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Baptist relief efforts still touching Chileans’ hearts
Maria Elena Baseler, Baptist Press
March 24, 2011
8 MIN READ TIME

Baptist relief efforts still touching Chileans’ hearts

Baptist relief efforts still touching Chileans’ hearts
Maria Elena Baseler, Baptist Press
March 24, 2011

A little more than a year ago, one of the most powerful

earthquakes on record rocked Chile.

Since then, working in Baptist quake relief efforts has led missionary Alfredo

Valencia to many suffering families.

But he’ll never forget one family in particular. Valencia

found them living in a partially collapsed home on a hillside in Cartagena,

Chile, a coastal town hit

hard by the 8.8-magnitude quake that shattered central Chile

early Feb. 27, 2010.

The family with eight children — ranging from ages two

months to 17 years — “were living in really, really bad conditions,” recalls

Valencia, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary in Santiago, Chile.

It was months after the disaster had struck, and Baptist

quake relief efforts were drawing to a close. By then local officials had

deemed the family’s house uninhabitable and had asked them to move out. But the

family had nowhere else to go.

When Valencia

saw their urgent need, “I said, ‘God, You’ve got to provide for us to be able

to help this family.’”

God’s answer came when Valencia’s

cell phone rang. It was a member of a team of California Baptist volunteers

heading to Chile to build “mediaguas” — prefab temporary shelters — for quake

victims. Valencia

told the volunteer about the family.

IMB photo by Cameron West

North Carolinians Charles and Karen Clark, left, International Mission Board missionaries in Chile, survey quake damage at a school in Botalcura, Chile. After the powerful earthquake that rocked Chile a year ago, local officials told Clark of a need for new classrooms so area schoolchildren could begin the new semester on time. Clark, who headed up Southern Baptists’ quake relief in Chile, arranged for a team of California Baptist volunteers to build 10 temporary shelters for use as classrooms.

The two discussed options for helping and agreed the family

needed more than a 10-by-20-foot temporary shelter. The volunteer said his team

was willing to rebuild the house.

The California Baptists spent seven days — working from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

— reconstructing the house with the help of Marcos, the father of the family.

When their work was completed, the group celebrated with a thanksgiving

service. During that service, Marcos prayed to receive Christ. Today, he and

his family are studying the Bible at a Baptist mission congregation in Cartagena.

“The eight kids in this family will grow up one day, and

they will have a story to tell about how they survived the earthquake — and

what God did with their house,” Valencia

said. “They will remember us as those who came to their house with the gospel,

because God allowed us the time and resources to rebuild.

“But what God really rebuilt for that family was their lives

— their hope. And He used us to help them understand they truly mattered to

God.”

Since the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that

claimed the lives of 524 people in Chile,

hundreds of Chileans have received that same message through Baptist relief

efforts. Together Chilean Baptists, Southern Baptist volunteers and

International Mission Board missionaries have met countless physical, spiritual

and emotional needs in Jesus’ name.

A total of $722,000 in Southern Baptist disaster response

funds helped finance the relief effort.

“As we mark the anniversary of this powerful earthquake, we

are eternally grateful to Southern Baptists for addressing the human needs of

people around the world, particularly here in Chile in light of this disaster,”

said IMB missionary Charles Clark, who headed up Southern Baptist quake relief

in Chile. “We appreciate so much the many Southern Baptists who gave

sacrificially of their time and money to meet the needs of Chileans. And we are

equally thankful for our Chilean Baptist partners who we joined forces with to

meet the immediate needs of those most affected by the quake.”

During the relief effort, Baptist volunteers shared the hope

of Christ while building about 350 temporary shelters used for homes and

schoolrooms and while serving at least 150,000 meals prepared in field

kitchens. Besides financing these projects, Southern Baptist disaster relief

contributions also funded the training of 3,000 Chileans in crisis counseling

techniques to help survivors cope with post-quake trauma.

Baptist quake relief opened many other doors for sharing the

gospel across the disaster zone. One of those was in the small town of

Botalcura, where the public primary school was heavily damaged. When Clark

heard about the need from local officials, he arranged for California Baptist

volunteers to construct 10 temporary shelters for use as classrooms so students

could begin the new semester on time. Several fathers of school children and

some Chilean military personnel worked alongside the team in the construction.

Southern Baptists provided a Bible for each classroom and a

Bible storybook for each child. Tennessee Baptist youth donated school

supplies. Volunteers from Hunter Street

Baptist Church

in Hoover, Ala.,

delivered the items along with a gift of socks — with a verse tucked inside —

for each student.

IMB photo by Cameron West

A Chilean primary school student reads a Bible storybook given by Southern Baptists. Southern Baptists also donated socks with a Bible verse tucked inside and school supplies for each student.

Clark and his wife Karen, who live about a three-hour drive

away in Chile’s

capital of Santiago, developed a relationship

with one of the Botalcura school families who hosted volunteers in their home. They

shared the gospel with them and gave them a Bible. “They are very open to the

gospel and have even offered their home for a Bible study group to meet there,”

Karen Clark reported.

Asking Southern Baptists to pray that God will lead some

Chilean Baptists in the region to start a church in Botalcura and surrounding

communities, she noted, “There’s a real hunger for the gospel there.”

Across the disaster zone, God also opened doors through the

operation of Baptist feeding kitchens and the construction of mediaguas used

for homes. In the town of Talca, for example, several Chilean families who

received Baptist aid now are attending Iglesia Bautista El Sembrador (Baptist

Church of the Sower), where a feeding kitchen was set up.

The relief project also paved the way for future cooperative

ministry among Chilean Baptists and Southern Baptists.

Because of needs their volunteers saw in Chile,

several Southern Baptist churches have formed partnerships with Chilean Baptist

churches.

“We are exploring opportunities for closer partnerships and

joint training to be able to respond more effectively together in future

disaster relief and community development projects,” Clark

said.

Besides these results, the relief project brought

opportunities for evangelism even beyond Chile.

Before the quake, a team of Chilean Baptist young people from Santiago

had been praying about how to share the gospel during an upcoming mission trip

to Uruguay.

They told about their experiences serving as volunteers in

the Baptist quake relief efforts and gave God the glory for how He had meet the

needs of Chileans. They were interviewed by numerous Uruguayan media outlets

and spoke in many schools.

“God used them in a mighty way,” Valencia

said, adding, “It’s one of the many ways God used the tragedy of this

earthquake for His purposes.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Baseler is an International Mission Board

writer living in the Americas.

Tristan Taylor, also an IMB writer in the Americas,

contributed to this story.)

Pray for Chile

  • Pray for Chilean families who are still coping with the

    quake’s aftermath. Many Chileans still live in temporary shelters and don’t

    have work. Pray God will provide them the necessary resources for rebuilding

    their lives.

  • Ask the Lord to help several Chilean Baptist congregations

    who lost their church buildings in the quake. Pray God will help them find the

    means to rebuild while they continue to minister in their communities.

  • During quake relief, Baptists found a number of small

    towns where no evangelical church exists. Ask God to give Chilean Baptists a

    vision for reaching these towns.

  • Pray about the possibility of your church forming a partnership

    with a Chilean Baptist church. This three-to-five year commitment provides

    opportunities in evangelism and church planting in the quake zone and among

    unreached population segments of Chile.

    To learn more, contact IMB missionaries Jerry and Paula Bowling at [email protected].

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