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Chilean Lutherans visit earthquake and tsunami victims

March 18, 2010 No Comment

A long road amidst pain and desolation 

March 4, 2010 

It’s 9:30 p.m. in Chillan, 13th region of Chile, half an hour after the curfew that has been declared by the authorities as a way of keeping the peace. There are four of us here: Rev. Carlos Schumann, Rev. Alejandro Lopez, Eduardo Segura, and me, Rev. Cristian Rautenberg (writing). 

Since 7 in the morning, today, March 4, we have covered more than 700 kilometers touring various areas that were the most damaged by the earthquake. Already, at 60 kilometers outside of Santiago, you could sense the force and the damage from this cataclysmic event. Cracked roads, fallen bridges, collapsed houses, with increasing damage as we travelled further south. In each home, we shared the people’s pain and the Gospel message of hope with a prayer, a benediction, or a brochure from Christ for All the Nations (Lutheran Hour Ministries in Latin America), “Strength for Difficult Times.” 

It’s not possible to not perceive the mission opportunity in each contact that we made today. Lives that can be changed by the Gospel of Christ. This pain and desperation provides us with a beautiful possibility! 

Curico people line-up to receive a ration of water.

The first city that we visited was Curicó, (Seventh Region), at 194 kilometres from Santiago, with 12,000 inhabitants. The scene was potent—there are very few homes in the downtown area that did not have some damage. We searched for people, but there were many homes that had no one inside, because of the danger of collapse. We wanted to put a face to the earthquake. 

The second stop was the city of Talca (Seventh Region), a little more than 250 kilometers from Santiago, with 200,000 inhabitants. Much closer to the epicenter, we saw a nearby neighborhood with various destroyed homes. We didn’t know where to begin, so we parked the car and chatted with a family that was outside of their home in the middle of avalanches (See “When the light came, it illuminated the face”). It was not necessary to go much further in order to find other families that had lost everything, and we had to leave, but we knew that we would have to return soon. 

Our journey continued towards Constitución, a medium-sized city with 56,000 inhabitants on the coast of the Seventh Region. As we approached the city, many cars, trucks, and semis were coming out of the city with furniture, cushions, and equipment. We asked ourselves, “What are they fleeing from?” A few kilometers later, we began to realize the answer. Hundreds of people were begging for food, diapers, water, flour, or anything that one could give to them. This scenario increased in intensity the closer that we got to the city. 

A Chilean flag flies at the point where there was a house before the tsunami.

In Constitución, the stench of dead animals and putrified remains mixed with the dust, which in another moment, was the tsunami mud that devastated the whole coastal zone, up to one kilometer inside the city. Little was left standing, and what was left standing didn’t serve for much…the majority should be torn down. Furniture, cars, clothing, domestic equipment, and many other objects was scattered across every block. The people’s testimonies repeated themselves: “We’ve lost everything!” Everyone was equal in their misfortune: rich and poor—the tsunami water did not respect the home or the life of anyone. The tsunami was being blamed for 300 deaths and additional disappearances. 

Some young people told us that God was very far from them, but various others have told us that they need the “food” that only God can provide. We talked with various families, we listened to their words and promised to return. We shared the little food that we could carry with us (some milk, cereal, and other items). 

We went from Constitución towards Chillán, which was several hours’ worth of travel because of the state of the roads. We had many emotions, but the most prominent was that God was using us so that many people might know that Christ loves them in a special and unique way, so much so that He gave His life and now they might have a new opportunity. 

Tomorrow we continue the journey, and other life stories await us. May God guide and watch over us. 

Rev. Cristian E. Rautenberg 

Read more about this journey at http://www.ielchi.cl/benglish/. To donate to the relief program in Chile go to http://www.lutheranchurch.ca/donate

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