International Ministries

Chile Baptist Churches and IM Map Out Immediate Strategy

April 4, 2010 Journal
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It’s Not About Us

     Our original idea was to return to Chile on Feb. 26, which would have put us here for the earthquake on our first day.  A series of circumstances made that date impossible, so our next option was March 2, but that flight was canceled.  We are inclined to believe that God let us come back on March 16, two weeks after the earthquake, not really to spare us, but to let us know that this is not about us.   Our calling is to accompany people devastated by the earthquake and tsunami, care for them and help them rebuild their lives. 

     This first report tells you about the impressive relief work our partner, the National Baptist Convention of Chile, is already doing with their own resources, and how International Ministries is coming alongside them, combining resources to help people recover. 

What We’ve Seen

     Isaac Venegas and Nidia Alvarado are the co-pastors of the Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) Baptist Church in Chillan.   They and their four daughters are sleeping outside in tents, a month now after the earthquake, because of the imminent danger of the parsonage's collapse.  Indeed, thousands of families are in similar circumstances, waiting for adequate solutions to the need for safe housing.

     Dwight just returned from a five day tour to assess the damage in Concepcion and in Cerro Verde, a community hit by the tsunami.  He also went to the cities of Talca, Curico and Chillan where our churches were seriously damaged. Pastors Lord Merino, Tomas Vivanco and the convention president, Mario Ramos, accompanied him.  

     In Cerro Verde alone, the earthquake and tsunami destroyed the homes of over 125 families.  Multiply that 1,000 times to understand the impact on 200 miles of Chilean coastal villages and surrounding areas.  Fishing boats and fish processing plants were wiped out.  The port is contaminated with raw sewage, so it will be months before fishing will be allowed, even if they had boats.  Water still must be trucked in.

     Many homes and businesses may look fine on the outside but have suffered structural damages that require demolition.  The church in Talca sustained damages to three walls and they must decide whether to repair them or simply demolish the building.  The church in Los Angeles also has a damaged wall that must be replaced.   The church and parsonage in Chillan are severely damaged.  All the supporting pillars are cracked, and the roofs are not supported soundly.  All the walls must be replaced.

     Cost estimates for the repair work will be gathered, and the urgent repair work will begin immediately. 

What Can We Do?  An Immediate-Term Strategy

     Within a week of the earthquake and tsunami, churches in the National Baptist Convention collected over $2,000, which is a considerable amount in this context.  Over two consecutive weekends they took caravans of trucks bearing food, clothes, water and personal care items to churches in the affected areas to minister to needs in the communities.  Churches in the south are committed to a campaign using their own resources to assemble food and hygiene kits for transport to the communities most in need.  Also, the Mapuche churches and other churches in the south are prepared to send teams to help people demolish their homes, salvage materials, repair homes, or winterize mediaguas.  

     Using the $20,000 from the One Great Hour of Sharing- Chile Earthquake Relief funds, Relief funds, and in coordination with the $25,000 which the National Baptist Convention received from the Baptist World Alliance, we are focusing on:

(1) supplying food and hygiene kits to the most vulnerable communities we can reach, from the church and community of Cerro Verde outwards and,

(2) We will collaborate with the Convention on the urgent need to repair the church buildings

(3) Much more is needed for families as winter approaches, such as blankets, bedding, and adequate housing, even if only provisional, such as mediaguas and winterizing improvements to them. 

An Urgent Need – Please Join Us

The thousands of families left homeless are waiting for government-provided shelters called mediaguas.  These shelters are just that, shelters from the rain.  They do not have insulation, windows, bathrooms or heat and they are meant to be provisional.  The government has just announced their plan to meet the housing needs of over 300,000 families.  As expected, it is a broad range of measures, from mediaguas for those in the most distressed economic circumstances, to subsidizing repairs or new houses for others.  We will be seeking to "fill the breach," finding ways to address the food, shelter, income-generating, and pastoral care needs of the most vulnerable and neglected sectors


     Dwight invited Patricia Cofre, Rector of our Baptist Theological Institute, to present some workshops on dealing with post-traumatic stress and grief, to be sponsored by the churches in some of the hardest hit areas.  She is a graduate of Palmer Seminary and her major area of study was pastoral counseling.  We believe this kind of helping presence is important, and our priority is to care for people who are bearing tremendous grief and stress.


     One way we see to help in the immediate term will be to enhance the livability of the mediaguas, by adding insulation, windows, bedding, heat, etc.  Our Chilean church teams are ready to go to work.  We need to monitor the effectiveness of the government's plans even as we initiate our own strategy.  We know that volunteers in the U.S. are willing to come and help in these rebuilding efforts.  Please let us continue to see what the effect and extent of the government's program is before inviting volunteers to come.


How to Support Chile Earthquake/Tsunami Relief


     Donations can be made through your church or sent directly to International Ministries.  Designate your gifts for:  OGHS- Chile Earthquake Relief.  Send to P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA  19482.  Or you may give online at  

      You may also wish to designate your gift for the reconstruction of the churches, or perhaps to support the costs of Chilean teams going to work, or to underwrite the improvements and building of mediaguas.  


 THANK YOU!     

Our hearts are full with strong and wonderful memories of our time with so many of you.  We are thankful for this work that has been entrusted to us and the confidence you have put in us through your support. 


We know that the deepest desire of your hearts is ours' also, "thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven."  Our great joy is to be partners with you in the service and pursuit of God's Shalom as followers of Jesus Christ.


May God richly bless you with every good thing for doing his will,


Barb & Dwight Bolick


Temuco, Chile