Helping Refugees in Turkey

Rachel Chimits

For those who have been forced to flee from their homes, God offers hope and light in some very dark places.

As conflict flares up in the Middle East, refugees are pouring out of war-torn areas. Their flight often takes them into Turkey since it is more stable socially and politically.

The huge influx of refugees, however, has overburdened local governments. Even in areas where resources are available, some people are biased against refugees as outsiders and others fear that the newcomers will never leave if their country of origin remains in upheaval.

While struggling against prejudices, refugees also face many practical obstacles.

They are not allowed to have a job without work permits, but these licenses are often withheld, sometimes without explanation. Working illicitly frequently puts refugees, particularly women, in dangerous situations where they are vulnerable to exploitation. Despite this, many refugees aren’t kept in camps; they are relocated to apartments where they are expected to pay rent and other living expenses.

Delivering Food to Families

Volunteers from a World Challenge partner-church gathered with excitement to shop for canned and dry food supplies for refugee families in need.

Their church has about 150 Farsi-speaking Afghan and Iranian refugees who attend to worship alongside Turkish converts every week. The church leaders are finding that many Turks, culturally Muslim and predominantly prejudiced against Christians, are coming to Christ through the witness of Farsi-speakers.

Unable to work without permits, burdened by living costs and grappling with the trauma of their escape or having witnessed family members die, the refugees’ steadfast belief in God’s goodness is a powerful testimony to their new neighbors.

Even those who are allowed to work usually face long hours to support a family alone if they’ve lost their spouse. One mother works most of the day, often until midnight, to provide for her three children. She fled war-torn Afghanistan to Iran when she was 15 years-old, and then 12 years later, she was forced to flee to Turkey with her girls and without her husband. She met Jesus through the witness of believers in the church and says Jesus and fellow Christians have kept her going.

To help her and families like hers, a missionary from America and pastor of the church planned to deliver the food packages to bless those refugees in need.

One man who had escaped from Iran asked to join them on their deliveries. After working 15 hours straight, he drove to the church with his boss’s van to help send out the food packages.

In the Middle of the Storm

Not all refugees are alike. For many, seeking asylum has meant leaving respectable jobs and families and suffering the embarrassment of living as an unwanted outsider for several years.

For others, the peace of Turkey compared to where they came from has been life-giving, even as they wrestle with financial strain and the lack of governmental support.

Amidst the difficulties, the church is what has kept so many of these people going, families who have fled unspeakable horrors, single mothers with their babies who are eking out a living, men who work dangerous manual labor jobs through the night.

They believe God has a plan and purpose even in the middle of the storm.