TURKEY: Embracing Outcast Children

Source: ASSIST News Service, December 4, 2013

California-born Norita Erickson of Kardelen Mercy Teams, based in Ankara, Turkey, where she works with Turkish people with disabilities, has an extraordinary story to tell.

“Turkey is a country of 75,000,000 people and 99 percent of the population is Islamic, some more strongly Islamic, while others are more moderate. But 17 percent of the Turkish population – and that might include some Christian minorities too – has a disability. That’s a very high percentage. Part of it is also a belief in fate. In many Islamic countries, they believe that God has written your whole life on your forehead and nothing you can do will change it. So you don’t mess with fate because that’s what God has given you as the test for your life.”

“I really didn’t understand what it meant to serve the disabled until 1997 when I went into a state-run institution and was shocked to find 400 children who had been sent away to live in this place. They were tied in their beds, covered in their vomit and bodily filth, and were screaming, as there did appear to be anyone there to care for them. No one appeared to know what to do with them and the attitude of the care givers was that these children were ‘cursed’ and they were ‘cursed’ having to work in such a place and so they would just do a little as was needed until they died.

“I was shocked and I ran out of that place and I cried out to God. I was angry. I said, ‘How could You show this to me? I wish I didn’t know what I just saw.’ It was overwhelming – just like going into a concentration camp… I started to cry and I heard the Holy Spirit saying, ‘You are weeping my tears for these children.'”

Kardelen is the Turkish word for a snowdrop flower, the first flowers to emerge at the end of winter when they respond to sunlight.

“I saw these children, and our ministry, like this. These children are hidden away, but they respond to the sunlight of God’s love as we bring it into their homes and into these institutions,” she said.

» Read the full story, which includes links to an interview with Norita, details the struggle she experienced due to her Armenian background, and more. See also her book, Cry Out.

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