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Apocalyptic devastation in Turkey ‘worse than anything I’ve ever seen,’ CBN Middle East bureau chief tells ALL ISRAEL NEWS

Chris Mitchell just returned to Jerusalem from 10 days in Turkey and gives us an eyewitness report

CBN Middle East bureau chief Chris Mitchell in Turkey (Photo courtesy CBN)

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – While I was filming this week’s episode of THE ROSENBERG REPORT at the TBN studios in Jerusalem on Monday, Chris Mitchell arrived straight from Ben Gurion International Airport.

The veteran Middle East bureau chief for CBN News had just returned to Israel after a trip to Turkey to report with his team on the horrors of the massive earthquakes and aftershocks that recently shook the country, and neighboring Syria.

He told me the devastation was “apocalyptic” and “worse than anything I’ve ever seen” in his three decades reporting from the region.

Devastation in Turkey following the massive earthquakes (Photo courtesy CBN)

Here’s a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity.

JOEL ROSENBERG: Chris Mitchell, you are just literally back off the plane from Turkey. How long did you spend there?

CHRIS MITCHELL: We spent almost ten days, and we arrived Friday after the earthquake, which was on Monday. And we stayed all last week and just arrived a few hours ago.

ROSENBERG: Came in through Ankara or Istanbul? 

MITCHELL: Istanbul.

ROSENBERG: Istanbul. And then where did you go?

MITCHELL: We were based in Adana, which is in the earthquake zone, but at least a couple of hours away from some of the hardest hit areas.

ROSENBERG: How did you set up the trip logistically, not knowing what was what was capable there, what, you know, running water, electricity and so forth?

MITCHELL: Well, thankfully, we had connection with CBN's Operation Blessing that had been there a few days before we were, and they had set up a base and a place called Hatay [a Turkish province].

ROSENBERG: Really? Wow, how fascinating.


ROSENBERG: Actually, doing the ministry of the Kingdom right in the places where the Apostle Paul once was.

MITCHELL: Exactly. So, they helped us get a hotel which was safe there in Adana. And it's about a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Hatay. And so that helped our logistics.

ROSENBERG: And what did you see? 

MITCHELL: Joel, I saw things I'd never seen before. I saw a whole block that's just piles of rubble, twisted concrete. I saw buildings that were just tipped over. I saw ancient Antioch, which looks like a beautiful place, ordinarily, where people would – a destination place – where people would go to visit for the culture, for the food. Impassable streets, buildings that were just flattened. Churches that were destroyed.

The most poignant story and tragic story that we heard was from Elkin, who pastors in Antioch, and his wife, Elmas. And they had been ministering to their neighborhood for many, many years. And they went through the earthquake. Almost without exception, the people that went through the earthquake, whether near the epicenter or away, they all felt they were going to die. It was that traumatic, that much of a shaking for about 90 seconds – but, and they all said, too, it was much longer in their minds than 90 seconds.

Devastation in Turkey following the massive earthquakes (Photo courtesy CBN)

Well, they had been ministering to this neighborhood for many, many years, sharing. And Elmas, the pastor's wife, had been teaching the Bible to 50 children. They went through the earthquake. She came out, she heard not only the earthquake and then she heard a loud roar. She said it sounded like a train. She came out and it was her neighborhood that had collapsed. 

ROSENBERG: Wow. What happened to the 50 boys that she had been ministering to for years and teaching the Bible to?

MITCHELL: As best we understand, some perished and others were scattered because of the destruction. 

ROSENBERG: Oh, my gosh.

MITCHELL: It's just hard to imagine. And we did the interview with the neighborhood in the background.

ROSENBERG: How did you find them while you were there? 

MITCHELL: We had heard from Operation Blessing [CBN’s emergency relief ministry], who had been with them the day before. So, it’s hard to describe the trauma, the tragedy, the grief, the depth of the devastation. When you see it in person, it's just so stunning and it's jaw dropping. And it's not just once. You see it over and over and over again. These buildings that were standing 12 days ago, and now they're either pancaked, or they're toppled over, or they’re just a pile of debris. And it's just really overwhelming.

Devastation in Turkey following the massive earthquakes (Photo courtesy CBN)

ROSENBERG: Last week on THE ROSENBERG REPORT, I did a whole show on earthquakes, and we looked at what's going on up there and why does God let them happen? Long story short, I quoted two people who had gone through the quakes. One said it was like we were living through the apocalypse, which was such a striking thought. And we can use that term lightly sometimes. But they really, this is what they've just been through. And the other one who was actually in Syria, said, ‘We thought we were living in hell before the earthquake,’ given all those years of just horrifying genocide and civil war, chemical weapons, and he said, ‘Now we feel like we're in the deepest levels of Hell.’ Those two quotes just leapt out at me. You just said it's one of the most horrible things you've ever seen, and you've covered war and genocide in this region. You're not like a stranger to the troubles of the Middle East.

MITCHELL: No, but this was a whole different level that I've seen – apocalyptic is the word that describes this. And, you know, the other thing I've been thinking about is that Jesus said – we're here at TBN, looking over at the Mount of Olives – that's where He said there would be wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes in various places. And my sense was that, you know, that is likely happening now. And we need to realize what such earthquakes do to so many people. And it's in the compassion of the Lord that I think He wants us to reach out to suffering people, to give them food and comfort and help and hope, and the good news.

ROSENBERG: Amen. One of things we talked about on last week's show was that one of the reasons God sends earthquakes is, yes, judgment. We see that throughout the scriptures. But, prior to the events of the Book of Revelation unfolding, I think what we're mostly seeing is what God says through the Hebrew prophet Habakkuk, “I'm going to shake all the nations.” And the Hebrew prophet Amos saying,  ‘I'm going to shake the house of Israel.’ And so, we see a lot of earthquakes throughout the Bible shaking people to get their attention, to draw them to Christ. The example I used in the show – there are so many in the Bible, but I had to cut out a bunch of them out because it’s only a 22-and-a-half-minute show.  But all that to say, I spoke about the earthquake that shook the Philippian jail and it brings the jailer to Christ. Right? This hardened Roman soldier. Here's Paul and Silas singing all night, worshipping Christ, and then suddenly this jailer is shaken and he realizes that everything Paul and Silas are talking about and singing about is actually true. So, earthquakes do both – they can bring judgment, but they also can be a spiritual wake up call to individuals, cities and nations.

What did you see? Are the Muslim people in Turkey just dealing with the immediate trauma? Are the Christians simply helping the Turkish people go through trauma and provide them emergency aid? Or is there any early indications of any people reconsidering their lives at this stage, and showing interest in leaving Islam and becoming followers of Jesus Christ?

MITCHELL: I think it's early.

ROSENBERG: And I don't want to be callous about that.


ROSENBERG: But I think the only thing worse than going through an apocalypse like these horrific earthquakes, is going through them without Christ.

MITCHELL: Yeah, I remember we talked to a reporter, a presenter from Turk Sat 7, who said it's important now to be praying for a move of the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit would move on people right now, giving them dreams and visions, which we know is happening in the Muslim world, so that people can find their hope, and their help with Jesus.

ROSENBERG: Chris, thank you so much for an eyewitness report – fresh off the plane. Thank you for going to Turkey to cover this crisis and thank you for chatting with ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

MITCHELL: It’s great to be with you.

ROSENBERG: Thank you and God bless you in CBN.

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

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