Operation Blessing Being 'God's Hands and Feet' in Turkish Areas Destroyed by Deadly Quakes
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ADANA AND ANTAKYA, TURKEY – More than 70 nations and dozens of NGOs have responded to the greatest natural disaster in Turkey’s history and perhaps the Middle East because of two major earthquakes and more than a hundred aftershocks. CBN’s Operation Blessing is on the ground reaching out to the people of Turkey devastated by those massive quakes.
Just past midnight Saturday morning, Operation Blessing teams left the city of Adana to make their way to Antakya, the capital of the Hatay province. Antakya – known historically and in the Bible as Antioch – is where Paul and Barnabus established a church and where followers of Christ were called “Christians” for the first time.
The Operation Blessing teams began their journey at midnight because what used to take a three-hour drive, now takes about nine during the day due to heavy traffic. After arriving just before dawn, the workday began.
“Today we're going to set it up a soup kitchen, hopefully, two of them,” Diego Traverso, director of Operation Blessing’s International Disaster Relief, told CBN News. “One is for the rescue teams and some of the people that got affected by the earthquake, and another one here in this neighborhood that is pretty safe. From here, we're going to be distributing hot meals to the most affected areas in this region.”
Traverso is a 10-year veteran of disaster relief in earthquakes from Nepal, to Haiti and to Indonesia. “The despair and the suffering is huge and Operation Blessing CBN is here to support the victims,” said Traverso.
The volunteer team is multi-lingual, multi-national and multi-generational – all united to help the people of Turkey.
“To be here and just to be God's hands and feet is really, really a gift to me, and it doesn't feel like I'm serving. I just feel like I'm doing work God would be doing, and I can't believe I get to do that,” said Operation Blessing volunteer Nathan Updike.
“As soon as the earthquake happened I was like, ‘I got to get on the ground and help in any way I can,’” says volunteer Carin Cochrane. “So, I got connected with Operation Blessing and Diego, and here we are…This is just incredible. I was just thinking we have almost 10 nations represented here. We have Ukraine and Belarus and Brazilians. So, it's really amazing…And just to be able to be a part of bringing any aid to the Turkish people in this time.”
The teams began their morning by unloading much-needed supplies and aid off the truck and organizing them.
“So, what we are doing right here, we are taking the things off the truck and sorting them,” Operation Blessing volunteer Gaby Cano said.
Gaby Cano has volunteered with Operation Blessing before. “I always love this name because that's the thing, this is an Operation Blessing, and it's been a blessing to so many people. Not only the ones here, but you know, for Turks to know that there are people coming from the other side of the world or from many areas of the world to come here and show them love and show them kindness and show them that they matter to us…It's a big thing,” she said.
In Antakya, Operation Blessing set up a food distribution center right across from some of the hardest-hit areas. Almost every building in this city has been made inhabitable or is destroyed. The earthquake has affected an area the size of Great Britain and affected the lives of more than 14 million people.
Family members hold vigils next to buildings that used to be their homes of their loved ones. Just steps away, volunteer Anet Kaveh runs Operation Blessing’s food center.
“It’s been a heavy day, today. There are still 15 more people under it, and they are searching 15 more days, 20 on that,” she told CBN News, gesturing to a massive pile of debris. “So, last night they were hearing noises…Now, they are calling and nobody answers…But families are not giving up.”
Kaveh wants to heal the broken-hearted of this broken city. “Each one of them are deeply broken. So, I can say that the help that comes, it provides a beautiful platform that we can love them and [share] about God's kingdom and Christ with them and also…We can provide the peace they need,” said Kaveh.
Traverso believes it’s a critical place to be. “We want to be in the center of the action where the people need it, where not only the people that are suffering, also the rescuers. Sometimes we forget about how difficult is this kind of work for them. They're here for an intense period of time, nonstop. And the stress – they don't sleep, they don't eat well. It is very important for us to support that.”
Traverso says prayer and support will help OB do more. “Keep praying for us, keep praying for the victims, keep praying for our volunteers…Our experts are going to be arriving in the next couple hours – water engineer, doctor, a health team … because health is so needed. And pray, pray, pray, for sure. And if you can donate in some way please do it. People need it and it's extended our footprint here. We are going to be able to do such way more of what we're already doing it. One dollar goes really far here and that's amazing too.”
YOU are shining a and giving hope to so many in Turkey. Thank you for your compassion to help the hurting in their darkest hours. God bless you for your kindness.— Operation Blessing (@operationbless) February 12, 2023
Read about how your has reached out this week: https://t.co/j4ashfCDCp#OBI #TurkeyEarthquake2023 pic.twitter.com/pZP55ll6OV
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