On February 6 of this year, a devastating earthquake took the lives of over 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria. Among them were many of our church members. In some cases, entire families were taken; in others, orphans and widows were left with no home, no clothing except their pajamas, no possessions, and no hope – except that which comes from faith in God and the kindness of His people.
It is believed that many people died in the stairways of their multi-level apartment buildings. Some of these have never been found. The destruction was such that heavy equipment could not retrieve the corpses, so they were bulldozed into massive pits filled with the debris of concrete and rebar. There they lay, buried with the quake’s rubble, to be resurrected on some coming day when our Lord returns.
Others were crushed beneath the fallen levels of the high-rise buildings as each elevated layer pancaked to the floor beneath. Those who survived did so because they could get next to a post or, by some measure of providence, found themselves in a literal bubble of protection. Many children survived because of their small size.
In other cases, family members were partially covered by debris and unable to free themselves. In such cases, they lay there for days with no food, no water, freezing temperatures, and pain until they succumbed to death. Such was the case of a young mother named Fatima. Her youngest daughter, Nadine, was also crushed, but our people were able to free her. As a result, one of her legs, severely broken, required her to be hospitalized for more than six weeks, having surgery after surgery. Your donations paid for this. The following story is what occupied her mind for those painful weeks.
This is the story of two orphan sisters.
Faud and his wife Fatima came to Christ about a decade ago. They were led to Christ by our National Director and discipled by a brother and his wife, who perished during the quake. About a year and a half ago, Faud was immigrating to Germany, where he could be safe from persecution and find work to send funds home to his family. Honestly, most of our regional churches have lost the majority of their young men who have fled to Europe for safety and food. After getting established, they bring their families (legally) and start a new life.
The boat that carried Faud sank, and he was among those who perished. (Last summer, another boat sank off the coast of Greece, and we lost 48 of our young men). After several days, UN relief workers found the remaining family, Fatima and their two daughters, Nadine, age five, and Nissrya, age three. After delivering the tragic news, they left, and the tiny family remained behind. Fatima had kissed her husband goodbye with tears in her eyes. Weeping, the girls had tightly hugged their father’s legs as they prayed together and separated for what they thought would be a long two or three-year period. Now, standing in their doorway in shock, they realized that they would never be reunited again – until Heaven.
Before they came to Christ, Faud and Fatima were devout Muslims. Still, after a period of witnessing and studying one of our smuggled Bibles, they rejected Islam. They accepted Jesus, the virgin-born Son of God, the Jewish Savior, and gave themselves to Him. At the moment they came to Christ, they knew that they were rejecting not only their faith but also their family. Converting, in many cases, is a death sentence. It was both logical and legal now for his family or hers, or both, to kill them all, or at least kill the parents and raise the girls as Muslims. So, as in most cases, Faud and Fatima fled their home and relocated to a safe place the Church provided for them. Now, he was gone, and Fatima and her girls were trapped inside a crushed apartment.
“Church” in the Middle East and North Africa has a significance that we do not have or comprehend in the West. For us, Church is a place to go, a place to give, a weekly duty to reject if we don’t feel well, the weather is terrible, or we are upset with the pastor’s last sermon. We have some friends there, but the “called out assembly” is not our life; it is only a part of it. We do to hear a sermon, then we leave. We can “have church” or “do church” in our living rooms or at the lake, but there and in many places where the news of the Gospel is only recent, the Church is everything. It is their new and extended family, their only family. Since they have rejected Islam, they are now hunted by their birth families. This is why we at Final Frontiers care for our members as if they were our own family — because they are.
As daylight crested the horizon on February 6, our churches immediately and instinctively gathered together, organized their efforts, and sent out the teenagers to scout the buildings where all our members live and return to give their assessment so that rescue efforts could begin. When they got to Fatima’s building, they climbed through fallen apartments and stairways from floor to floor until they reached Fathima’s apartment. The girls were OK physically but weakened from lack of food, water, and tears as they sat next to their mother, partially crushed on the floor. Recognizing our teenage church members, Fatima breathed a sigh of relief. She knew they could not rescue her; the debris was far too heavy, and besides, she could feel her life seeping out of her body. She thanked the teenage boys for coming to her, and though she knew their purpose as a mother, she could not prevent begging them to take her girls to safety.
There they all sat, in the rubble, beside Fatima’s broken body. She held tightly to both girls as best she could, giving them kisses and assurances that all would be fine. Words were choked by tears as their love for one another swelled their chests to the point of exploding. As her life was slipping away, she gathered her remaining strength to give Nadine and Nissrya her final words. Would it be, “I love you?” Would it be, “I’ll see your father soon, and we will wait for you?” No. Instead, fearing that her girls may be taken back into their Islamic families and raised to follow Mohammad and not Christ, she chose one final sentence to carry them through this life and into the next. These were her last words:
“Obey the Church, and don’t listen to your grandfather.” And with those words leaving her lips, she passed into eternity.
As her spirit rose, unbound by the weight that crushed her physical body, the girls gave their mother a final kiss, their tears baptizing her face, covered in the silt and dust and dirt, with only her tear trail revealing the natural color of her skin. One at a time, the teenage boys descended through each level, through cracks and crevasses; they lowered the girls to safety outside, then took them to the Church.
Over the next several days, until the stench of decaying bodies prevented them, this scenario was repeated time and time again until finally, the Church had rescued many widows and widowers and one hundred seventy-five orphans.
The saga continues.
Since February 6, these broken people belonging to a devasted church have cared for their needy as well as their Muslim neighbors. (Oh, the harvest of souls that have been reaped!). Only a few have homes that survived; only a few have jobs left standing to report to; few have more than one change of clothes or even a pair of shoes, and none have electricity, running water, or medicines. Winter is upon them, and three to four families huddle together in the single one-bedroom apartments of those who still have one. Some 15-20 people share a single bathroom. Some are sleeping in tents. Most don’t even have a blanket — and winter is upon them, just as it is us.
Since the quake, many of you have given all you could. You have enabled us to save the lives of every person rescued. Not one has been lost because of hunger, thirst, or medicine. With the funds you gave, we purchase what they need to survive, giving them one meal a day. There are no supermarkets. We have to cross a border with a rented truck to buy food and bottled water; then, we smuggle it back to where it is needed. As a policy, we only buy enough for 250 meals at a time to not attract roadside bandits’ attention. The food is taken to our primary Church facility, an apartment where members gather EVERY day from 7 AM to 10 PM. They are assigned when they can come because the apartment only holds about 50-70. They gather for a sermon, for praise, for prayer, and for fellowship with other Believers, to clean wounds, take showers, have women’s meetings, and pack the weekly food boxes. Then, spiritually fed and uplifted, they scatter to deliver them to those who cannot come because they are too old, weak, injured, or live too far away.
The Church buys fuel for their generator as needed, but only enough to run the lights and a fan or two when the room gets too stuffy from the number of people who have crowded in. But the fuel costs $120 a month, enough to run the generator twelve hours a day.
We have been channeling about $25,000 a month, as we have it, because of your generosity. Still, the need remains. I have tried to “put a face” on this need by sharing the story of Fatima and her girls. I hope I have accomplished that goal.
Please know this need is great, and it is ongoing. When you support a children’s home here in the USA, you know the same need will be there the next month, and the next, and so on. The same is true for us. We don’t have an orphanage building. There is no building to have, and if we did, it would attract the attention of the government, which would confiscate the food, water, and blankets, then place the children into a Muslim orphanage, sell their body organs, or use them to clear minefields or deflect the bullets of their enemies from their troops into the bodies of these kids. But we have found a way. We have not lost one, and in five years, many of these young boys will be young preachers, winning souls, smuggling Bibles, and starting new house churches.
I am offering you the opportunity to lay up rewards in Heaven to have the honor of caring for those you will someday meet. We do all that we do for $2 a day per person. If an adult or family returns to a mosque, denounces Christ and the Bible, and declares their faith in Islam, the mosque (funded by amultitude of Islamic nations and organizations) will give each family up to $50,000 so they can have food, clothes, and funds to build a new house. Our people are looking for their homes in a city built by God, the same one Abraham looked for.
I will not share more currently except to say that we have 175 orphans to care for in this one country. In another, we have some 500 needy children; and in another… well, never mind. I have probably put too much on your plate already. We have been asking for and receiving $25,000 monthly, but our need is almost double that.
And so, you have it laid before you. This is a great and ongoing need. Please give whatever you can, whenever you can, as long as you can, until the need is resolved. You have my eternal gratitude – and theirs! Donate below or mail in a check and designate it to “Earthquake Orphans”.
Thank you for your patience, and I hope you enjoyed your coffee!