15 February 2023

“Church became our shelter”: Mahmood’s earthquake story in Turkey

Mahmood and his family had to flee their home in Turkey when the earthquakes hit. They lost everything. Thanks to you, they are getting vital support and shelter from Open Doors local partners.

With your prayers and gifts, Open Doors local partners are able to support people impacted by the earthquake, like Mahmood

Mahmood’s life changed in an instant when the earthquake hit Turkey last week. His story is like that of many thousands of people’s. One moment he was leading a normal life in Malatya, Turkey; the next he was to trying to survive by sleeping in his car, with only biscuits and water for his meals and almost all his possessions lost.

could provide urgent relief, including food and blankets, for a persecuted Christian affected by the earthquake, and long-term support.

Mahmood (name changed) isn’t from Turkey originally. Like many of the Christians living there, he is a refugee from Iran. “We have been living in the city of Malatya for eight years,” says Mahmood. “God blessed me with a kind wife and two lovely daughters. I was a normal worker and had a simple life with my family in an apartment on the third floor of a 20-year-old building.”

When the earthquake hit, Mahmood and one of his daughters were chatting on a call with family members who still live in Iran.

“It was very sudden and, as soon as we felt the quake, we ran toward my wife and younger daughter, who is eight years old,” Mahmood remembers. “In that moment, I was thinking about how fast we should leave the house and what are the most important things I need to take.”

“Will you save our family?”

As fast as they could, Mahmood and his family hurried to get out of the building. In that moment, his eight-year-old daughter called out to God. Like David in the Psalms, this little girl’s instinct in a crisis was to cry out to her Father for help:

“Our home was damaged badly, and in the aftershock it was destroyed completely.”


“In that rush and chaos where we all were so scared, the only thing that got my attention was the cry and shout of prayer of my younger daughter to God,” says Mahmood. “She was saying, ‘Oh God, aren’t You our Father? Will You save my family? Didn’t You say that You are our Shepherd? Please help us!” It was a very short moment but I think I will never forget it.”

They managed to get out of their home, but they lost everything except what they’d been able to grab. “Our home was damaged badly, and in the aftershock it was destroyed completely,” says Mahmood. “Our whole life was just fitted in a small backpack.”

Desperately seeking help

Mahmood continues: “The whole city was affected hugely, there was no electricity, gas or water, and we had to move to the nearest town to stay in a church. It had two tiny rooms and we were 12 people so, during the nights, men slept in cars so that women and kids would have more space.

“For two days all we had for eating were water and biscuits. The town was a forsaken one and no help was received there, so we had to walk to the city centre, get some needed items and go back to the town.”

As refugees from another country, Mahmood struggled to find help. There were so many desperate people in the city and very little to go around. “People were asked to leave the town and city, but there was no bus or any kind of transportation and we had no ID card or money and, above all, we were foreigners so we couldn’t find anybody to help us to get out of the city.

“Hopelessly, we thought that we won’t ever be able to leave the city.”

Help from Open Doors partners

But thanks to the loving support and prayers of Open Doors supporters like you, there are Open Doors partners in the region who already support Christian refugees in Turkey. They were able to act quickly to provide emergency shelter and food – and are helping Mahmood and his family.

“After all of those terrible, cold, stressful sleepless nights, finally last night we could rest.”


“Like a miracle, we could find a connection with a brother in faith [an Open Doors partner] and he helped us to rent a van and, with two other families, we moved to the city of Ankara,” explains Mahmood. “Now we are in a church which has five rooms and one of them is for me and my family to stay in.

“Church became our shelter. After all of those terrible, cold, stressful sleepless nights, finally last night we could rest and have a peaceful night at the church.”

Seeing God’s grace

Mahmood is even able to see how God is speaking through this very difficult time: “It was an intolerable and unbearable period for us, but now we feel that God gave us a second chance for knowing Him better and living according to what He really wants,” says Mahmood. “Also, I want to thank all the sisters and brothers in Christ who prayed for us and supported us. Through them, we learned how important it is for the body of Christ to love and be there for one another. Moving from that town to Ankara was like moving from hell to heaven; this help means a lot to us.”

When asked how Open Doors supporters can pray, Mahmood says: “Please keep praying for us and for all the people who have lost their families and everything they had. There are still numerous people that need a lot of support and help because they don’t have their basic needs. And especially women and kids were affected by the earthquake mentally and emotionally, so please pray for fast recovery and healing over them. Thank you and God bless you.”

  • For Mahmood and his family to have firm hope for the future, and receive all they need
  • For Open Doors local partners to be equipped to be able to support as many people as possible
  • For God’s love, peace and light to be evident in the darkness of this crisis.
Please give

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.

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