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.
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
told the volunteer about the family.
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
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
in Hoover, Ala.,
delivered the items along with a gift of socks — with a verse tucked inside —
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
“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
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
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
- 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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