Sections of Valparaiso, Chile, looked like a war zone after a forest fire destroyed nearly 2,500 houses on April 12. The fire also killed 15 people and displaced at least 12,000, according to Chilean news reports.
IMB photo by Christopher Wilson
IMB missionary Brian Lovelady, from Texas, mixes concrete while helping to build a water tower in a low-income neighborhood of Valparaíso, Chile. Lovelady, his wife Debby and their son Daniel worked alongside other IMB missionaries and Chilean Baptists in a Baptist Global Response relief effort in the area, which was badly burned in an April 12 forest fire.
“There was total devastation, and we saw people who had lost absolutely everything,” said Karen Wright, a Southern Baptist missionary who is working with Baptist Global Response (BGR) in the relief effort. “And for the first couple of weeks, people didn’t talk very much.”
Wright said BGR partners requested relief funds after the disaster so they could help distribute food and other aid in some of the 42 affected hillside neighborhoods of Chile’s chief seaport. But they discovered other organizations were addressing those needs and the government was distributing emergency housing. So, instead, they have assessed the situation and are using relief funds from Southern Baptists to help with water access.
“We decided that the best thing we could offer them would be to help them rebuild towers and to provide a water tank,” Wright said.
Before the fire, residents had built their own makeshift water tanks and towers and the city has sent water trucks to periodically fill the receptacles. However, many of these tanks have burned. BGR’s relief effort is installing new tanks and towers for more than 100 Valparaiso families. Wright said when one resident heard she would receive a tank and tower, she cried and praised God.
The community encompasses a large number of low-income families, Wright said, noting that drugs are a problem. Wright and her team, however, have built relationships with local officials in the midst of the disaster. The president of the neighborhood association even cried each time a local pastor prayed for her.
“I just pray God continues to soften hearts here,” Wright said.
Wright asked for prayer that these relationships will strengthen and the Valparaiso community will heal quickly and for prayer for the BGR team. Each of the BGR partners has been dealing with family issues while simultaneously helping with relief efforts, and they need God to give them endurance.
Prayer also is requested for volunteers. The BGR team in Chile needs more help installing tanks and towers, Wright said. Those interested in donating their time to this cause can contact her at [email protected].
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lily Jameson writes for Baptist Global Response, on the Web at www.gobgr.org.)