Water in the Wasteland: Update on the earthquake response

The water had been switched off, again, and there were dishes to do. There were two water tanks by the side of the road, one had a slightly greenish hue to it but a good tap that let the water out fast. The other was cleaner but the water came out in a slow dribble, a large bottle would take ten minutes to fill and we needed at least six bottles to get these dishes done. A local man approached us, I don’t speak Turkish but I knew the word for water – I shook my head and told him sorry, we had no clean water to give him. He took a seat nearby and watched us debate. 

What should we do? We had a fire and could heat the water to boiling, perhaps that would make the dirty water clean enough to use? But deep doubt remained. The camp was feeding three to five thousand people per day. We could not afford to make them sick by washing their dishes in dirty water. We prayed aloud a desperate prayer, ‘God, please give us wisdom, show us what to do’, I grabbed an empty bottle and headed towards the cleanest water tank. As I did so, I looked up to see the man who had spoken to me still sitting there and in that instant my eyes were drawn to what was behind him. The water truck! He had not been asking me for water, he had been offering me water! Our prayers had been answered before we had even prayed them. 

We grabbed as many empty bottles as we could and he filled them all. We cradled their heavy bounty in our arms as we carried them back to the washing station, confident and relieved that we could now clean all the dishes without fear of contamination. In my heart, I knew exactly what God was spelling out to me through this situation – It is possible to be told but not hear, to look but not see. So often, I am blind and deaf to what God is doing. Oh God, open our eyes, open our ears. 

For the past four months our brothers and sisters in the Turkish church have been pouring themselves out to care for those whose lives have been devastated by the enormous earthquake that hit Syria and Turkiye in February. While the disaster may have left the headlines, the lives of those living in the affected areas are far from resolved. Most houses are gone. People live in tents and containers. Children and adults alike have witnessed unimaginable suffering. The schools are closed, families are separated. Huge areas of the cities have no running water. Already, minds are turning to the winter – how will they survive the freezing cold in tents? We had no answers to give them. The best that we could do was to sit with them in the ruins of their homes, listen to stories, hold hands, pray, weep, play with the children, chop mountains of onions, laugh at ourselves and our silly mistakes. 

As the Turkish church offers unconditional love to these beautiful people, they are demonstrating the love and hope of Jesus in a clear and tangible way. There is no illegal preaching or proselytising, just pure grace and service offered in humility and faith. It has been a privilege to witness. I leave Turkiye with a heart full of questions but I have a prayer that I can pray for the Turkish people being served by the camp. I pray that their eyes and ears will be opened to see and hear and understand the source of the living water that is being poured out upon them everyday. That many will turn to Jesus and receive the life, hope and healing that flows through him.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4: 13-14

The earthquake response is far from over. If you’d like to give towards the response in Turkiye and Syria, go to https://catalystnetwork.org/donate/