Elder Peter Huber and Sister Carla Huber are currently serving in the Frankfurt Mission as Humanitarian Missionaries. I was asked to prepare a press release about an award they received last week, and so I called to interview them in Türkiye. We had a wonderful visit. This is the news release I prepared after speaking with them. But there is more to their story that I’d like to share here.
Latter-day Saint’s earthquake relief efforts in Türkiye recognised
On Tuesday, 3 October 2023, in Istanbul, Elder Peter and Sister Carla Huber were honoured on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their contributions to the relief efforts in Türkiye. Recognised in an award ceremony by the organisation “Health Volunteers” in Türkiye, they were presented an award for their “Extraordinary Efforts to Heal the Wounds of the Earthquake” in Southeastern Türkiye.
In the early morning of 6 February 2023, a massive earthquake struck Türkiye and Syria. In just 80 seconds, widespread damage covered an area the size of Germany. Fourteen million people were affected, many left homeless, without food, shelter, or medical care.
At the time, Elder and Sister Huber were serving as full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Frankfurt, assigned to train and help people to be prepared for emergencies of any kind. Elder Huber had been involved in emergency response work for many years in his native Switzerland. He was prepared to immediately step into the crisis in Türkiye and know how to help.
Working in collaboration with the Republic of Türkiye Ministry of Health and the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), Elder Huber was moved when he learned that a company named Turmaks manufactured and had donated two field hospitals and he reached out to the company. Area Seventy, Paul Picard, who attended the ceremony, said, “this is the start of a wonderful cooperation with dedicated and kind professionals sincerely engaged to help their fellow citizens.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Turmaks worked together to build and install five mobile field hospitals and 50 housing containers for 100 physicians and nurses who had nowhere to live. Funding for these mobile units was made possible by the kind and generous donations of members of The LDS Church in Türkiye and throughout the world. Also donated were more than 500,000 food and hygiene boxes and five million bottles of water.
In one city that once had a population of 60,000, the hospital was completely damaged, but some homes remained. Today, 250,000 people have moved into this city, but there was no place to receive needed medical care. The container and tent hospital now receives 1,500 people daily.
Elder and Sister Huber expressed gratitude for all the partners who collaborated to make this aid possible. “We were very happy to be here and to help a little bit.” Now they are looking to the future to find ways to help rebuild important infrastructures. “Looking at the whole thing, makes you feel paralysed,” said Elder Huber. “But I have learned that if we each day do our best, we can leave to the Lord to do the rest.”
One of five mobile hospitals donated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Turkiye.
Inside a patient ward in the mobile hospital.
This is one way the mobile hospitals are configurated.
This is one of many local hospitals damaged in the 6 February earthquake.
I asked Elder Huber to explain to me what in his life led him to be in that place at that time. His story fascinated me. Elder and Sister Huber are from Basel, Switzerland. In Switzerland, at age 20, every young man is required to train for military service, returning yearly for continued training until the age of 32. Elder Huber decided to be a military officer, eventually commanding 2,500 people, so his yearly 4-week training sessions continued until he was 52 years old. His work in the military centered on logistics and emergency preparedness. Because of that experience, his local government leaders selected him to be responsible for the safety of the people in his district. He was in charge of developing new concepts, training people, finding materials and teaching people how to react in emergency situations. Because of the expertise he gained, he was asked to help in many projects all over Switzerland.
Every 500 years or so, a big earthquake is due to hit Basel. The last one was 700 years ago. Earthquake response was one of the areas he focused on, training 100,000 people how to help rescue people in the event of an earthquake. He also trained people and prepared for extreme heat or cold, flooding or dams breaking, the influxes of Syrian refugees, and nuclear power plant accidents.
In 2014, in a new government risk report, Elder Huber received instructions to prepare people for energy shortages, electricity shortages and pandemics. As he considered the possibility of a pandemic, he anticipated challenges with overworked employees, over-crowded hospitals and waiting for vaccinations to be developed. In 2016 he prepared a training program for pandemics. His colleagues laughed at him, but when the Corona Pandemic hit in 2020, he was prepared and other districts copied his programs. He said, “I was always praying to know what to do in my work and many times I received inspiration from the Lord about what needed to be done.”
After retiring, Elder and Sister Huber wanted to serve a mission. They looked on the LDS Missionary Portal to see what types of service opportunities were available. They decided they wanted to let the Lord choose where they served, rather than picking an assignment. At the time, Elder Huber was working in the temple with a local Area Seventy. They often talked about missionary service. This friend asked Elder Huber for a copy of his CV, which he then shared with the Area President in Frankfurt.
In January 2022, the Hubers received a call to serve in Frankfurt as Welfare Service Missionaries, Specializing in Emergency Response for the Central Europe Area. Their mission would begin in October 2022. In February, the war in Ukraine started. One week later, Frankfurt called. “Can you come earlier, we need you now!” Elder Huber had retired, but his wife was still working. From March to May, he traveled to Frankfurt weekly to start helping, while his wife was still working in Switzerland.
In October the Area President called to ask him to help with the Ukraine crisis. Elder Huber started to develop tools for the Area to be prepared for disaster situations. He worked with the Self Reliance manager.
On 6 February 2023, the earthquake struck Türkiye, causing widespread damage and affecting 14 million people, leaving many homeless, without food, shelter, or medical care. “We were asked to go to Türkiye to help,” said Elder Huber. “And so we went.”
Church leaders in Salt Lake were thrilled to have Elder Huber here, on the ground, prepared and ready to go serve and help in Türkiye. It was no coincidence. Once there, they worked around the clock, pausing only to go to church on Sundays.
“We did not plan to do this,” said Elder Huber. “We realized that the Lord really prepares people over the years and decades. Every couple has a big life experience they can use. I never expected to be able to help in an earthquake zone on my mission.”
“If you go there and come back, you are not the same person anymore,” said Elder Huber. “Actually going there is not at all like just looking at pictures. Homes have broken down; people are searching for family members. Even months later, people didn’t want to leave their homes, hoping to find their lost loved ones.”
Elder Huber said, “people came for the aid, and then hugged us, they didn’t want to let go. Most were Muslim. They looked at us and said thanks, not to Allah, but to our God for sending us to them.” He quietly and tearfully continued, “It’s wonderful. I cannot imagine doing better work. It’s been an absolute great opportunity to serve here, helping people in need. I have seen the words in Matthew 25:334-45 fulfilled, every single point. Today I have another feeling about this scripture. I always felt bad for not helping more. We always contributed some to humanitarian funds. But I’m glad that today I can say yes there was a period in our lives where we did exactly what the Savoir taught in Matthew.”
I told Elder Huber I hope his mission never ends! He said, “If you are dedicated to the work of the Lord, you are never released.” He continued, “It’s important that we are ready for these last days. It’s a very important time. Looking at the whole thing, makes you feel paralyzed. My motto is: ‘Do each day your best, leave to the Lord to do the rest’ (David O. McKay).”
I left this interview moved to tears, overwhelmed as I thought about the years of preparation that brought the Hubers here now. I will admit that it was no small part of me that wished I could trade places with them and do what they are doing. But sadly, I know that I am not prepared to do that job.
Then the thought occurred to me that I may not know how to build mobile hospitals and aid earthquake victims like the Hubers, but I can WRITE and RECORD what I learned from them. That is something I have prepared for many years to do now. And so, here is their story. And I want to share it with you.
Sis Ann Lewis, 6 October 2023, Frankfurt