6:00 P.M. EST March 3, 2010
The altar of the Methodist Church of Los Ángeles, Chile, stands amid the
rubble caused by the recent earthquake. A UMNS photo courtesy of Nelson
View in Photo Gallery
Living in a country experienced with earthquakes, Methodists in
Chile knew how to react when the big one came along.
As she felt the tremors of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake early on
Feb. 27, Gloria Millar realized that she was too close to the sea and
evacuated her home in Penco, a coastal town just seven miles from
Concepción, which was devastated by the quake.
The Rev. J. Daniel Pacheco and his family left the parsonage in
Lota, five blocks from the water, and spent the rest of the night in the
In Chillán, 40 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter, the Rev.
Osvaldo Herreros herded his family beneath a doorway in the parsonage as
the ground shook.
The Rev. Nelson Rivera and his wife, Verónica, are camping in the
countryside near Los Ángeles, only 112 miles from the epicenter,
because their parsonage sustained damage.
Now they and their fellow citizens are assessing damages, looking
for food and water and praying for guidance.
In Santiago, the Methodist Church of Chile, assisted by the United
Methodist Committee on Relief, is mobilizing for action, even though
the extent of the damages from the earthquake, which is responsible for
more than 800 deaths, is far from clear.
In a March 2 situation report, Juan Salazar, president of the
Methodist Social Ministry in Chile, noted that communications remained a
problem. “Even after three days, we haven’t heard from our teams that
are working in the area, and we don’t know how they are,” he wrote.
Salazar is part of the InterChurch Emergency Committee Chile 2010
planning strategy for relief efforts. A team is expected to travel
south from Santiago on March 4 to assess needs.
With contributions from UMCOR and Church World Service, the
committee hopes to purchase and deliver food supply boxes, hygiene kits
and bottled water to 1,000 families.
Each food box holds a four-day supply of noodles, flour, lentils,
sugar, cooking oil, rice and canned fish. The hygiene kit contains two
types of soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrush, toilet
paper and bleach.
‘Felt like three hours’
“This was a three-minute earthquake that felt like three hours,”
said Herreros, who was at home with his wife, his mother and a
4-year-old grandson in Chillán. “We are used to earthquakes which we
experience often, but this one was very intense and too long.”
An aerial assessment of Concepción following the quake.
A UMNS photo
courtesy of Creative Commons.
View in Photo Gallery
His parsonage behind the sanctuary
received two significant cracks and damage to a bathroom crossbeam. In
the sanctuary, the ceiling over the altar fell in and six-foot-high
brick fences surrounding the church collapsed.
“The Sunday after the earthquake we had a meeting that we called the
‘Mary and Martha meeting,’” Herreros added, “because part of the
congregation prepared the liturgy, devotional and service, while another
group cleared the area of the sanctuary that we can still use.”
In Lota, where Pacheco oversees two congregations, at least 1,500
homes were destroyed by the earthquake. Only one church member was
seriously injured, but many other congregants were left homeless. “They
are lodging in the house of a relative or in tents,” he reported.
One of the poorest towns in Chile, Lota was among the areas plagued
with looting. “Before the military arrived, we joined the neighbors to
defend our sector from these vandals,” Pacheco said. “The army brought
order because it was chaos.
“I say there have been two earthquakes,” he added. “The second one
In Penco, Millar was grateful when the army arrived and imposed a
curfew. “Now we can sleep feeling safe,” she said. “We are now together
in my mother’s house and have gathered all the food we can to face
this time. We don’t know how long this situation will last. We are
helping each other.”
Picking up the pieces
The congregation of the Methodist Church in Los Ángeles is trying to
pick up the pieces after the earthquake destroyed the sanctuary and
Sunday school rooms.
The parsonage of a church in Chillán was damaged.
A UMNS photo
courtesy of Anita Pedraza.
View in Photo Gallery
For Sunday worship, church members
gathered in the street in front of the fallen sanctuary to thank God
that no one in the congregation was lost. A special service is
planned in the city square at the end of this week.
“It has been very hard, very hard,” Rivera said. “We are trying to
get up on our feet again, to keep moving forward. The important thing
is that God saved our lives and we think he will also provide the means
to rebuild the sanctuary and parsonage.”
The pastor said he already has a sign that God will provide: a small
amount of money from a box used to hold the children’s Sunday school
offerings was found in the rubble.
It may be a matter of history repeating itself. The church in Los
Ángeles, which replaced an earlier sanctuary destroyed by the 1960
earthquake in Chile, was built by a United Methodist Sunday school
group from a U.S. church, Rivera said.
Donations to the relief efforts of UMCOR and the Methodist Church of
Chile can be made online to Chile Emergency Advance #3021178. Donations also can be sent by
check to UMCOR and dropped in church offering plates or mailed to UMCOR,
P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Please indicate in the memo line of
the check that it is for the Chile Emergency.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New
York. Humberto Casanova contributed to this report.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.