On Monday, February 6, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook the region of Turkey near the Syrian border. A second 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the same region just hours later. The already fragile ground continued to be rocked as more than 1,600 aftershocks followed the initial earthquakes. At the time of this article’s publication, the death toll has exceeded 41,000, with tens of thousands more injured. As we hear about the devastation and loss of life, we recognize an even greater loss when we look through the lens of eternity. Considering Jesus’ heart for people of all nations to hear the Gospel, our perspective shifts to the crisis of spiritual lostness in one of the most unreached areas of the world.
According to joshuaproject.net, the total population of Turkey is roughly 85 million. With the largest religion in the country being Islam (96.3%), the number of unreached people in Turkey is 84,565,000—which accounts for 99.2% of the population. Using those stats to do the math, we can reasonably estimate that of the 41,000 lives lost in the February 6 earthquake, roughly 40,500 people are now spending an eternity separated from Christ.
“These are numbers we cannot ignore and numbers that should break our hearts for the crisis of unbelief around the world,” said Ben Taylor, Bellevue’s Minister of Missions. “This world is passing away, but are we being faithful to fulfill God’s mandate to take the Gospel to every part of the world?”
In Jesus’ final moments on Earth, He had the nations on His mind (Matthew 28:18–20). When crises happen in the spiritually darkest parts of the world, they grab hold of our attention. As we look, the lostness of the souls living in those areas must penetrate our hearts and stir our desires to fulfill the Great Commission.
“When we see the devastation in the news of what is happening in Turkey and Syria, we are moved with compassion,” Ben said. “And when our eyes are fixed not on what is seen but what is unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18), we see greater devastation than just one earthquake—we see people dying without Jesus every single day.”
No matter what destructions strike the Earth, we know God’s purposes remain (Psalm 33:11) and His ways are greater than ours (Isaiah 55:8–9). Throughout history, God has used dire circumstances to make His name known and to make ways for the Gospel to spread. Even now, Christians in countries surrounding Turkey and Syria are flocking to provide aid to those impacted by the earthquakes. The International Mission Board’s Send Relief teams are on the ground being the hands and feet of Jesus—binding wounds, providing food and shelter, and offering hope in many people’s darkest hour.
As Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:7–8, there are more natural disasters to come until He returns to take us home. However, “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). So may He use the birth pangs of creation to shake us awake to eternal matters and the command He has given us to share the Good News with those who haven’t heard!
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18NIV