TIRUA, Chile — Wiping tears
from her eyes, the 21-year-old mother thanked Baptists for providing shelter
for her family.
“I want to give thanks to everyone for this shelter,” Rosa Inostroza de
Santibañez said of the 10-by-20-foot structure with wood walls and a tin roof
for her family in Tirua, Chile. “We are very thankful. We are going to sleep
under a roof tonight and not on the ground.”
She and her family had been living in a makeshift lean-to pieced together by
her husband Rodrigo after the family had to run for higher ground to escape an
earthquake-induced tsunami Feb. 27.
“We didn’t know what we would have done if you hadn’t come,” Rosa said of the
Chilean Baptists and volunteers from Second Baptist Church in Russellville,
Ark., who delivered the shelter March 24. “We didn’t have any other options
open to us.”
Early in the morning of Feb. 27, an earthquake crumbled their roof. Less than
an hour later a tsunami crashed into their Pacific coast town.
Rosa and Rodrigo grabbed their 2-year-old daughter while Rosa’s mother, Luz,
pushed her 30-year-old wheelchair-bound daughter up a steep hill amid neighbors
running and cars racing to escape the wave.
The older daughter is living with other relatives, while Luz stays with Rosa
and her family on the hill. They had been sleeping in a tarp-covered enclosure
just large enough to hold two twin-sized mattresses pushed together.
salvaged some of their belongings by making trips on foot up and down the hill
to get dishes and blankets.
At night, their young daughter, Anahís, is afraid as the cold coastal winds of
Chilean autumn whip against the tarp in the dark.
Rodrigo and Rosa comfort
their daughter by shining a flashlight. They have no electricity.
Luz is afraid to sleep in the section of the family’s home that wasn’t damaged
because aftershocks continue.
“I’m afraid that the tremors are going to get stronger instead of weaker,” she
Municipalities are helping families rebuild. But the need is far-reaching.
homes at water’s edge were swept away, strewing debris and belongings along the
Tirua River that feeds into the ocean. Local authorities also are providing
food at a school located at the bottom of the town’s hill.
The bread store where 20-year-old Rodrigo worked as a baker was damaged; then
looters stole all the equipment. Rodrigo volunteers at the school, helping
distribute food and clothing until the bread store reopens or he can find
It may take families several years to rebuild, to make repairs or to add on to
temporary shelters to make them more permanent, said International Mission
Board missionary Trent Tomlinson.
“This will be our home for a while,” he said.
Tomlinson realized this area’s need while he and fellow missionaries Anders
Snyder and David Hines drove through it to assess damage two days after the
About 50 people representing churches from several denominations met in
Tomlinson’s home, forming a plan to fan out and meet needs generated by the
“This is an open door,”
Tomlinson said. “We’re earning the right to be heard here.”
The volunteers delivered pre-assembled shelters to four other families,
including handyman Juan Gonzalez. His home — located 650 feet from the ocean —
was destroyed by the tsunami while he was staying in Concepción, close to the
earthquake’s epicenter. “I’m one of the fortunate ones to be able to move in (to
a shelter) so quickly,” Gonzalez said.
Fisherman Manuel Arias came home from a family gathering to find his house,
boat and dock destroyed.
“I was feeling desperate, not knowing what to do,” Arias said. “I almost felt
like I was out of the hands of God.”
His shelter is being put together in a section of town called Nueva Esperanza
“I’ve got new hope now to keep moving forward,” Arias said.
Mario Barros, president of Iglesia Misionera Internacional Agape (Agape
International Missionary Church, an association of national Baptist
congregations), met with the mayor of Tirua the day before volunteers arrived
with the shelters.
“We want to be organized and
be a channel of hope to those who need it,” said Barros, who works alongside
Tomlinson as a church planter.
Honey producer José Prado from Iglesia Bautista de Cunco (Cunco Baptist Church)
responded to a request Barros made on a Christian radio station for help in
transporting the shelters prefabricated by volunteers in Temuco. He donated the
use of his open-bed transfer truck, which he uses to transport beehives. He
drove the shelters 80 miles to Tirua and helped with their construction.
“I always like to help and
when I heard Mario on the radio … I saw this as a possibility to do that,”
It took Chilean and Arkansas Baptist volunteers about three days to construct
sections for five shelters.
It will take several weeks to construct the
hundreds of shelters that have been requested, Tomlinson said.
Volunteer teams interested in helping can e-mail [email protected] or call (615)
367-3678. Projects such as building these shelters are possible through giving
to Southern Baptist relief efforts. Donations to Southern Baptist Chilean relief
may be made at www.imb.org; click on the Chile quake response graphic.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Gregory is a writer for the International Mission Board.
Updated prayer requests for Baptist relief work can be viewed at imb.org/pray.
Information also will be updated through Twitter at #QuakeResponse. Listen to
Shane Wooten, one of the volunteers from Second Baptist Church in Russellville,
Ark., as he talks about his week in Chile at