U.S.-based response increases for Turkey

BY SUSAN KIM | WASHINGTON | September 3, 1999


WASHINGTON (Sept. 3, 1999) -- "The chaos is mind-boggling. The

government works out of a tent in front of their office building

because there isn't any better place for them to be," writes Mick

McCain, a missionary in the city of Adapazari, Turkey, where an

aftershock registering 5.4 on the Richter scale struck early this

week.

"I watched a man and woman with a bicycle, balancing donated supplies

precariously on the seat. Their faces reflected the desolation of

parents whose children had been killed."

As McCain's descriptions -- and others from the field -- relay

firsthand the continuous and dire need in Turkey, faith-based and

relief organizations have stepped up response efforts. Church World

Service, working through Action by Church Together (ACT), has

increased its appeal for earthquake relief and recovery in Turkey to

$1 million.

McCain, a missionary from the United Church of Christ's Board for

World Ministries, is helping to lead the Churches of Turkey Steering

Committee, an ecumenical response group based in Turkey that works

closely with the Middle East Council of Churches, Armenian Orthodox

Church, Greek Orthodox Church, and European Conference of Churches.

The steering committee, which is partnering with ACT to guide

U.S.-based and global response, has joined church groups who have

never worked closely together. "It has brought together churches from

across a wide spectrum in Turkey -- a good example of churches laying

aside their doctrinal and other differences and working on behalf of

the survivors," said Johnny Wray, who coordinates a U.S.-based Week

of Compassion giving program for the Christian Church (Disciples of

Christ).

Response leaders maintain that monetary donations are the best way

for people to help, particularly as new needs spark renewed or

increased financial appeals.

Some organizations have also recruited skilled volunteers to answer

unique needs. The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network

(SATERN) is still fielding requests for information about loved ones

in Turkey through its Web site. Requests are passed via e-mail to

Quent Nelson, a volunteer amateur ham radio operator based in

Covington, Ga., who can transmit an inquiry through a network of more

than 1,500 radio operators worldwide.

"If the overload becomes too heavy, other operators help handle the

requests. Volunteer operators all over the U.S. have been very

helpful in passing the traffic," he said.

Inevitably some families have received sad news about lost loved

ones. Jan and Bobby Kilic, members of the Atlanta-area Mount Vernon

Baptist Church, lost four of their five children in the earthquake,

the youngest nine months old. As the church prayed for the family,

the Rev. Sam Boyd, pastor, said, "Many will look at this situation

and be confused. Some will even give God a hard time over this. There

are a lot of questions that are asked at times such as this. Tragedy

is a part of this life," he said.

Turkish-born Arzu Fernandez, who lives in Miami, Fla., was among many

who anxiously awaited word on family members. "My parents were in

Istanbul until the day before the earthquake happened, and my aunts,

cousins, and friends," she said. Her family members were spared. But

Fernandez feels compelled to help. Besides making financial

contributions to relief organizations, she wants to volunteer as a

translator.

"Not every one speaks the same language but they need the same

comprehension of this disaster," she said.

Many organizations are using monetary donations to purchase emergency

relief supplies -- most of which are available in Turkey -- for

survivors. Not only is shipping less expensive, but the purchases

also strengthen the local economy. The Adventist Development Relief

Agency (ADRA), an ACT partner based in Silver Spring, Md., is

collecting donations to help support relief assistance for thousands

of survivors, including blankets, hygiene items, and baby food.

Similarly, funds from the United Methodist Committee on Relief have

already purchased tents and other supplies for people who have been

living in makeshift shelters covered with plastic sheets or canvas.

Funds through Lutheran World Relief and the Presbyterian Church of

the USA, both ACT partners, are also helping provide winterized tents

for people left homeless.

Denominations across the U.S. have also sent specially trained teams

of volunteers to Turkey, including medical teams from the Assemblies

of God and mobile kitchens staffed with volunteer cooks from the

Baptist Men.

These are only a few among a myriad of denominations responding to

the earthquake. Even though search-and-rescue is over, thousands of

bodies still remain buried under the debris. Nearly half of Turkey's

population lives in the area affected by the quake. Thousands are

still sleeping outside, many in muddy tent cities, afraid of

aftershocks, building collapses, or explosions from ruptured gas

lines and electrical cables. Tent cities are stretched end-to-end

throughout western Turkey. More than 300 aftershocks have been

recorded.

Government and faith-based leaders continue to report that a vast

combination of funding and resources -- government, faith-based,

health-related -- will be needed to help Turkey make even the first

steps toward recovery. Emergency response workers, health

professionals, and hospitals are still overtaxed.

Posted Sept. 3, 1999


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