With no work available, Paula cooks empanadas and sells what she can to scrape by. “I go to bed each night exhausted, wondering how I’m going to get through the next day,” she confided as she shared her story with me last week. We were talking in a small group at a displaced people’s camp in Chile where Paula (a single mom with three young children) now lives.
Almost a year ago, the coast of Chile was rocked by a powerful 8.8 magnitude earthquake which thrust an eight foot high tsunami wave against the coastal areas near Concepcion. The earthquake, though much more powerful than the one that devastated Haiti, did not cause near the mass devastation we saw in Haiti, and there was a quick response by the Chilean government.
At that time, TouchGlobal Crisis Response, in consultation with ReachGlobal Latin America, decided not to respond immediately to the event for several reasons, but primarily because we had no missionally-aligned partner relationships in Chile – that is, partners with long-term vision for the Great Commission’s role in the recovery following a crisis.
Yet, God was working from another angle.
About 30 years earlier, God made Himself known to a young teen, Hugo Concha, in Talcahuano, Chile, near Concepcion. Over the years, God developed a vision in Hugo for a church-planting movement in Chile. When the earthquake struck, Hugo, now the pastor of El Faro Evangelical Free Church (Lebanon, PA), felt compelled to respond to the needs in his hometown. Shortly after the earthquake, in March 2010, he took a small team and some relief supplies to do what he could. He returned to Pennsylvania with a resolve to go back to Chile to make a kingdom difference.
God then connected Hugo with other EFCA churches in Pennsylvania and with TouchGlobal and ReachGlobal to follow the Lord in moving forward with this vision.
Now, almost a year later, this vision and a desire to serve where God is moving, brought our small group of representatives from the EFCA in Pennsylvania, TouchGlobal and ReachGlobal to Chile. And, with a short prayer to God for His leading during this time, we found ourselves in the displaced people’s camp, listening to Paula’s story.
Paula leads a group of about 100 families scattered throughout several camps – camps filled with thousands of people who have lost their homes and most of their possessions. She doesn’t hide that she is cold to religion, but she also expresses a real hunger and desire for caring relationships in her life.
All but forgotten by the Chilean government, aid organizations and the local churches, most of the Chileans we met shared Paula’s sour taste for religion. Yet a common need and desire for relationships, for caring hands to help and compassionate hearts to listen and hear, resounded in each person’s story.
We saw the start of efforts to meet that need for relationship and care in a Chilean couple, Yamil and Mylena. As they come to the region to make disciples and plant churches, we are also praying for God’s direction as we seek to come alongside them.
Story shared by Mark, Director of TouchGlobal Crisis Response, following a vision trip to Chile in late January 2011.
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Bring a short-term team to Chile to help with rebuilding.
- That the Lord would meet Paula’s needs, and that He would bring true religion (Isaiah 58) to Paula and those like her.
- For caring Christian workers to serve in Chile.
- For Yamil and Mylena as they work to multiply healthy churches among all people in Chile.
Make an online donation to Chile earthquake relief efforts.