It was already the third day after the earthquake. We were still waiting on our bank card. Things were getting tight with an empty wallet and the food in our cupboards running low. We got accustomed to buy only enough for a few days. Most produce is fresh and if you have to walk most of the way, carrying your own parcels, you don’t buy bulk!
During that day, Magda got a call from her South African friend. They were both registered nurses in South Africa, but could not practice in Turkey. We investigated the possibility before we moved to Turkey and Magda were content not to nurse in Turkey. She was focused on the housekeeping duties, homeschooling the children and learning language. The call from her friend turned the applecart over. The Turkish churches in Ankara were recruiting believers to be part of a search and rescue team. There were no nurses in any of the church communities and they were looking at Magda and her friend to join the search and rescue team as nurses. Magda had to decide immediately because the team was leaving that evening.
It was not a difficult decision. This was an opportunity not to be missed. She will be serving with Turkish brothers in Christ and she will be able to use her skills and knowledge as a nurse. She was very excited but also uncertain and scared because she did not know the team or what to expect in the earthquake area.
That evening, Magda departed with the last TL1000,000 (ZAR 5,00) I had in my wallet. They planned to return after three days with better information about the situation and how to mobilize more help. We had no way to stay directly in touch with one another. I had to keep the cellular phone in case I had to make more calls regarding our bank card.
Magda and the team arrived in one of the affected towns in the early morning hours. The devastation that they encountered was tremendous. It looked like one big heap of rubble dumped one after the other. Everywhere people were searching through the rubble in the hope to find a relative or a friend alive. The team started immediately to search too. They moved from one heap of rubble to another. They used the silence of the night to listen for noises that could indicate a trapped person under the rubble. After more than an hour, they reached a building that collapsed to one side. On the one side they could hear a faint but clear knocking sound coming from under some stacked concrete blocks. The men started digging and after two more hours, they reached a woman who were caught in a small space where she waited in the dark for more than 3 days! Magda and her friend stood ready with the first aid kit but when the woman came out she was unharmed, just thirsty and hungry. They handed her over to an official medical team to take care of her.
The team continued searching and rendering practical help as needed throughout the day. That night they slept at the Yalova-campsite operated by the Turkish Church community in Istanbul. They returned to Ankara the next day. They were physically and emotionally exhausted. The scenes and the needs that they saw had a big impact on each member of the team. Tent cities were popping up like mushrooms and it was clear that there was still a lot of opportunity to serve the survivors of this horrific event.
Magda arrived safely home to find me in possession of a new bank card!