1:00 P.M. EST Mar. 1, 2010
The earthquake in Chile damaged churches and schools as far away as
Santiago. UMNS photo courtesy of Jan O. Spixeles
Methodists in Chile are beginning to assess damage after the massive
Feb. 27 earthquake.
Bishop Mario Martinez of the Methodist Church in Chile said on Feb. 28
that church buildings in the districts of Chillán, Los Angeles, Segunda
de Temuco and Primera y Segunda de Santiago suffered major damage from
the earthquake. He had no news of injuries or deaths.
Because of communication problems, he had no information on the
condition of churches and members in the Concepcion, William Taylor and
Sur districts, Chile´s central region, which were hit the hardest in the
As hundreds of aftershocks continue to jolt the region, residents
searched for food, water and other supplies. The New York Times reported
March 1 that the United Nations received an emergency request from
Chile for mobile bridges, generators and field hospitals.
More than 700 people died from the earthquake. Many of those deaths
occurred in the Maule region along the coast, just north of the quake’s
epicenter, which includes the town of Constitución, also hit by a
tsunami, according to news reports.
United Methodists respond
The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and its relief agency,
the United Methodist Committee on Relief, were in communication with the
church in Chile soon after the earthquake. UMCOR is making an initial
$10,000 emergency grant to Chilean Methodists.
Bishop Joel Martinez, the board’s interim top executive, pledged to the
Chilean bishop “our prayers, our solidarity, and our commitment to offer
the resources and services of UMCOR to help the church respond.”
United Methodists have significant ties to the autonomous church in
Chile. A Volunteers-in-Mission team from the denomination’s Wisconsin
Annual (regional) Conference was doing construction work in Chile when
the earthquake occurred and was reported to be safe.
The team had been in the country since Feb. 17, working at the
Agricultural School of La Granja and the Mapuche Women's Learning
Center, both in Nueva Imperial, 22 miles west of Temuco, one of the
largest cities in southern Chile.
The Rev. Shana Harrison, a United Methodist Board of Global Ministries
missionary based in Santiago, 200 miles northeast of the epicenter, rode
out the jolts from the earthquake in her fifth-floor apartment.
Harrison is executive director of the Foundation Crescendo, formerly
called La Esperanza, a workshop and group home for adults with
intellectual disabilities. The buildings do not appear to have any
serious structural damage. “The residents at the group home are quite
frightened, but I feel like they are handling it very well,” she
Crescendo’s latest activities were to begin March 1, but will be
postponed a week.
“I have heard that all school openings are being postponed until March
8th,” she wrote in an e-mail on the evening of Feb. 27. “I have not been
in touch with all of our beneficiaries or all of the staff. I do know
that some of our staff have damage to their homes, but I have not heard
of any physical injuries.”
Missionary John Elmore reported that the El Vergel School in Iquique had
some structural damage, especially in buildings that are mostly made of
adobe. “The church at the school had its roof slide off and a lot of
cracks in the walls,” he added. “We will need to repair that structure.”
UMCOR has a working relationship with the Methodist Church in Chile,
along with its social and humanitarian ministry groups. Juan Salazar,
president of the Methodist Social Ministry in Chile, sent an e-mail to
the relief agency about the preliminary evaluations of earthquake
damage. “The information that arises each time indicates that the
effects are greater than originally assessed,” he said.
UMCOR officials do not believe that relief supply kits are currently
needed in Chile, but the agency has set up a special fund for financial
support for relief work in Chile. Donations 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
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
Amanda Bachus, editor of el Intérprete, contributed to this report.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.