FALLS CHURCH, Va. — About 250 Baptist churches in Chile were destroyed in the powerful earthquake that shook the country Feb. 27, according to the Baptist World Alliance.
The congregations are affiliated with the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Chile, one of two BWA member bodies in the nation.
“All the Baptist churches in the disaster zone were either badly damaged or destroyed,” Raquel Contreras, president of UBACH, told the BWA. “There are pastors living in tents. Many Baptist members lost everything.”
Two teams of pastors visited the affected areas, and what they saw was “like a scene from World War Two,” said Contreras, who is also a vice president of the BWA. Members of the teams wept upon seeing the scale of the disaster, she reported.
There is a sense of fear in the country, Contreras said. “People do not feel secure. Pastors are scared because of the strong aftershocks.”
At least 500,000 homes are estimated to be damaged by the 8.8 magnitude quake, and more than 700 people were killed.
Contreras, who was visiting her daughter in Kentucky when the earthquake struck, is anxious to return to Chile, but cannot due to difficulties in travelling to the country. Reports she received, however, indicate Baptists and the nation at large face a massive reconstruction and rebuilding effort.
Another concern, she said, is for the spiritual state of Chileans as they face the disaster. Pastors will be challenged to explain the tragedy, Contreras said, but added that there are stories of faith in the midst of the suffering. This is an opportunity for Christians, and Baptists in particular, to demonstrate the love and compassion of Christ, she said.
Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the BWA, is sending $25,000 in relief funds to Chile. Donations may be made via the BWA website at www.bwanet.org or sent to Baptist World Aid, 405 N. Washington St., Falls Church, VA 22046.