UPDATE: As death tolls climb and with churches of all denominations destroyed, local believers race to the frontlines of emergency response.

Update (February 10): The death toll has now exceeded 21,000 people, marking the worst natural disaster since the 9.0 magnitude Fukushima earthquake and tsunami killed 18,400 in 2011. Authorities announced 18,342 dead in Turkey, with 75,000 injured. Syria has suffered more than 3,300 dead and 5,000 injured.

So far 60 nations have contributed 7,000 rescue workers alongside 20,000 Turkish personnel. The government has provided 92,000 tents, 1 million blankets, and is establishing a container city to support the displaced in the 10-province area populated by 13.5 million people.

CT has updated the text below to provide additional information and a more extensive list of aid groups contributing to relief.


Local Christians were among the first responders to the massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria that left more than 20,000 people dead and tens of thousands injured. They just don’t know how to make sense of it.

“God have mercy on us, Christ have mercy,” said Gokhan Talas, founder of the evangelical Miras Publishing Ministry in Istanbul. “This is our only spiritual reflection right now.”

His first instinct was to go. But as reports came in of deep snowfall and damaged roads, he shifted gears. His wife stayed up all night making phone calls to believers in Malatya, trying to coordinate aid. And with members of his church and Protestant congregations throughout Turkey, they bought blankets, medicines, baby formula, and diapers to send onward to the afflicted areas.

“From this side of eternity, nothing is clear,” Talas said. “But our sweet Lord is suffering with us.”

He warned of scams preying on the outpouring of generosity from around …

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