Earthquake victims suffer below-freezing weather without shelter

By December 21, 2011

Turkey (MNN) — Van, Turkey was once a thriving city boasting 700,000 inhabitants. But that was before the earthquake.

Since two powerful earthquakes struck Van in late October and early November, the city has dwindled to rubble and sadness.

"The city now is almost like a ghost town," notes Mark Lewis, the Crisis Response director for TouchGlobal, a relief branch of the EFCA. "There are only 200,000 people living in the city, and almost all of those are living out in the streets or in open areas because of fear of ongoing aftershocks and home collapse."

Beyond the initial problems surrounding thousands of people living on the streets, earthquake victims now face another factor: the cold. Weather conditions have been gelid as the temperature continues to plummet below zero on a daily basis. It's expected to get worse.

TouchGlobal has been putting up shelters in Van since the quake, but the weather conditions have led to even more urgency. Lewis says, in conjunction with local church partners, "We have a goal of trying to install 1,000 of these temporary shelters."

TouchGlobal hopes to erect at least 100 shelters in their first phase of relief. Each shelter costs $400 to construct, so TouchGlobal needs to raise about $40,000.

The shelters are a relatively short-term solution for housing, but they meet victims' needs for now. Lewis says with the number of buildings that have collapsed alongside the number that are so dilapidated now they will need to be demolished, it will take years to reconstruct all the homes and buildings that fell in the disaster.

As TouchGlobal relief workers have partnered with churches to build these shelters, they not only have been able to meet a practical need, but have been able to share the hope people have in a seemingly hopeless situation. Workers on the ground have had the opportunity to pray with families moving into their new, temporary homes. They have been able to share the Gospel sometimes in word, and other times simply in the deed of providing when many others have left.

Workers are proceeding with caution as they share the Gospel for security reasons, but "in a one-on-one relational level, just as in any crisis, when people are in need, they're hurting. And there is hope that comes in the Gospel." Lewis says Christ's love is intentionally expressed in all the workers do.

Most immediately in Turkey, more shelters are needed, which will in turn open doors for Gospel opportunities.

"Particularly as folks are sitting by the warm fires in their homes this Christmas, a great Christmas gift could be to just give a shelter for someone in Turkey," notes Lewis.

If your family is willing and able to help another family in Turkey this Christmas by giving $400 for a new shelter, click here. This link will tell you even more about what TouchGlobal is doing to help, and provide ways you can join them.

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