Building homes & sharing hope

Temporary shelters that were built in Tizi Oussem, Morocco in January.


This past summer, Andres Prins had no idea that a recreational hike through the High Atlas mountains would lead to an opportunity to respond to the earthquake that would devastate the region just months later. In June, a Moroccan friend, who is a mountain trekking guide, agreed to lead Andres and a group of local believers on a trip that had them leave their car at the end of the road in a village of about 800 people, Tizi Oussem, before hiking to a 3000 meter-high refuge for the night. Passing acquaintances were made with some of the village people.

The night of September 8, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck with an epicenter just 25 miles west of Tizi Oussem. In the villages of this mountainous region most of the traditional buildings are made of adobe and stones. Many of them collapsed, and others suffered structural damage that made them uninhabitable, leading to people camping in makeshift tents. Nearly 3,000 people died nationwide, thousands more were injured, and tens of thousands were displaced from their homes.

Andres lives about two hours away from this mountain village, but also experienced the shock of the seismic event. Very soon after the earthquake, Andres and other believers in the city began talking about ways they could join in the national outpouring of help for the people in the mountains by delivering emergency aid. The third day they drove to the village of Tizi Oussem.

For several weeks Andres helped in a number of different ways, especially providing transportation so local Christ-followers could bring food and other supplies to distribute in a number of remote locations. In November, an opportunity came to return to Tizi Oussem when Andres’s teammate Jonathan Bornman came to visit him. The relief coordinator for the village said they would be especially grateful if better-insulated, semi-permanent housing could be provided for the 55 families still living in tents.

Andres and a Moroccan church leader began working to find a way to make this happen. They got connected with a shelter-building team and were able to get them to extend their calendar to fit this village in. The church in the city was also willing to commit members to help with the team.

After a quick financial appeal with a very short timeline, money came in surprisingly quickly. This was critical because the finances needed to be processed before the end of 2023. As planned, the team arrived in the village on January 15, just a day after the Amazigh (Berber) Yennayer (New Year) celebrations.

As the crew worked to build new structures in the village, they had opportunities to hear the testimonies of a half dozen fellow-Moroccan Christ-followers from the city who helped the crew, leading to a foreign laborer from the crew, in tears, asking the Messiah to come into his life. And for the Amazigh people of these mountain regions, this is likely the first time that they have been having substantial exposure to the Good News of God’s saving love in Jesus.

The last day provided an opportunity to be interviewed by reporters from a national television channel. In Arabic and also English Andres had a chance to express gratitude for being able to help needy fellow humans in this way thanks in part to the funding that came mainly from individuals inspired by the love and compassion of the Messiah Jesus for everyone.

Andres is hoping that these relationships will continue to develop. The Christ-followers who were part of this work want to return to check on the rehabilitation process and see if there are other ways they could be of help. They’ve been invited to come back and intend to visit again in the near future.

Micah Brickner serves as EMM’s communications director.

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