Flexibility is often a watchword for international missions teams, and a TBM Rebuild team working in earthquake-devastated Turkey put that principle to work in September.
Things were “somewhat as expected,” said team member Chris Taylor (left) from Lucas, Texas. But “flexibility was key” as the team ended up building a large, four-section steel structure for a church. It will function as a family life center.
“God definitely put together the right team,” said Taylor, who was the most experienced welder on the team.
The TBM team also included three engineers: Kevin Sievert, Jim Scroggin and Joe Fuller. They designed the steel frame once the team arrived and they learned specifics of the need, Taylor said.
Robert Watson, who led the group, said of the engineers, “They could look at that stuff and make it work.”
Materials were not prefabricated, Taylor said. “We went to the steel yard and ordered the raw steel.” Once delivered, the TBM team cut the steel into the needed lengths. “Nothing was prefabbed, just long lengths of steel. … Every single piece of that steel was cut on site and welded together.”
Dan Sell and Scroggin built jigs to mass produce what was needed, he added. And others in the 11-person team fulfilled different roles.
“Everybody was working really hard,” Taylor said.
“It was a great team,” Watson noted.
Prior to building the church structure, the team finished a family housing unit begun by a team from Brazil. After that, the team started on the church template and design, Taylor said.
The late-summer heat, faulty equipment and lack of daytime electricity created challenges for the team.
“People worked 10-12 hours a day,” and they took cold showers, Watson said. “But I don’t remember any person complaining on the whole trip.”
Robert Watson and his wife, Mindy, are former missionaries, having served 27 years in Nepal and India. They both made the trip to Turkey.
“We’re kind of used to difficult situations, but this trip was hard,” Mindy Watson said. “It was hot, and most of the time we did not have electricity.”
Authorities turned on the power at night, and Mindy Watson and Kelley Smithson arose early each morning to do the team’s laundry. They also provided meals for the team even though there was no daytime electricity.
Two TBM Rebuild teams have worked this year in Antakya, which was a bustling city of 400,000 people before the January earthquake. The first TBM team built temporary homes in April, and Robert Watson was part of that team, as well.
“On the first trip all of the buildings were still there in piles of rubble,” Robert said. Now, the city is “further along in the clean-up process. … More shops are open, and some commerce is going on. … It will be a long recovery, but you could see progress this time.”
The newly constructed church building designed by the TBM team was built in four sections bolted together to function as one facility for the church, Taylor said.
“It's sitting on paving stones,” he said. “We built metal feet so it’s a foot or so off the ground” to enable straps underneath when they are eventually moved to the church’s permanent location. At that time, the four sections can be unbolted and moved to its new concrete foundation and welded together.
The Watsons and Taylor wished they could have had more contact with local residents. But “for this particular project,” Taylor said, “we were a vessel to show God’s love physically to these people. … It was just our actions that God used.”
“Even though it was a hard trip, it was a good trip,” Mindy Watson said.