Baptists gave a detailed report of their response to the devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake that affected the South American country on Feb. 27, 2010, at the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) held recently in Santiago, Chile.
A somber mood descended on the Responding to Disaster forum during the viewing of a video that showed the earthquake as it occurred, the damage that took place, and the response of Chileans to the disaster, including Baptists.
The quake, one of the largest ever recorded, was felt strongly in six regions of the country where approximately 80 percent of Chile’s population live.
The earthquake also triggered a tsunami that affected the south central area of the country, including the devastation of a small island where approximately 200 families lived.
The National Baptist Convention of Chile and the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Chile sent teams into the devastated regions to do assessment and to provide relief supplies such as food, water, clothing, medicines and tents.
Assistance was also provided through the distribution of various kits: food kits, hygiene kits, insulation kits to protect against rain and cold, home-furnishing kits and room-addition kits to expand living space in temporary dwellings.
Houses were constructed for persons displaced by the temblor, which was followed by several large aftershocks, including one measuring 6.2 that occurred 20 minutes later.
Pastors were asked “to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the various communities,” the forum was told. The conventions often worked closely with local municipal authorities in the provision of assistance, including psychological counseling.
Churches and Baptist Christians adopted families in some towns and villages, helping to meet their needs.
One result of the collaboration that came out of the response to the disaster is an emergency response network that still exists. Following the 2010 event, the network, which comprises pastors, lay persons and professionals, responded to a major blizzard in one of the more isolated areas in the mountains in Chile.
At least one new church was planted in one of the areas where assistance was provided.
Chilean Baptists thanked the worldwide Baptist community, including the BWA, for the assistance given to the country in the wake of the disaster.