Churches in Chile deliver aid to victims
“At every fire hydrant there were lines of people with every kind of liquid-holding receptacle you can imagine, trying to get some water to carry back to their homes,” said Scott Emery, a missionary in the Chilean capital, Santiago.
Emery was part of an eight-member team, representing two Churches of Christ in Santiago, that traveled south, toward the epicenter of the Feb. 27 earthquake. The group distributed food, bottled water, hygiene items and winter coats. Chilean Christians and members of the Santiago community donated some of the items. Church members purchased others with donations from Churches of Christ in Chile and the U.S.
In the city of Concepcion, hardest hit by the quake, the group saw more than 2,000 families living in tents with no food, gas or water.
“Every time we opened the van’s doors to deliver food and water, we had to do so quickly and quietly,” Emery said, “for an at least moderate fear that we might incite a mob that would try to take what little we had been able to bring with us.”
‘THE EARTH MOVED BELOW US’
Emery and fellow church members in Santiago felt the quake, which measured 8.8 in magnitude — greater than the January quake that leveled Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In Santiago, about 270 miles north of Concepcion, the quake measured 7.0. It knocked out power and cracked walls in the Chilean capital.
“The earth moved below us,” said Manuel Soto, a minister in Santiago. The house where the minister and his wife, Melissa, live did not suffer significant damage, but Soto’s congregation did not meet for Sunday worship because its building was damaged.
Another Church of Christ, the Providencia congregation, survived the quake with power, water and Internet access intact, missionary Jeff Hatcher said. The church offered the facility for use as a collection point for donations.
“We hope to take advantage of this situation in order to touch people with the love of Christ,” Hatcher said. “We’re convinced that (God) has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others.”
The Chilean government reported that 452 people died in the quake, which also caused $30 billion in damage and left 800,000 Chileans homeless, according to news reports. No church members were reported among the fatalities. Two members of the Church of Christ in Chiguayante, part of greater Concepcion, were forced to evacuate their apartments.
Thirty-three students at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., were scheduled to travel to Chile just days after the quake for a study abroad program, Harding University in Latin America, or HULA. The students had to delay their departure. Tom Hook, the program’s director, said that the HULA facility in Vina del Mar was undamaged by the quake.
MORE AID NEEDED
In addition to Concepcion, Emery and his team gave supplies to earthquake victims in other cities near the quake zone. They worked with congregations including the Chiguayante church, the Coronel-Lota church and the Chillan church. The combined membership of these congregations is about 80, Emery said.
Though no church members suffered significant property damage, many did not have easy access to food and water. Many also were unemployed due to the quake and the looting that followed.
“In the end, what we were able to deliver … was greatly appreciated by the brethren and a few of their neighbors in the affected areas,” Emery said. “Perhaps the greater service we rendered was just being with them, even if briefly, letting them know that the folks in Santiago were thinking about and praying for them.”
Members of the Coronel and Lota Church of Christ wrote the team a letter thanking them for making the difficult trip into the quake zone. The visit made the church members realize “that we aren’t alone — that our Lord has given us so many brothers of whom we previously had heard but had not met.”
“Some of us, prior to your arrival, had been unable to shed tears,” the members wrote. “But when you arrived, with so many donations brought to us with huge sacrifice and effort, it became impossible not to finally break down and cry.”
Church members in Santiago plan additional relief trips — with more workers — to the quake zone, Emery said.
CONTRIBUTIONS FOR CHILE RELIEF may be sent to Saturn Road Church of Christ, c/o Robbie Chalk, 3030 Saturn Rd., Garland, TX 75041. Please note “Chile Relief Fund” on checks.
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INDIAOctober, 16 2010