CONSTITUCIÓN, Chile — As
the house trembled, Chilean pastor Juan Mauricio Muñoz prayed with his wife,
son and a young woman who was staying with them. When the 8.8-magnitude
earthquake was over, they were shaken but unharmed.
But the worst was yet to come. Though no tsunami warning was issued, the pastor
knew to expect a wave.
“We were always taught from a young age that in any kind of earthquake, you go
to high ground,” he said.
He rushed his family to the car, headed to his daughter’s home at a higher
elevation in this seaside city of Constitución, 164 miles south of Santiago.
As they were leaving, the pastor glanced across the Maule River toward an
island where approximately 200 Chileans had been enjoying a late-night party.
He saw the lights of nearly 30 cell phones waving frantically as partygoers
trapped on the island tried to signal for help.
By then the water was rising into the street and around the wheels of his car —
evidence that the 10-foot wave was quickly approaching. Horrified, Muñoz
realized it was too late to help the people on the island.
Only three survived.
Just days after the Feb. 27 tragedy, Muñoz, pastor of Iglesia Bautista de
Constitución (Constitución Baptist Church), showed the devastation in his
neighborhood to a disaster assessment team of Southern Baptist and Chilean
Baptist officials. Standing on the concrete slab where his home used to be, he
fought back tears and recounted how the wave flattened everything on the
waterfront. Like most of his neighbors, he lost a place to live and most of his
A street block of houses was gone. One of the family’s cars was found almost
three blocks uphill from his home. In one place, the water had crushed one
building into the next. In another spot, the second story of a home blocked the
street as if it were a one-story house. Everywhere, people searched the ruins,
sorting through soaked belongings and wondering what to do next.
As Muñoz walked past the homes of his church members and friends, he couldn’t
keep from weeping. The people he loved had lost so much. The devastation was
But Muñoz knew it was time to minister. When he discovered his produce business
was not damaged by the tsunami, he opened its doors and freely gave the food to
people in need. His church’s building — also spared — now provides housing for
about 20 displaced people and serves as a center for distributing relief
While Muñoz and his church members are showing God’s love as they help their
neighbors, disaster relief teams of Chilean Baptists and Southern Baptists also
are working in the Maule region — which includes Constitución — setting up
feeding kitchens and providing food preparation training.
“We thank God we have our lives,” Muñoz said. “The other things are only
material and can be replaced. God is good.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Taylor is an IMB 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. Updated prayer requests can be viewed at