Texas teams back from Turkey
___By Ken Camp
___Texas Baptist Communications
___Surrounded by a sea of suffering, two Texas Baptist disaster relief field kitchens served as islands of hope for Turkish earthquake survivors living in tent cities.
___Ten volunteers with Texas Baptist Men cooked meals for survivors of the Aug. 17 earthquake that killed more than 15,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. The Texans traveled to Turkey with a singular purpose.
___"We came to show them God's love," said Larry Blanchard of First Baptist Church in Lindale.
___Blanchard led a five-man team that operated a field kitchen and water purification system at a tent city near Adapazari. His crew prepared more than 100,000 meals and trained three teams of Turkish nationals how to use the field kitchen, delivery carts and water purifiers.
___The Texas Baptists set up their field kitchen in the middle of a rainbow of tents, each color representing a different campsite with its own corporate sponsor. Just beyond the miles and miles of tents were the remains of five-story dwellings.
___"Now they were four-story buildings," said Blanchard, who has served with many Texas Baptist disaster relief ministry projects, including the Mexico City earthquake of 1985.
___"The bottom level had just crumbled. The earthquake had severed the walls at the ground level. Some were leaning one way or the other, but they hadn't collapsed. Others were caved in at the middle. They looked like a shoebox somebody had stepped on."
___Mel Goodwin, from Clarksville City Church of Longview, led another five volunteers who served meals at Golcuk in western Turkey. Though they were delayed in setting up food service and spent fewer days cooking than the team at Adapazari, Goodwin's crew prepared close to 20,000 meals.
___Goodwin, who has been part of disaster relief ministries from Central America to eastern Asia, was deeply moved by what he saw in Turkey.
___"It was far worse than anything I'd ever seen," he said. "It was far much more damage, far much more loss of life."
___He recalled one mother who told the volunteers she had lost all six of her children in the earthquake. An elderly man said he was the only survivor in his whole family.
___In spite of the heartache they have endured, the people of Turkey were incredibly gracious, well-mannered and hospitable, the volunteers agreed.
___"You couldn't set foot in anybody's tent without them offering you tea," Goodwin said. In fact, residents of the tent city brought hot tea to the volunteers at the Golcuk field kitchen each morning.
___The Golcuk team had capable interpreters with them most of the time, so they were free to explain that it was their faith in Jesus Christ that led them to minister in Turkey. But for the most part, words were not necessary.
___"When you went into their tents, it didn't seem to matter if you spoke the language or not," Goodwin said. "Just your being there meant a lot to the people."
___That ministry of presence was just as real at Adapazari. Every day, residents of the tent city would join the Texas Baptists around a 62-gallon, six-foot-wide stew pot.
___"There'd be 10 people gathered around there, peeling potatoes and chopping vegetables," Blanchard said.
___Part of the time, the team was able to communicate through an interpreter provided by the corporate sponsor of the camp. Most of the time, the Texans had to use makeshift sign language or just let their actions speak for them.
___Their actions had the desired effect. A representative from the manufacturer that sponsored a campsite at Adapazari described his secretary's impressions after she worked as a translator with the Texas Baptists.
___"Those men are angels," she said. "They worked hard, they cared about people and they loved Turkey."
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