Article | Missions magazine

Our First Mission Trip: An Albanian Assembly Builds Mini-Houses in Turkey

Jul 17, 2023

By George Sturm
The morning of February 6, 2023, was cold and snowy when a series of major earthquakes struck Turkey in and around the biblical city of Antioch (today, Antakya). Besides the catastrophic damage to the buildings, thousands upon thousands of lives were instantly lost, and even more people were left homeless. Immediately, financial contributions soared, and disaster relief agencies, in turn, began sending in personnel with tents, medicine, and food. For a time, the earth-
quakes were one of the top news stories, and believers made many prayers on behalf of the Turkish people. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, this situation faded from public attention and was replaced with other top news stories. However, I kept thinking of what else the Lord might have me do. I mean, I could quite easily pray and send a check, but did the Lord want me to do something specific?

The answer came in Romania, where I had been invited to be one of the main speakers at a missions conference. Besides the ministry from the Word, several missionaries
presented reports. One focused on a recent trip into the earthquake area of Turkey. There, the team of believers built several mini-houses for families while having a great and
open door to sharing the Gospel. It was almost like a voice from heaven in that this ministry answered my prayers. Upon returning to Albania, I shared the idea with the believers, and four leading men in the local assembly volunteered for the missionary journey to Antioch.

One day in late spring, our team departed with a vehicle full of tools and the blessing of the assembly. We left in faith, not knowing exactly what to expect. After two days of travel, we arrived in Antioch. Seeing pictures online is one thing, but seeing things firsthand is quite another. Rubble and destroyed buildings were everywhere. Even the structures left standing were cracked and uninhabitable. Families were living in tents— alongside the road, in leveled-off fields, or on plots of land near their devastated homes. Everyone had a sad story to tell. Besides the loss of their worldly possessions, most had suffered the loss of a family member.

Using money distributed from CMML’s disaster relief fund for Turkey, we built three mini-homes. More importantly, we brought Christ’s love to three families.

Three families, many blessings
The first family is well respected in the community since the husband was a city official. A few years back, they moved into a new six-story apartment building. In February, the earthquakes destroyed it. The wife was pregnant but lost the baby when a wall fell on her. She remains in the hospital recovering from her injuries. The family owns a small plot of land nearby, so we built their mini-home there. During construction, all the neighbors came by for a look, and we communicated that we are Christians. In the end, the family was extremely grateful for this blessing. We remain in contact via WhatsApp.

The second family we helped had, likewise, lost everything. Ahmet, a welder, owns a piece of land that had been his metal junkyard. We cleared a section, and with some good effort from our team, a mini-home came into being. We shared Scripture with Ahmet, including the story of Nicodemus. He said to us, “Jesus must be proud of
you for this good work. I thought that such good people exist only in movies. I’m glad we met. You showed that good people
are not only in movies. Thank you very much.”

The third family is headed by a woman named Ilkay, who had lived in a one-story home with her children and mother. Like the other two families, she lost her home to the earthquakes. A tent camp for 19 people formed since extended family members were in the same plight.

In that camp, we cleared a section for Ilkay’s mini-home. Following typical Middle Eastern culture, this family, despite their poverty, fed us two simple meals per day with lots of breaks for Turkish tea. Of course, these times gave us opportunities to speak of the Lord. As we finished, the family gave many thanks to us and, in the words of Ilkay, to “our Lord Jesus.”

A prayer for Antioch
With great sadness, we returned to Albania. Our trip was a life-changing experience for the Albanian men and was, in fact, our first missionary journey as an assembly. They learned the truth of Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Oh, how great are the needs and opportunities in Antioch. May the Lord raise up more people to go into this harvest field so Acts 11:21 may once again be the description of Antioch: “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” 

George and Nancy Sturm are commended from Overbrook Gospel Chapel in Greenville, South Carolina.

Originally published in Missions magazine, July 2023. For more content, sign up for a free subscription (US) to Missions at