Through the work done by the Turkish Protestant Churches in Duzce, good relationships were build with the local government officials. With time more and more invitations came to support different local initiatives.
The good relationships opened the door for the KUCAK Children’s ministry to visit schools in the Duzce area to present a program of songs and games and to bring joy, hope and encouragement to the children of Duzce. A container full of redundant McDonald’s Toys were send to Duzce and these toys were distributed during the outreaches to the schools. The outreach teams were made up of young believers from the Turkish Protestant Churches in Ankara and Hardus and Thea-Marie were part of these outreach events on more than one occasion.
After such an outreach to the Yihilja-village in the mountains outside Duzce the Inspector of Schools invited us to investigate the situation at the school in Yihilja. Yihilja is a scenic rural village 35km in the mountains above Duzce. It had a population of 3500 and cultivating hazelnuts was the main economic activity in this area. Until that time all the attention were given to the main town and this village had received no help. The school in the village was founded in 1960 and it was a boarding school with 1450 learners. The school dormitory hosted 120 children.
The school buildings and dormitory were damaged during the earthquake. Tents were used as classrooms and the cafeteria was used as dormitory for the 120 children. This was not a suitable space as it was too small and too cold. The tents was also overcrowded and bitterly cold.
The Earthquake Relief and Support Committee of Ankara approved a proposal to build 20 wooden classrooms on a concrete foundation. An experienced believer from a church in Ankara was appointed as site manager and volunteer teams came regularly to support the local building contractor with this project.
The community in Yihilca were extremely grateful for our support and the officials were very appreciative for our efforts to support the school community in this way. We became good friends with the local school inspector and his family and we even spend a weekend with them in an area called Seven Lakes. We invited them to an Easter celebration hosted by the Turkish Protestant Churches in Ankara and he and his wife attended. During the celebrations he took the opportunity to make a short speech expressing his gratitude to the Turkish Protestant Community for reaching out to the people of Duzce.
The Social Service Center in Duzce, the bridges in Dehirmentepe and the classrooms in Yihilja allowed the people of Duzce and the surrounding villages to come into contact with Turkish believers. It changed their perceptions forever and we later received news that a small Turkish Christian fellowship was established in Duzce by a Turkish doctor who came from Istanbul!