International Ministries

One Year After the Fifth Largest Earthquake

March 6, 2011 Journal
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In the pre-dawn hours of February 27, 2010, the lay pastor of the Curico church, Vicente Montero, and his wife, Margarita, were vacationing in the coastal fishing village of Iloca.  They were asleep in a cabin by the beach when the fifth strongest earthquake in recorded history –8.8 Richter scale—jolted Chile awake around 3:30 AM.  Everyone realized immediately the danger of a tsunami, so they fled up the hill behind the town. 

Vicente said that hundreds of people huddled up there, under moonlight, and watched the sea pull back, leaving rocks and ocean floor exposed.  Then, in complete silence, amazement, and terror, they watched the first of four twenty - thirty foot waves crash into their homes and buildings along the coastline.  Fishing villages like Iloca along a four-hundred mile coastline suffered similar experiences, destroying houses, as well as livelihoods.  

But God Was Not In The Earthquake

“But the LORD was not in the earthquake,” nor, we may say, in the tsunami.  We keep returning to the well of that silence in Iloca, like the “crushed silence” of I Kings 19:12-13, realizing that God called all of us, Chilean Baptists along with you American Baptists, to accompany those who lost everything and help restore dignity to their lives.

Soon after the Haiti earthquake, a Reformed pastor in Argentina, Gerardo Oberman, wrote a poem to counter the wrong notion that God used that earthquake to punish people.  (read a translation by our colleague, Stan Slade, here:

The earth shook like an enraged beast,
the mountains trembled and the sea unleashed its fury,
the soil opened its mouth wide and swallowed whole buildings,
and a people exhausted from suffering, suffers anew.
We saw their faces and heard their cries,………..

someone stretched out a hand to help,
and thousands of hands joined in.

And God was among them.

And so it is that your gifts for Chile Earthquake Relief through One Great Hour of Sharing have mobilized and equipped Vicente’s church in Curico and eight other churches to provide materials that protect those living in provisional housing from the winter cold and rains, as well as spiritual friendship.  God has been among us.

What the Earthquake and Tsunami Did

The earthquake and tsunamis impacted a 78,000 square mile area.  Five hundred twenty four people were killed.   Over 288,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by either the earthquake or the tsunami.  Damage to bridges and roads, and structural damage to buildings was widespread, but it must be said that Chile’s infrastructure and construction standards prevented a worse disaster.

The Current Situation

In Chile, the classic emergency shelters are called mediaguas, which are 10 ft. X 20 ft. uninsulated structures.  The government provided 80,000 mediaguas, placing them either on-site of the destroyed home, or creating “villages” of from 100-400 shelters.  To date, only 20-30% of those families who lost homes have received subsidies to replace their house.  The government hopes to have them all relocated by 2012.  Therefore, the families in mediaguas will pass another winter in overcrowded, cold conditions.  In most cases, from four to as many as eight people are in one mediagua.

Our Strategy

Our strategy is to help restore dignity and comfort to families in the mediaguas by providing insulation materials and/or by providing room additions, to ease overcrowding.  These units cost on average $500 and include better doors and windows.  We have also provided food and hygiene kits, which each have an average cost of $25. 

We have already administered $100,000 of OGHS funds for Chile Earthquake/Tsunami Relief and are now working to put the remaining $50,000 to good use in locations we have surveyed and started relationships with the communities.  Here is a breakdown of how the funds have been used:

We worked in eleven communities.

747      Food kits

103      Hygiene kits

188      Insulation kits

54        Room additions

164      Electrical installations

51        Basic home furnishings (table, chairs, bunk beds)

Baptist Solidarity and Mission Spirit

One of the most gratifying experiences out of everything is to see the mobilization of a core group of volunteers from our churches that has united to work in four projects installing insulation and room additions.  This is the Baptist mission heartbeat at its best.  These teams come to work at a significant personal cost, without income, but they have discovered a deep joy in this “fellowship of the hammer.”  Last weekend, a group of students from our Theological Institute and the convention’s youth group took on the responsibility for installing insulation kits in Iloca.  It is refreshing to witness this spirit of solidarity and voluntarism in our partner convention.

In April, a group is coming from Crossroads Church in Colorado, to join hands with our Chilean work teams.  Yes, there is still work to be done to manifest to the families living yet another winter in the mediaguas that they are not forgotten, that God is among them.

How to Participate

We invite you to participate in the Chile Earthquake/Tsunami Relief by designating your gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing.  Donations for Chile Earthquake Relief can be made through your church or sent directly to International Ministries, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA  19482.    Be sure to designate “OGHS-Chile Earthquake Relief.” 



March 5, 2011