father was a mosque imam who had “very strict rules and would never let girls go to school. We are seven sisters. My father really wanted to have a boy. But there were always girls born. My eldest sister went to school for three years. My father took her out of school after three years and gave her to her husband when she was 15.

“I am the youngest of seven siblings. My mom really wanted me to go to school. All my friends in the neighborhood started school. My father didn’t send me. I was very sad and cried every day. I didn’t eat.

“My mother was very upset about my situation, and she made a plan. She told my father that she wanted to send me to a Quran course. My father was delighted and immediately accepted.”

Filiz was enrolled in both school and the Quran course. She would attend classes in the morning and study the Quran in the afternoon. “Sometimes my father would call me to read the Quran,” Filiz said. “When I read to my father, he was very happy. He would congratulate me, saying ‘Well done.’”

For five years, she went to school secretly. But she was a good student and after graduating from secondary school, an administrator came to visit the family. Filiz’s father was enraged. He began beating his wife.

“All our neighbors gathered to calm my father down,” Filiz said. “My father kicked everyone out of the house. He beat my mother, my sisters and me with a stick.”

She was forbidden to return to school.

But every evening she would visit a friend from school who was a neighbor and study with her for one hour. When her father went to the mosque to lead prayer, she would sneak back to school for exams. “It went on like this for two years,” Filiz said. Then her father was killed in a car accident, and she was free to go to school.

Filiz is a mother herself now. Last October, when this conversation happened, she asked Brother B what he was debating with the religious teacher. He explained how the Bible existed before the Quran and Christianity was older than Islam. “Yes,” Filiz said, “but Islam is the last religion.”

He asked her if she’d ever read the Bible? “No,” she said. The next week he delivered a Bible. Two months later, she became a believer.

When the earthquake struck on Feb. 6, “I was living on the ninth floor of a 12-story building,” Filiz said. “When I woke up, everything was falling apart and breaking. I swear by God that Jesus saved my daughter and my son that morning.

“There were no stairs after the fourth floor. I believe Jesus Christ brought us down because from the moment I woke up I prayed to Jesus Christ to save my children. I swear to you that Jesus Christ saved us.”

She told her neighbors about this miracle. “At first, they thought I was crazy. Then they wanted to see (Brother B) so they could believe and become Christians.

“My husband never believed in Jesus Christ, and he didn’t know I came to Christ. Now he died and we are alive.”

Sunday, March 5 (12:31 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Mazlum, the Muslim background believer

After the Feb. 6 earthquake, Brother B began to visit all of those God had used him to introduce to Jesus. Everywhere he went, he said, “All our brothers and sisters were sad. Their houses were damaged in the earthquake.” Many, if not all, were unstable and unlivable.

“They are looking for a house to move to – a rental house,” B explained. “Some in their own cities, some in other cities. The rental prices of the houses have been increased a hundred times. Some of our brothers’ and sisters’ relatives are still under the rubble. They are waiting for the bodies of their relatives to come out.”

This is southeastern Turkey today.

One of those brothers is a 30-year-old named Mazlum. His God story is amazing, like so many of our other family members in southeastern and eastern Turkey.

Mazlum, the new believer, two weeks before the earthquake. (Photo by Brother B)

“He saw me while I was going out of church last year,” Brother B recalled. “He came to me with one of his friends and threatened me. ‘What are you doing in the church in a Muslim country?!’ I felt that they would beat me.

“In a calm and polite language, I invited them to have tea at the tea house on the street. Their first answer: ‘We don’t drink Christian tea!’ I insisted a little and Mazlum agreed. His friend did not accept.

“We came to the tea house and started chatting with Mazlum. We talked about Jesus Christ and Christianity. The conversation lasted two or three hours. He apologized for wanting to beat me up, and took my phone number. We talked on the phone for a few weeks. We met a few times.”

Mazlum came to Brother B’s town for something and B invited him to a Bible study he was holding. “Mazlum came. He saw all of us. He was very impressed. He was very confused – just like I used to be.”

Two weeks later, Mazlum called Brother B with the good news. He joined our family.

“On the day of the earthquake, I prayed non-stop to Jesus Christ,” Mazlum said. “My dad saw me and got very angry. He disowned me.”

Brother B asks that we pray for Mazlum – and for his father. “May his father forgive Mazlum,” he said, “and one day maybe the father will come to faith.” Amen.

Wednesday, March 1 (1 p.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Building on the Rock

A new believer since the earthquake listens to God’s Word on an audio Bible. (Photo by Brother Abe)

After the earthquake and countless aftershocks, Brother Abe was sharing Scripture with some believers. He read from Matthew 7:24-27:

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

A young man was listening. He was “impressed by this verse that I read during the earthquake,” Abe said. “He came to us, and I told him about our great religion.”

The young man celebrated his birthday and his rebirthday today.

“Hello, I am 22 years old today,” he told us through a video sent to Climbing For Christ by Abe. “I am happier than other days because I found the right Way, the right religion. I got to know the religion of Jesus Christ (from Brother Abe) during the earthquake. (Brother Abe and Brother B) helped me and my family so much that I wanted to tell you my feelings and thoughts in this video.

“After listening to that verse, I was very impressed and asked, ‘What is this?’ The (brothers) said to me, ‘This is the Bible,’ and at that moment I wanted to kneel and repeat the verse. I want to be baptized ASAP.”

A new believer in a place crumbling all around who desires to build his life and his eternity on the Rock, Jesus Christ. All of heaven rejoices.

Tuesday, Feb. 28 (1 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: ‘Do not be afraid’

Ulaş on his way down to the river to be baptized in 2022. (Photo by Brother B)

Ulaş is 14 years old and lives with his older brother Efe with their grandmother. Their parents divorced with the father leaving the area to move to Istanbul and abandoning the siblings. The mother remarried.

Ulaş, who we baptized last year in the Euphrates River, woke up the morning of Feb. 6 “with a big jolt.” He told Brother B, “Together with my brother Efe, we ran to my grandmother. We were shouting, ‘Help me, Jesus Christ!’ My grandmother was telling us (in the past), ‘Jesus will descend from heaven one day and He will save all His people.’ My grandmother called out to us, ‘Do not be afraid, do not be afraid.

“Then we ran out (of the house), but my grandma didn’t come out. We were very worried for her. My brother Efe called Brother (Abe) to come and help us. He came and Brother (Abe) took my grandma out of the house and took us to a safe place. Thanks to God we got out of our home and we are safe.”

On Monday, the World Bank announced that the earthquake caused $34.2 billion in damages. At least 1.25 million people were left homeless.

On Sunday, fans of a Turkish club soccer team, Besiktas, showered the field with stuffed animals, thrown from the stadium seats when the clock and match stopped at 4:17 – the time of the Feb. 6 earthquake, which killed more than 50,000. There have been 10,000 aftershocks in the three weeks since the devastating earthquake.

Monday, Feb. 27 (2:15 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Aftershock and aftershock

Waiting on a report from Brother B on Sunday, I saw news of more earthquakes in Turkey. Then B checked in. “No stop to the shaking,” he said, “and (it) don’t let us sleep.”

He then listed the recent serious aftershocks: 6.7, 5.7, 5.4, 5.3, 5.8. On and on it goes.

We are wiring $5,000 more in earthquake relief, bringing the total sent so far to $11,900.

Friday, Feb. 24 (12:56 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Praying to Jesus

Brother B was listening to Ebru’s “earthquake moment” yesterday on the phone. “Ebru started to tell about the morning of the first earthquake,” he said. “She was awakened by the earthquake. The building was starting to shake. The whole house was starting to collapse and there was crackling sounds in the building. Ebru said, ‘I was praying to Jesus Christ to save us. My mother was praying to the prophet Muhammad to save her. But I managed to get out. My mom was stuck under the collapsed wall and was taken out two days later with serious injuries.’

“Just as I was talking about it,” Brother B added, “there was an earthquake and our phone conversation was cut off. I don’t know what happened yet. I will go to (her city) tomorrow to see her if I can’t hear from her today.”

Praying through Jesus that she is safe.

Thursday, Feb. 23 (2:29 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: ‘Until my last breath’

Brother B renewed his passion to serve the Lord despite all he and his family have endured. He lost many family members in the Feb. 6 earthquake that killed more than 47,000. He and his teen-age daughter have been traumatized, like so many others, by the constant shaking of the earth in southern Turkey.

“Of course I will (serve the Lord),” he stated. “I will continue to serve God until my last breath.”

We pray that the Light of Christ shines brightly through the small group of believers so others may see. For HIS glory!

Wednesday, Feb. 22 (1:12 p.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Tremors and trauma

Brother B and his 13-year-old daughter “both need psychological support,” our Kurdish co-worker said. “We are constantly shaking – going to the toilet, to the bathroom, to the kitchen. We are afraid to sleep. There is a constant earthquake, all the time.”

There have been an estimated 6,000 aftershocks since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked southern Turkey on Feb. 6. The trauma caused by this disaster is incalculable. We pray for healing for Brother B and other members of the family of Christ who have been scarred by great loss.

Tuesday, Feb. 21 (1:26 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Full of fear

Brother B checked in early morning to say, “We are OK.” His 13-year-old daughter is ”so scared.” He hopes to take her to stay with relatives west of the earthquake zone. Those living in the earthquake zone are full of fear as aftershocks continue.

Monday, Feb. 20 (3:57 p.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: ‘Things are bad here’ again

People returned to shelters across southern Turkey Monday night after the latest earthquake. Many others remained in the streets outside buildings overnight. (Photo by Brother Abe)

Two weeks after the first of a series of devastating earthquakes and only hours after search-and-rescue operations had been changed over to recovery, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake and 5.8 aftershock hit southern Turkey. Panic spread as already damaged buildings collapsed further. Some deaths and injuries were reported. The death toll has climbed to nearly 47,000.

“Things are bad here,” Brother Abe said after returning to his city’s shelter again. “People are very bad. I can’t communicate with Brother B. Pray for us. Jesus, protect us.”

Electricity and cell networks were knocked out by this earthquake, which occurred about 8 p.m. local time. Reportedly, there have been 6,000 aftershocks since the Feb. 6 earthquake.

12:38 p.m. Eastern U.S.

URGENT: Another quake strikes Turkey

Another earthquake in Turkey. 6.3 magnitude. Brother B left a three-second audio message on WhatsApp, saying, “Oh my God, oh my God, earthquake again, earthquake…” Please be praying.

3:33 a.m. Eastern U.S.

UPDATE: Biblical warnings of earthquakes

Aprem is 67 years old. He is a Muslim background believer. He was devoted to Islam, praying five times a day, spending half of every day in the mosque. Until last year when he “joined the family,” as Brother B said. After his conversion, his neighbors reported him to the police. A relative of Brother B’s is a lawyer and he went to the police station and secured his release.

“A month ago, his neighbors threw him out of his apartment,” B said. “My brother (Abe) found a house for him.”

That’s where Aprem was the night of the earthquake. His story:

Aprem. (Photo by Brother B)

“I had a cold. I was sick. I woke up at that time (of the earthquake) in the morning to take medicine. The medicine was in my hand. I walked toward the fountain to get water. Suddenly there was a strong jolt. I did not understand what happened. I fell. I think I hit my head and passed out.

“When I came to, I was shouting, ‘Jesus Christ, help!’ Everything in the house was overturned and broken. The stairs were destroyed. I barely got out. But before I left I got the audio Bible that the Americans sent me.

“The night before I was listening to the audio Bible. Very interesting. The Bible was talking about earthquakes and the apocalypse. But I fell asleep because I was sick. Jesus told me about the earthquake (before it happened). Thank You, Jesus Christ. We are alive.”

Brother B gave Aprem $500 from our relief funds to help with his immediate needs. We praise God for his life.

Sunday, Feb. 19 (5:15 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Brother B released from the hospital

Brother B “got a very bad cold due to his debris work,” his brother Abe said. “I took him to the hospital (on Friday). The doctor hospitalized him.” He was treated for two nights and released.

“I just came home,” B said. “I feel a bit better now.”

B wants to share some of our brothers and sisters’ stories from an earthquake that has claimed more than 46,000 lives. Today we will tell Petek’s story:

Petek hugging a C4C member after being baptized last year.

“When I woke up with the force of the earthquake at 4:17 in the morning, people were screaming, and earthquake sounds were heard. The earthquake was severe. I couldn’t get up. The mirror in my room, the wardrobe, everything on my desk fell and broke. The first thing that came to my mind was to take my Bible and run out. But the earthquake was so strong that everything in the house fell into one another. I couldn’t find my Bible and ran outside.

“We stayed out until noon that day. It was snowing and it was very cold. Bad news on the radio was coming from everywhere. I was very upset. I wanted to go home as soon as possible and get my Bible and pray for everyone. As these thoughts crossed my mind, I immediately went home and found my Bible. The house was in ruins. I wanted to get out of the house as soon as possible, but I couldn’t get out because there was the second big earthquake.

“We went to (the relief center). Everyone was praying and praying for the earthquake to stop. I was reading my Bible and praying. A girl my age noticed I was reading the Bible and she came to me and asked my name. I said, ‘Petek,’ and she said (she was) ‘Ceylan. I am glad to meet you.’ She said, ‘Everyone reads the Quran, but it is very interesting, you read the Bible?’ I said, ‘Yes, because I am a believer in the way of Jesus Christ. I am a Christian.’ The girl was surprised. She promised she won’t say anything to anyone, ‘But (she said) you also promise me you will tell me about Jesus Christ.’ I said, ‘OK.’”

Friday, Feb. 17 (2:33 p.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Brother B to hospital

Relief funds are being sent to southeastern Turkey and, thanks to the generosity of our members and supporters, more donations are coming to Climbing For Christ. Brother B contacted me from the hospital. “I am not feeling well at all,” he said. We are praying for his health – physical, mental, and spiritual. God, give him strength.

Thursday, Feb. 16 (4:25 p.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Sending relief

Brother B has sent his thanks for prayers, financial help, messages, and concern for those impacted by the devastating earthquake in southern Turkey. He has begun distributing aid to our brothers and sisters – seven of those who were severely affected by the quake. More funds will be sent by Climbing For Christ on Friday. “Thank you so much,” B said. “They all really need that.”

We have been blessed to receive nearly $15,000 in donations from C4C members to date.

Brother B will be sharing with us some stories from our Family members who endured this horrific disaster, which has killed more than 40,000 people and today was declared “the deadliest event in Turkish history.”

Helping hands

We continue to ask for your prayers for those affected by this disaster in Turkey. We also ask that you prayerfully consider giving to help our brothers and sisters in Christ in the days and weeks ahead. There will be an enormous amount of rebuilding – from the ground up – and opportunities for the love of Jesus to be shared.

You can send a gift to Climbing For Christ c/o Turkey Earthquake Relief at P.O. Box 16290, Rochester, NY 14616-0290 USA. Or CLICK HERE to give online via PayPal. In Canada, make cheques payable to The Great Commission Foundation, and on the memo line add Climbing For Christ CANADA. Mail your support to: The Great Commission Foundation, P.O. Box 14006, Abbotsford, BC V2T 0B4. Or CLICK HERE to give online.

Wednesday, Feb. 15 (4:57 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Ahmet survived!

Ahmet in January. (Photo by Brother B)

“There is good news about Ahmet,” Brother B said, referring to one of the members of our Family who had been seemingly lost in Diyarbakir in the Feb. 6 earthquake. “Ahmet was discharged from the hospital today, and is in good health.”

Physically, he is fine. Psychologically, he is – and will be – hurting. “The thing is, he doesn’t know about two sisters and one brother who died,” B said.

After the 7.8 and then the 7.5 magnitude earthquakes, news of destruction in Diyarbakir reached our co-worker. He heard that one of the “destroyed buildings” was where brothers in Christ Ahmet and Velat lived. He immediately headed there to help.

“Bad news about Velat,” Brother B said today, “we lost him.”

He is among the more than 41,000 killed in the earthquake.

Brother B updated us on other Family members:

  • Brother O, who we introduced to Jesus during Mission: Ararat 2015, is “fine, but (he has) no house now.” His home was destroyed.
  • Yaser: “He lost his house as well, but he was the lucky one because he wasn’t home the night of the earthquake. He was 80 kilometers away sharing the Gospel in a village. He told me he was sharing the Gospel in a village and the house (where he was staying) was safe.”
  • Petek and Nilay, who were baptized by our mission team during Part 1 of the 2022 expeditions, are both “now receiving psychological treatment at the hospital because they were (left) very afraid by the earthquake.” Their houses were severely damaged and one of those houses must be demolished.

Brother B has returned to his home after ministering in Diyarbakir and Kahta. We are beginning the relief stage of this disaster.

Monday, Feb. 13 (1:52 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Blocked from Adiyaman

Brother B was trying to get to Adiyaman, where many of his family members were known to have been killed by the devastating earthquake one week ago. He took a public bus with a friend from Diyarbakir who had organized 30 volunteers to form a search-and-rescue team.

“In Köprü, the military didn’t let us go to Adiyaman,” Brother B reported. “We asked the soldiers, ‘Why don’t you let us go?’ The soldiers’ answered, ‘In the last two days a lot of volunteer search-and-rescue (workers) have arrived. Lots of help.’”

Allegations were made that some volunteers were using the disaster to search for money, gold, jewelry in the rubble. The truth is getting blurred, of course. The government has tried to deflect criticism by starting to arrest contractors, architects, and engineers for not following code to make buildings resistant to earthquakes; yet officials who OK’d permits remain untouched.

“After the soldiers turned us down (in the attempt to get to Adiyaman),” Brother B said, “we came to Kahta. We chatted with earthquake victims and gave them psychological support. I shared Jesus Christ whenever I had the chance.”

Brother B learned that more family members in Kahta had been killed in the earthquake.

Relatives from Brother B’s late mother’s side that died in the earthquake.

The sadness continues to grow for many in Turkey – and, of course, across the border in northern Syria. The death toll has exceeded 35,000. It has become the worst disaster of the 21st century.

Brother B did receive some good news when he heard from another brother in Christ – a man God used us to introduce to Jesus and who, in turn, helped us lead B to the Lord. He was in Şanlıurfa nearer to the epicenter and, praise God, survived the ordeal. “When they ran out of the house (during the earthquake), they could not take anything – their phone, wallet, ID,” Brother B reported. “(His) house is seriously damaged. The government does not allow them to enter the house; it is on the list of buildings to be demolished. For now, they are staying with a few of our brothers and their families in an old church yard. With the aid money you will send, I will give some to help (him) and his family.”

We are starting to send additional relief to Brother B to help those in need.

Sunday, Feb. 12 (4:58 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Damaged but still living

Brother Abe sent photos from our co-workers’ hometown in southeastern Turkey, where many buildings have been badly damaged but there was no apparent loss of life. This is a miracle in a country that has suffered more than 28,000 deaths since the earthquake on Monday.

Inside and outside homes of baptized believers. (Photos by Brother Abe)

“Thank goodness there was no loss of life (here),” Abe said.

However, he said his niece (who we baptized last September) is suffering psychologically “due to the fear of the earthquake,” and the family is “in pain” because of the deaths of so many cousins and loved ones.

Saturday, Feb. 11 (5:03 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Anger grows out of pain

A man rescued from a collapsed building in Diyarbakir five days after the earthquake is carried on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance. (Photos by Brother B)

Search and rescue – or recovery – in collapsed buildings in Diyarbakir ceased yesterday when Turkey’s minister of justice, Bekir Bozdag, arrived to tour the disaster area. Brother B reported there was a protest by the Kurdish people there who were outraged by the stoppage. They were told “to stop working with machines (machines brought in by local businessmen) because they were working without (government) permission,” Brother B said.

“Diyarbakir waited for help for four days. No help came! We saved hundreds of people with our own means.

“But yesterday the governor of Diyarbakir and the minister of justice wanted to arrest us who were involved in the (rescue operation) because we were doing search and rescue without permits. The Diyarbakir police chief told the governor, ‘If I arrest these people all the Diyarbakir people will start a war.’”

Brother B sent a video showing the minister of justice being escorted from the disaster area, surrounded by body guards, as the people jeered him in the streets. The minister has reportedly stated the government plans to investigate negligent housing construction – as some buildings collapsed while others withstood the earthquakes. The death toll has exceeded 25,000.

A collapsed building next to still-standing apartments in Diyarbakir.

Asked how he was holding up, Brother B said, “I am not good. I am very upset. Heartbroken. Very tired.”

But late in the afternoon he was planning to get on a local bus and go to Adiyaman (“the city that was hit the hardest in the earthquake”). He said 12 of his relatives died there, and he started listing names: “Devrim is my cousin. She had two daughters, Beyza and Melek, and two sons, Huseyin and Serdar. My auntie and her grandsons and granddaughters.”

“This is the best time to go and be there and tell them about Jesus Christ.”

Friday, Feb. 10 (1:05 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Miracles after 100 hours

From Brother B:

“Greetings in name of our Lord.

“Last night we took out two ladies (from collapsed buildings in Diyarbakir) and this morning we rescued two people, a mother and son (named) Serhat. Serhat was 9 years old, wrapped in dust and smoke with his mother. I am very happy that we took them out alive and healthy. Everyone shed tears of happiness. We rescued them alive exactly 100 hours (after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake).

“Your prayers, brothers and sisters, are answered and Jesus Christ spared our Kurdish brothers. I think l was only the one was saying, ‘Jesus Christ spared you to us.’”

Later, however, he had an opportunity to have a “short chat” with two of the people rescued yesterday. “They told me, ‘Jesus Christ will come and save everyone one day.’ I said, ‘Yes, I know that.’ I said, ‘Jesus Christ rescued you from under that pit. We couldn’t get you out without Him.’”

Praise God!

Thursday, Feb. 9 (5:43 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: The forgotten Kurds

Brother B was awakened during Monday morning’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake by a pain in his legs – “because the bookshelf fell on my legs.” He struggled to get up to run to his daughter’s room. “My house was shaking so hard. I fell right and left. It was very hard to run. The walls of my house cracked.”

This went on for 30 or 45 seconds, he said.

Brother B and his daughter fled into the streets, where “everyone was saying ‘Allah!’ They were crying out and praying to be saved.” B prayed in the name of Jesus instead.

That’s when Brother B messaged us to tell us the news about the earthquake. “It was snowing outside. It was very cold. I think it was minus-5 degrees (Celsius).” Police announced that people should go to the city hall’s sports gymnasium. But people didn’t know what to do. “Everyone was in a big shock,” Brother B said. “There was a lot of (people in the) crowd, but no one had a voice. It was like a dream.”

It was the beginning of a nightmare.

Brother B was inside his house getting clothing and blankets when the second 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit. “The house started to shake lightly, and it became more and more intense,” he said. “Inside my house, the windows, the wardrobe, the kitchen, everything was falling apart. I knew Christ was protecting me.

“Then, the aftermath was deplorable.”

Three hours later, he heard news of the destruction in Diyarbakir. “Many buildings destroyed. Many people injured and dead. And everyone needed help!

“In one of the destroyed buildings, we had two brothers who believed in Jesus Christ, Velat and Ahmet,” Brother B said. “As soon as I heard this, I jumped into a taxi and came to Diyarbakir. I came to the area where the destroyed buildings are and the building where Ahmet and Velat lived.

“All over the wrecked building, there were screams for help. We didn’t know what to do. We don’t have materials (to remove debris). It’s not possible to lift the (fallen) building; (everything) was so heavy. But my heart was hurting. We couldn’t do anything.

“The state sent all aid to Kahramanmaraş, Adana, Osmaniye and Hatay. The Kurdish cities of Diyarbakir, Adiyaman, Şanlıurfa, and Malatya were a little deprived from this. The Kurdish people were trying to help with their own efforts and the police and the municipality were trying to prevent the incoming aid. When you ask, ‘Why?!’ they said, ‘Wait for professional rescuers to come.’ But there was no time to wait. There was a race with time and we were trying to do something if we could.

“There were thousands of dead in Diyarbakir alone. But the state said that there were only 137 people (dead). When I heard this my throat was in knots.

“In Adiyaman, my aunt’s two sons and a daughter are under rubble and still waiting to be rescued. There are more than 15,000 people under the rubble in Adiyaman and Kahta, and their hope is gone. Maybe most of them have died. But still the state says that 10,000 have died.

“I have to go back to work for now,” he said, and he returned to trying to help those in need in a place seemingly forgotten. Diyarbakir is considered the unofficial capital of Kurdistan. It is the largest Kurdish-majority city in Turkey.

Officially, the death toll in Turkey and Syria has exceeded 19,300 – and continues to climb.

Wednesday, Feb. 8 (6:33 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: A word from the front lines

Brother B sent a voice message on WhatsApp to let us know he is OK. His voice is heavy with sadness. “You wouldn’t believe what is happening here right now,” he said, telling how the people are saying “help and help. There’s not much left.”

“It’s very sad what you’re seeing here right now.”

The death toll has exceeded 11,000. The Economist, in describing the “apocalyptic” scene, wrote: “Ovgun Ahmet Ercan, an earthquake expert, estimates that 180,000 people or more may be trapped under the rubble, nearly all of them dead.”

Our hearts ache for those suffering in this disaster.

We were able to deliver our monthly support to the Brothers B and Abe yesterday, plus a little extra to help with immediate needs. Abe gave thanks to Jesus for God’s provision. He said the nights are “very cold” because there is no electricity and “we couldn’t warm up (last night) because they gave (us until) one o’clock (a.m.) with the electric generator.”

I encouraged Brother Abe to be strong in the Lord and reassured him that many are praying for them. Pray on!

Tuesday, Feb. 7 (10:41 a.m. Eastern U.S.)

ALERT: A prayer request from the rubble

People eating and resting in a shelter in a city in southeastern Turkey where our co-workers live. (Photo by Brother Abe)

The scene was familiar: a person being pulled from the rubble of a fallen building in the aftermath of the earthquakes striking Turkey. We might see it on TV on the news or on a social  media platform. We might think, for a moment, “how awful.” But then we move on. Life happens.

But life has a way of halting.

Brother Abe (not his real name), who serves alongside Brother B and Climbing For Christ in southeastern Turkey, messaged me photos and videos in the middle of the night last night. It was my 2 a.m. Eastern time wake-up call.

He sent a video he took of a boy being rescued from a fallen building in their city, which is about 180 miles (300 kilometers) from the epicenter of Monday morning’s pre-dawn earthquake.

“Forty percent of the houses in (his city) were cracked, destroyed, knocked down,” Brother Abe reported. “Even the minarets on the mosques are gone.

“Everyone is miserable. We have our own troubles. (Brother B) went to our brothers in Diyarbakir. He can’t hear from our brothers. There has been a serious problem with the (cell) networks, especially in Diyarbakir. The networks are not working. We are in a very bad situation. Jesus Christ, help us.”

What to do? In the dark, in the middle of the night 5,500 miles away from people in need who we love, I did the only thing I could: I prayed.

I asked Brother Abe, “What can Climbing For Christ do to help?”

“Pray Jesus Christ protects us,” he answered. “We are in trouble.”

Brother B left his daughter with Abe to go check on “the Family,” as he calls those God has used him to lead to Jesus. B had contacted me Sunday night my time, less than one hour after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck west of Gaziantep in south central Turkey. It was 4:17 a.m. local time. He and his 13-year-old daughter were standing outside with everyone else in the cold. That earthquake, one of the strongest ever recorded in Turkey or neighboring Syria, was followed 11 minutes later by a 6.7 magnitude aftershock.

We sent out a prayer flare to our global prayer team.

Nine hours later, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit in the northeast of Kahramanmaras Province, the province north of Gaziantep. Our co-workers live in a neighboring province.

The destruction has been widespread, and the deaths continue to mount – surpassing 5,000 as of this writing. That count is certain to multiply in the hours and days ahead. The World Health Organization has suggested fatalities could reach 20,000.

Remember, it is also winter there. When the initial earthquake occurred in the middle of the night yesterday temperatures were hovering around freezing and it was raining. It will again dip below freezing tonight as rescue workers race the clock.

Turkish authorities claim 13.5 million people have been affected in an area that stretches nearly 300 miles from Adana in the west to Diyarbakir in the east, and 180 miles from Malatya in the north to Hatay in the south.

Our co-laborers in Christ are going to need financial support to rebuild – for themselves, their family, and our Family. This is also a time for them, during personal struggles and challenges, to show the love of Jesus in a place badly in need of His light.

Helping hands

First and foremost, we ask that you clasp your hands and pray for those enduring the disaster in Turkey. Secondly, we ask for your financial support to help our brothers in the days and weeks ahead. You can send a gift to Climbing For Christ c/o Turkey Earthquake Relief at P.O. Box 16290, Rochester, NY 14616-0290 USA. Or CLICK HERE to give online via PayPal.

In Canada, make cheques payable to The Great Commission Foundation, and on the memo line add Climbing For Christ CANADA. Mail your support to: The Great Commission Foundation, P.O. Box 14006, Abbotsford, BC V2T 0B4. Or CLICK HERE to give online.

We are even more saddened to know that most of those perishing in this disaster are Muslims, who had no relationship with Jesus. This is why we GO to the ends of the earth to deliver the Good News – before it’s too late.

Pray for Brothers B and Abe, that they may be strong and have God’s peace and direction as they serve. We ask our Father in heaven to watch over our brothers and sisters in Turkey.

Please halt for a moment and join us in praying for those trapped in the rubble and those whose world has come crashing down around them.

Sunday, Feb. 5 (10:55 p.m. Eastern U.S.)

PRAYER FLARE: Earthquake in Turkey

It’s Sunday evening at the Home Office in Rochester, NY, but Brother B messaged from southeastern Turkey where he was standing outside by a bonfire. “There was a very strong earthquake now,” he messaged on WhatsApp at 5:11 a.m. local time.

About an hour earlier, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck in south-central Turkey near the Syrian border. Ten minutes later, a 6.7 aftershock was recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The tremor was felt across the Middle East. Brother B said books flew off his shelves, some hitting his leg and cutting him. The TV fell over, the bathroom mirror came off the wall, and cracks appeared in the walls in other rooms. He said there was damage elsewhere in his city. “A couple of the buildings fell (down),” he said.

Location of earthquake.

News reports out of Turkey said “several buildings tumbled down in the neighboring provinces. There [were] no immediate reports on casualties.” But Brother B reports “many dead” in areas near the earthquake.

Turkey sits on top of major fault lines and has experienced many earthquakes, including a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in the Aegean Sea that killed at least 57 people in 2020.

Please be praying for the people of Turkey as more earthquakes and aftershocks are sure to follow. 



Gary FallesenGary Fallesen

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