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After quake, Baptist volunteers share Godís love in Chilecomment (0)

April 8, 2010

Mercedes Iturra has something she didn’t have before Chile’s 8.8-magnitude earthquake — a newfound love of Scripture.

A group of Chilean Baptist volunteers arrived March 10 in Pangue Abajo, a rural community where Iturra lives in a makeshift tent outside her collapsing home. Her children’s families — including 14 grandchildren — are living with her. When the volunteers visited the family, they brought balloons and coloring books for the children and gospel tracts for the adults.

“One of the volunteers marked places in my Bible for me to read,” Iturra said through a translator. “We had those handy, so when the next aftershocks came, we pulled them out and started reading from the Bible.”

“A lot of people are scared, so a lot of people are paying more attention to God,” said one of Iturra’s daughters.

Though Iturra and her family are still searching spiritually, the help they have received from Baptist efforts in the wake of the disaster has given them hope in God’s Word. The volunteers who shared their faith with the family came from a combined Chilean Baptist and Southern Baptist relief effort.

A field kitchen set up in the parking lot of Iglesia Evangelica Bautista El Sembrador (Evangelical Baptist Church of the Sower) in Talca is the headquarters for this project. The kitchen equipment and food are provided through Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist partner that has been coordinating two-person volunteer teams from churches in the U.S. who work with Chilean volunteers for a week at a time.

When Steve Wise and George Kay, the first volunteer team, arrived at El Sembrador church, there was no kitchen staff lined up and no one who spoke English. Using only hand gestures, the South Carolinians struggled to set up the kitchen. But with the help of International Mission Board representatives, they soon had staff and translators. And in its first couple of days of operation, their field kitchen produced meals for 750 Chileans each day.

The lead cook, Maria Teresa Cerda, helped organize the volunteers from various Baptist churches around Talca.

Once the food is prepared, it is stored in coolers until distribution. Each cooler holds 100 servings. Chilean Baptists with the Union Nacional de Jovenes Bautistas (National Union of Young Baptists) are helping with distribution. Some of the young volunteers deliver meals to those unable to cook in their present situations or too busy with home repairs to take time to cook.

Others drive truckloads of meals to public areas in surrounding communities. Once set up for distribution, they honk the horn signaling for local families to receive the food. Sometimes volunteers organize games for the children or a pastor gives a gospel message. Always the volunteers build relationships and lead the people in prayer.

Southern Baptist volunteers will help with this and other field kitchens until the end of April, when the food distribution will transition to the Chilean volunteers.

“We want to do all we can to facilitate a smooth transition back to independence for the families,” Wise said. (BP)

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