September 1, 1999

GARY SMITH (right) of Texas Baptist Men examines destruction in Turkey caused by a massive earthquake Aug. 17. He is guided by Sahin Bostanci, a Turkish relief worker and architect. Looking at fallen minaret towers, (BP photo)

Texans among Baptist relief
workers arriving in Turkey

___By Tobin Perry
___SBC International Mission Board
___GOLCUK, Turkey (BP)--Murat Shahin lifted his thin, metal platter, displaying eight cups of hot tea. He handed two of them to Jesse Garcia and Jerry Burke of Texas Baptist Men. In the earthquake-stricken city of Gulcuk, Turkey, it's normal to be homeless, but it's a sin to be inhospitable.
___Nine days earlier, the ground shook violently for nearly 45 seconds in northwestern Turkey, killing more than 12,500 people and leaving entire towns, such as Golcuk,
AN ELDERLY MAN looks out of from the debris of his house in Golcuk, Turkey, as workers from the German Technical Help Organization rescue him. The man was trapped in the rubble for more than 60 hours before being discovered by sniffer dogs. It took the rescue workers six hours to free him from the debris. (RNS/Reuters
homeless. Shahin lost six members of his family and his livelihood to the earthquake. His small electrical store tumbled into the Sea of Marmara.
___But a little more than a week later, Shahin and several friends had built a three-room tent in one of numerous tent cities that have popped up around Golcuk. Whenever the local children quiet down enough for him to listen, Shahin watches the latest death counts on the small television set in his tent.
___"Our bitterness and our pain are huge," said Fahabatin Karahus, one of Shahin's friends. "But it is only Allah who allows us to go on and try to live a normal life."
___Shahin, Karahus and the thousands of other residents of Golcuk who have been left homeless might be scrambling for ways to go on with the rest of the lives after the earthquake, but they're not going on alone.
___Texas Baptist Men arrived in Turkey last Tuesday to help put together and run two mobile kitchens, which arrived two days later from Texas. The two teams of five men planned to distribute meals in Golcuk and Adapazari in the beginning stages of what will be a continuing presence for Texas Baptists in the earthquake-devastated areas of Turkey.
___Shahin and many of his friends have been surviving on donations from local companies and relief agencies. When that early relief dries up, Texas Baptist Men still will be there feeding people of the community, said Mel Goodwin, leader of the kitchen team in Golcuk.
___Two days after the earthquake, Southern Baptists banded together with other evangelicals and began handing out food to the thousands of Turkish people forced into streets by the disaster. The group lost count of the thousands of New Testaments they gave out.
___With the help of Southern Baptist hunger relief funds, the members of Hope International Church in Istanbul bought a water truck to help distribute clean drinking water in some of the cities hardest hit by the quake. Almost a week after one of the most devastating natural disasters in the country's history, most of those cities still have no water or electricity and there are few signs that will change soon.
___Southern Baptists in Turkey also have begun hand-manufacturing six-person tents, reflecting a shift from meeting immediate needs to addressing long-range concerns. On Aug. 31, the group was to put up 500 tents, one of the most-needed resources.
___One goal of the long-term relief effort is to help the quake victims "keep their self-worth," said Goodwin, music minister at Clarksville City Baptist Church.
___The mobile kitchens provided by Texas Baptist Men can provide up to 5,000 meals twice a day to a hungry community. With most of the cities hardest hit by the earthquake
RESCUERS make ready cutting equipment to free a survivor from the rubble of his home in Sakarya August 18. Rescue workers tore at rubble with their bare hands in the hope of finding survivors after an earthquake rocked Turkey's industrial heartland. (REUTERS)
prohibiting residents to re-enter their homes for at least the next month and tens of thousands of people left without homes to go back to, Goodwin estimates there will be a need for the kitchens for months to come.
___Although most of the Texans ministering in Turkey have traveled all over the world as disaster relief volunteers, devastation wrought by the earthquake in Turkey is the worst most ever have seen.
___Garcia, a member of First Baptist Church of Texas City who was part of the disaster relief team in Mexico City in 1985, said there is much more devastation in Turkey. While the earthquake in Mexico City hit the suburban areas, this one struck major industrial centers.
___"This is going to take a lot more time to rebuild," Garcia said.
___For the foreseeable future, most of the employable labor will be rebuilding the city. Without stable incomes coming into most families, people will depend on help from others.
___To meet that need, Texas Baptist Men will set up kitchens, bring teams of men into disaster areas and commit to staying there until the need is met, Goodwin explained.
___But this Texas team does much more. Meeting spiritual and emotional needs is just as important.
___"Jesus always met people's physical needs, but he also ministered to them," Goodwin said. "He showed concern and love. Just showing these people that someone out there still cares about them after they lost so many of their family members and everything they own, it'll lift them up."
___Although Burke and Garcia can help put back together the lives of Shahin and his neighbors, there are some things they can't do, like bring back their lost loved ones.
___That's why they're glad to offer what they consider the ultimate gift in their disaster relief arsenal. "I'll pray for you," Burke told Shahin.
___Meanwhile, Southern Baptists already have committed $100,000 from hunger relief funds to help the people of Turkey.
___Donations designated for Turkey may be sent to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 333 N. Washington, Dallas 75246.


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