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IMB representatives safe, working to meet needs after quake rocks Chilecomment (0)

March 11, 2010

Fourteen-year-old Caitlynn Tomlinson said it felt as if someone had sealed her up in a jar and was tossing her around.

“I woke up at 3:45 to a strange swaying. I felt dizzy and thought I was getting sick,” she said.

Then she realized it was an earthquake.

“I helped my sister off the top bunk. Leaning against one another, we stumbled toward the stairs.”

Caitlynn, her sister and two brothers got to the top of the stairs right about the time their mom got to the bottom of them.

“I told them to sit on the steps and bounce to the bottom,” said Angel Tomlinson, who serves, along with her husband, Trent, as an International Mission Board (IMB) representative in Temuco, Chile. “The swaying seemed to last forever, but later we learned that it was only about three minutes.”

But her own shaking lasted much longer, she said.

The Tomlinsons — originally from Alabama — made it safely through Chile’s “night of terror” Feb. 27, but others in the South American country weren’t so fortunate.

The death toll climbed over 700 in the hours after the quake, which had 500 times more energy than the one that rocked Haiti just weeks before. The Chile quake was so strong that one NASA scientist said it shifted the Earth’s axis enough to shorten the day.

“It was a terrifying experience,” said Phil Brown, an Alabama native and IMB representative who lives in Chile’s capital city, Santiago. “We were awakened by our bed shaking so hard it almost threw us out. We live in a second-floor apartment but ran to our outdoor terrace, ready to jump if the building started coming apart, which we feared it would.

“After the longest 90 seconds of my life, the shaking stopped. We got outside as quickly as we could to huddle in the street with the other people in our building,” Brown added. “God was gracious in protecting all of our missionary family here. Hours have passed now but we are still jumpy. Each tremor now gets our full attention.”

Southern Baptist personnel stationed in Chile began assessing the situation almost immediately after the quake, said Terry Lassiter, the IMB’s strategist for the American peoples affinity group.

“An initial assessment team made up of [personnel] already in Chile has begun evaluating conditions and needs,” Lassiter said.

Roads and bridges in the country were destroyed or badly damaged, which will complicate transportation of relief supplies and workers.

Baptist Global Response (BGR) has dispatched a four-member assessment team to Chile that is compiling information to help determine the short-term and long-term response needed from Southern Baptists, said Jim Brown, director of BGR’s U.S. office. The assessment effort is being led by Charles Clark, the IMB’s cluster strategy leader for the area. Also serving on the team are representatives of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Network from Texas and South Carolina.

The $50,000 released from the Southern Baptist disaster relief fund will be used to help local Baptist churches meet crisis needs like food, water, blankets and shelter, Brown said.

Southern Baptist personnel who were in the quake zone are struggling emotionally and physically, just like the Chileans around them, Lassiter said.

“Many of our people are physically and emotionally exhausted. Those who live in high-rise apartment buildings told me they didn’t think they were going to survive,” Lassiter said. “The 90 or so aftershocks that have occurred are continual reminders of the horror everyone felt during the event itself.”

There’s no back to normal for the IMB representatives there who “have never been through anything so terrifying,” Brown said.

Another IMB family is staying at the Browns’ second-floor apartment currently, too anxious to be able to sleep in its own seventh-floor apartment.

“Many of us jump with every vibration and aftershock. We feel dizzy and nervous. When we lie down to sleep, we wonder if we will be awakened again,” Brown said.

But he noted IMB personnel there are back about the task.

“Some are ministering to needy Chileans; others of us in support roles are doing what has to be done for our colleagues that we serve,” he said. “Members of my team are traveling south into the hardest hit areas with an assessment team that will direct massive help from U.S. churches and volunteers. At some point, we will have to take time to process all we have been through, but responsibilities compel us to be up and about the work we are called to do.”

Brown said they can sense the prayers and appreciate them greatly.

“Please continue to pray for all the hurting Chileans who are homeless, who have lost loved ones and who have lost their livelihood,” he said. (BP, TAB)

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