In Chile, adopt-a-city relief plan begins
Tristan Taylor, Baptist Press
March 11, 2010

In Chile, adopt-a-city relief plan begins

In Chile, adopt-a-city relief plan begins
Tristan Taylor, Baptist Press
March 11, 2010

TALCA, Chile — Exhausted

from traveling through south-central Chile to assess earthquake damage, a team

of Southern Baptist and Chilean Baptist leaders bedded down on the floor of La

Iglesia Bautista El Sembrador (Baptist Church of the Sower) in Talca. The next

morning they discovered they were in exactly the right place to make

significant connections to help with future relief work.

The region of Maule, where Talca is the capital, has been in a state of

emergency — a condition that temporarily puts the Chilean military in charge —

since the 8.8-magnitude earthquake Feb. 27.

Just blocks away from the church where the team had slept was a Chilean army

post. Because of their proximity, the assessment team decided to visit the

military compound to discuss relief efforts. Team members Charles Clark and

Scott Brawner of the International Mission Board and Chilean Baptist Bernardino

Morales were able to meet with two Chilean army colonels — Edmundo Villarroel

and Fernando Morales.

The Chilean officials invited Southern Baptists to adopt “sister cities” in

Maule, one of the areas hardest hit by the quake and resulting tsunami. Maule’s

rural communities and parts east toward the Andes Mountains have received less

attention because of the misperception they are less affected, said Clark, an

IMB missionary who serves as strategy leader for the part of South America that

includes Chile.

Adopting a city means a team of Southern Baptist missionaries and Chilean

Baptists will plan multiple visits there to identify needs and guide quake

relief involving Baptist volunteers. The goal will be to share the gospel and

begin ministry.

Details of the “sister city” program are still being finalized, but information

about how to be involved will be announced soon, Clark said.

IMB photo

Disaster assessment team members unload relief supplies in Pencahue, Chile, a city of 9,000 that will be adopted as a “sister city” by Southern Baptist and Chilean Baptist churches working together to meet needs in the region.

Discussions with the army colonels also paved the way for officials from

Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist relief and development

organization, and volunteers from South Carolina and Texas to expand their

relief efforts.

A food preparation training team from the South Carolina Baptist Convention

currently is working with Chilean Baptists in the Maule region. Additional

volunteers from South Carolina and from the Southern Baptists of Texas

Convention also are heading to Chile during the coming week. Clark and others

on the assessment team are pleased with the progress they’ve made.

“I came (to Maule) with no preset agenda other than coming to identify what the

situation is on the ground — what the needs are and how we can address those

needs,” Clark said. “I am very pleased that within 24 hours we have an outline

in place for a plan to go forward.”

During the team’s visit to the military compound, they saw a gymnasium filled

with tables where Chilean leaders — both military and civilian — were working

to deliver resources as reports of need came in from the Maule region. Soon,

Southern Baptist disaster relief personnel will staff their own table in this

gym, where they will serve as a resource for meeting needs across Maule.

“You know what’s amazing?” Brawner said after the visit to the military post. “No

one else — secular or Christian — has gone in there like that. They (the

military) greeted us with joy that we would come in there to them. God granted

us favor in their eyes…. They’ll connect us with leaders. That’s influence.

That’s huge.”

Because of this connection, supplies funded by Southern Baptist donations to

the relief effort may be delivered to communities in Chile via Chilean military

helicopters, Clark added.

“They become a good source of the big picture,” Clark said of the Chilean army

leaders. “They’re a source of information for what’s happening and a conduit

for large projects. They make it possible to facilitate getting aid to the

right places.”

In addition to the Chilean military, the assessment team met with several top

civil leaders in the region, including Maule’s governor, a regional health

official and several mayors.

From these meetings, the team learned that the region’s greatest needs are for

food distribution, emergency housing and medical supplies. The relationships

with these officials also will provide valuable information and access as

Southern Baptists and Chilean Baptists work to meet needs in the area.

“The influence of the church is growing,” Brawner said.

Later in the day, assessment team members traveled to the Maule city of

Pencahue as a follow-up to a meeting with its mayor. While visiting with

officials, the team decided to include Pencahue among those to be “adopted” by

Southern Baptist and Chilean Baptist churches.

Pencahue has a population of

9,000, spread across 386 square miles. Though the city is suffering just as

much as its neighbors, the thinly spread population means it may be overlooked

by major relief efforts, officials said.

As relief efforts get under way, one of the best ways Southern Baptist churches

can help is “to commit to an adopted city for three to five years,” Clark said,

noting that churches and individual Southern Baptists also can get involved by

praying, donating to relief efforts and volunteering.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Taylor is an International Mission Board writer in the

Americas. Donations to Southern Baptist Chilean relief may be made at

http://www.imb.org, click on the Chile quake response graphic. One hundred

percent of each donation goes to meet human needs. Updated prayer requests can

be viewed at imb.org/pray.)