Turkey (MNN) — It's been just more than 100 days since the first earthquake in a three-part series struck Van, Turkey. Each of the three had magnitudes well over 5.0, left hundreds of people dead, and took part in creating a fear that would paralyze a people.
In general, gathering people out of the gelid temperatures in Van since the quakes has gone fairly well. Mark Lewis, the director of EFCA TouchGlobal Crisis Response, says TouchGlobal has managed to house 800 families in 400 double shelters. Most people seem to be off the streets.
Months after the quake, Van has an eerie feeling to it. About half of the city cleared out and has yet to return. Most of the rest stay in shelters with their homes nearby, determined to protect their possessions but terrified to reenter cracked buildings.
Lewis says since the shelters are mostly complete, TouchGlobal partners are moving onto another phase of relief: a mobile soup kitchen. Temperatures are below freezing, and earthquake victims have little left. Christian workers want to be able to offer hot meals to those living in temporary shelters.
But even as hot soup may serve to fill stomachs and "warm the soul," any relief will be fleeting compared to the intense hopelessness surrounding Van.
"Fear is what is driving people right now," explains Lewis. "There's fear of the continued earthquake. There's fear now with thefts. There's fear of the unknown, the future, and the uncertainty."
People relive terrifying memories about family and friends who died in the earthquake. Others hear stories about people who ended up trapped–like one man who was rescued from rubble in the first quake, only to be moved into a hotel which collapsed in the next one, crushing him.
It's a trauma-inducing atmosphere. But Lewis says miraculously, there is hope emerging from the rubble.
"[An evangelist] said he felt that in that context, there was really an unprecedented openness in people," says Lewis. "It's characterized as an emotional crack that has opened that's enabled discussions and relationship to go beyond material things, and to really deal with that element of fear and hopelessness."
"When you're in hopelessness and fear, that's an amazing testimony to hear truth and to experience love, and to receive that in grace, without charge–just because someone else cares about you," adds Lewis. "That's powerfully encouraging."
The Turkish church in Van is excited by God's movement throughout the region and throughout the church itself, which is coming together like never before. Pray for hearts to be open to hearing about hope in Christ. Pray that Christian workers would have the words to say as well as the energy to say them as they continue to provide for victims' physical needs months since the crisis struck.