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Disaster relief continues in Chile thanks to Southern Baptistscomment (0)

March 10, 2011

A year ago, one of the most powerful earthquakes on record rocked Chile. Since then, working in Baptist quake relief efforts has led Baptist representative Alfredo Valencia to many suffering families.

But he’ll never forget one family in particular. Valencia found them living in a partially collapsed home on a hillside in Cartagena, Chile, a coastal town hit hard by the 8.8-magnitude quake that shattered central Chile early Feb. 27, 2010.

The family with eight children — ranging from ages two months to 17 years — “were living in really, really bad conditions,” recalled Valencia, who serves with the International Mission Board (IMB) in Santiago, Chile.

It was months after the disaster had struck, and Baptist quake relief efforts were drawing to a close. By then local officials had deemed the family’s house uninhabitable and had asked them to move out. But the family had nowhere else to go.

When Valencia saw their need, “I said, ‘God, You’ve got to provide for us to be able to help this family.’”

God’s answer came when Valencia’s cell phone rang. It was a member of a team of California Baptist volunteers heading to Chile to build “mediaguas” — prefab temporary shelters — for quake victims. Valencia told the volunteer about the family.

The two discussed options for helping and agreed the family needed more than a 10-by-20-foot temporary shelter. The volunteer said his team was willing to rebuild the house.

The California Baptists spent seven days — working from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. — reconstructing the house with the help of Marcos, the father of the family. When their work was completed, the group celebrated with a thanksgiving service. During that service, Marcos prayed to receive Christ. Today he and his family are studying the Bible at a Baptist mission congregation in Cartagena.

“The eight kids in this family will grow up one day, and they will have a story to tell about how they survived the earthquake — and what God did with their house,” Valencia said. “They will remember us as those who came to their house with the gospel, because God allowed us the time and resources to rebuild.

“But what God really rebuilt for that family was their lives — their hope. And He used us to help them understand they truly mattered to God.”

Since the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that claimed the lives of 524 people in Chile, hundreds of Chileans have received that same message through Baptist relief efforts. Together Chilean Baptists, Southern Baptist volunteers and IMB representatives have met countless physical, spiritual and emotional needs in Jesus’ name. A total of $722,000 in Southern Baptist disaster relief funds helped finance the relief effort.

“As we mark the anniversary of this powerful earthquake, we are eternally grateful to Southern Baptists for addressing the human needs of people around the world, particularly here in Chile in light of this disaster,” said IMB representative Charles Clark, who headed up Southern Baptist quake relief in Chile. “We appreciate so much the many Southern Baptists who gave sacrificially of their time and money to meet the needs of Chileans. And we are equally thankful for our Chilean Baptist partners who we joined forces with to meet the immediate needs of those most affected by the quake.” (BP)

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