Thank you for your continued prayers and support for your church family in Turkey and Syria following the earthquakes. Thanks to you, believers are able to reach out to their communities with essential aid and shelter – like Fardin, who sees being spared from the worst of the disaster as an opportunity to bless the people around him. All names in this article have been changed.
Hundreds of people have been helped with basic needs like food, clothing and shelter
“Life, and one’s circumstances, can drastically change in just a few seconds.”
Before the earthquakes struck, Fardin felt he had finally made a new life for himself and his family after eight years in Turkey. Forced to leave his home country Iran because of his Christian faith in 2015, he – along with his wife and two children, Arsh and Aysha – became refugees.
“I was lying in bed, looking at the roof and feeling the whole house shaking” Fardin
“Life as a refugee has so many challenges – and one by one you try to put them behind you and sometimes even pretend that everything is normal,” Fardin says. “You try almost everything to make sure that your family is safe and feels at home, even though you are a stranger in a foreign land with a different language. You enrol your kids in school, you learn the language, you try to get accustomed to the culture. You furnish the new house with beautiful things and try to have a quiet and normal life just like everybody else.”
But this new life was drastically changed in a moment, in the middle of the night.
“We were all sleeping around 4.30am when we woke up,” Fardin remembers. “I was lying in bed, looking at the roof and feeling the whole house shaking, thinking and hoping that whatever was happening would end soon. Ten seconds, 15 seconds passed, but the shaking did not stop. By this time, my wife was awake and said, ‘We should go outside now’.
“Immediately after... I started to call church members to check if they were safe” Fardin
“I went to the room where my eight-year-old daughter was sleeping; she was still asleep. Since she is very sensitive and she gets scared easily, I decided to cover her with my body and wait.”
By that time, Fardin’s wife and his son Arsh (17) had run outside. They live on the first floor of a 14-story building. “After a short while, the shaking stopped,” Fardin says. “I woke my daughter up and told her that we were going to go outside to play snowball. She looked at me and smiled. Then we ran outside as well.
“Immediately after I made sure that my family was in a safe place, I contacted the pastor of our local church and I started to call church members to check if they were safe.”
Crowds of people started to fill the streets around Fardin. “I saw a young man who was running and behind him was an old lady, who we found out later was his mother,” he recalls. “She was hardly able to walk on her own. I ran and took her hand and tried my best to take her far away from the buildings as fast as I could. Then I saw our neighbours, a Turkish woman with her children. They didn’t have a car and were trying to go to some warm place because the temperatures were below zero and all they had on were their pyjamas. I helped them into another neighbour’s car to make sure that they were in a warmer place until we could go elsewhere. Using my car, I then started to move people from dangerous areas to relatively safer areas – as many as I could.”
“It is our duty to care for each other and help each other whenever a crisis hits” Fardin
Fardin is grateful to have survived the earthquakes, and now he is helping those who were severely impacted: “As a person, and as a child of God and follower of Jesus, I do believe that we need to be there for each other – especially in times of need. It is our duty to care for each other and help each other whenever a crisis hits. After all, we are in the same ship, we are all in this disaster together.
“Another thing that we started to do, along with our pastor, was get in contact with people outside of the city, people in the safe areas, just to inform them what was going on and ask for help. Praise the Lord, almost everybody reached out and tried to help.”
Fardin was one of the first people Open Doors was able to send help through. Along with his local church pastor, he was able to help hundreds of people with basic needs like clean water, food, heaters and blankets.
“I can see that God is at work in the middle of this suffering and pain and confusion and grieving” Fardin
“By seeing those awful and painful scenes happening around me, especially watching the news about the places where the damage was huge, it made me think: what if I was in their place? What if my whole house fell on us? What would I do? What kind of expectations and needs would I have? What would I want others to do for me? And these thoughts have been my real motivation to help, knowing that God loves everybody, and we have to be His vessels on this earth to transfer His mercy and grace,” Fardin says.
“I can see that God is at work in the middle of this suffering and pain and confusion and grieving. I can see God’s mercy through the people reaching out to help, the organisations and charities, the volunteers. God is working through the people helping, whether it is financially or emotionally or physically. God is good. Our God of life is at work.”
You can give now to support Open Doors partners in Syria and Turkey as they support people impacted by the earthquakes, and for the long-term. Your gift can help provide emergency food, shelter and other relief to those affected, as well as long-term support.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.