Loading trucks in caravan
Curico church taking a survey of mediagua resident's needs
Unloading insulation for mediaguas
Volunteers building a room addition
Volunteers building room additions in Cerro La Virgen
Volunteers who worked (and preached) in Cerro La Virgen
Three Best Moments, After the Worst Disaster in Chile
Reflections on the Second Anniversary of the Chile Earthquake and Tsunami
Our partners in Chile, the National Baptist Convention of Chile, held their annual assembly last week. The new leadership invited Jose Norát, our Area Director from International Ministries, to introduce the Appreciative Inquiry process to our churches. This is a process where we learn to strengthen our mission not by focusing on problems and solutions, but by recognizing, appreciating and building on our best characteristics. One of the first questions Jose gave to one group of pastors was “What was, for you, the best moment in the convention’s history?”
Perhaps I didn’t follow the instructions exactly, because I could name several “best moments.” However, they all had to do with the same constellation of experiences that followed one defining moment—the earthquake and tsunami on February 27, 2010. This was one of the worst moments in Chile’s history, but it called out some of the best expressions of service, mission and fellowship in our convention’s history.
(1) One of those best moments occurred in the week following the earthquake and tsunami. Our family planned to arrive in Chile on Feb. 26, but delays in our paperwork caused us to change that arrival date to the 30th. Then we couldn’t arrive until March 15 because the Santiago airport was closed. Those were three difficult weeks of waiting, often without communication. We realized that this was not about us. In fact, if we had been there our friends would have been distracted making sure we were okay.
During those first two weeks, churches in the south and north, organized three caravans, bearing food, clothes, and water for our churches near the epicenter, particularly in Cerro Verde, which was devastated by the tsunami. They raised offerings and contributions, gathered any available vehicles, and made three trips to the coastal area. As they told us, they could not stay away, they had to go, see, and be with their brothers and sisters. These caravans united churches, formed and cemented ties of friendship, and started a volunteer movement of mission service that still animates many in those churches.
(2) A second cluster of best moments came in the year following the earthquake and tsunami. The One Great Hour of Sharing offering provided $150,000 to equip the convention to address the needs of those who lost their homes and were living in mediagua villages, or provisional housing. As we developed a strategy that would not duplicate what the government was doing, but rather address needs not being met, we asked seven churches in the affected areas to be “the hands and feet of Jesus” in sharing these resources. Through these churches the food kits, insulation kits, and room additions reached ten communities, and improved their quality of life through two winters.
One day we were walking in Cerro Verde with Pastor Luis Alvarado and we knocked on the door of a mediagua. He wanted us to meet an elderly woman and her son who had broken their legs during the earthquake when a wall fell on them. Pastor Luis did not know she was there, but inside we met Nidia, his wife. She was attending to the needs of the woman, feeding her and cleaning house.
This became a picture that I carry in my mind, of the ways many people in our churches are being the presence of Christ to their neighbors, silently and often anonymously.
(3) A third “best moment” in the history of our convention was the raising up of an Emergency Relief and Reconstruction Network among our churches. Volunteers from our churches went on many occasions to install the insulation and raise the room additions. The convention now recognizes this network of volunteers as a dynamic ingredient in the convention’s renewal for the part they play in linking churches in missional service.
When we returned to Chile in March of 2010 we knew that life in Chile would never be the same again. The loss, anguish, and misery of those living in harsh conditions in mediagua villages are real. But the fact that it has been diminished in ten communities is amazing. It is amazing to those living in the mediagua villages that some churches have accompanied them, providing food, warmth, and more living space. It amazes them that volunteers from our churches come to install insulation and room additions. It has opened doors to share the gospel and what it means to follow Jesus. It is amazing that this kind of service to those in need has helped spark renewal and a cooperative spirit and perhaps a new missional movement in our convention. God is able to do far more than we can imagine. This is his mission.
You are part of this mission in Chile and your generous gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing help make these good things possible. Thank you!