NIPAS, Chile—More than two months after an earthquake rocked Chile, rains have begun and winter soon will arrive, leaving a group of Baptist pastors bracing for the cold in small tents that have become their impromptu homes in the wake of the disaster.
For Eliseo Avila, pastor of three congregations, it’s simply the latest challenge. He remains jittery, jumping on occasion when sounds spark memories of the earthquake. At times, he struggles to contain his emotions.
Avila is one of 10 Chilean pastors a Texas Baptist Men team discovered still living in tents near their devastated homes. Seeing them broke the heart of Ernie Rice, who led the TBM team.
“They’re approaching their winter, and it’s raining,” said Rice, a member of First Baptist Church in Stockdale. “They’re in a high degree of misery.”
TBM is working on a plan to construct housing for each of the pastors, using Texas volunteer teams to provide labor. But the effort faces obstacles. Lumber cannot be imported, and the factory that produced 80 percent of the area’s steel was severely damaged by the tsunami that resulted after February’s earthquake. TBM leaders are investigating a number of options, including shipping prefabricated homes to Chile and importing steel for roofing.
Rice, a veteran of disaster relief ministry, described the devastation in Chile as “powerful.” One apartment complex broke in two and fell to the ground. The top six floors of a high-rise building collapsed.
Numerous churches were affected to varying degrees. Government officials have begun inspecting buildings and identifying necessary repairs before they can be used again.
While the rebuilding efforts understandably have consumed much of the Chilean Baptists’ time and energy, they remain committed to sharing the gospel in their communities, Rice said. They continue to plan a major evangelistic effort in the coming months, hoping to continue building on the ministry that has seen the country’s evangelical presence double to 15 percent in the past decade.
TBM has committed to partnering with the congregations affiliated with the Baptist Union of Chile in their efforts to rebuild pastors’ homes and church facilities and to support evangelism efforts.
“My heart is with those people who are faithful servants who are fully committed to (Christ) and are suffering,” Rice said. “It’s affecting the ministry. It’s time for us in North America to come to their aid. It’s tough, man. It’s tough. They need our help. They need our resources. They need churches to come alongside them and partner with them in the ministry.”
For more information about volunteering to serve in Chile or providing financial support for the disaster relief efforts there, visit www.texasbaptistmen.org or call (214) 828-5350.
Texas Baptists’ Church2church initiative is working with TBM to help congregations partner with Chilean Baptist congregations. For more information on this ministry, visit www.texasbaptists.org/church2church or call Marla Bearden at (888) 244-9400.