3:00 P.M. EST March 9, 2010
More than 300 families in Concepción, Chile, are receiving water through
Educación Popular en Salud, an organization that works to improve
health-care services in local communities. A UMNS Photo courtesy of ELCA
View in Photo Gallery
The earthquake-damaged Chilean city of Concepción resembles "a war
zone," says a Lutheran who visited there as part of an ecumenical
Among those joining Karen Anderson, a Santiago-based staff member
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Global Mission, on the
trip were Methodist Bishop Mario Martínez and Juan Salazar, president
of Methodist Social Ministry.
Team members traveled to Concepción March 4-7 to assess the needs of
people there following the Feb. 27 earthquake. Hundreds of people were
killed by the 8.8 magnitude earthquake, which struck central Chile
about 70 miles northeast of Concepción and 200 miles south of Santiago,
In a March 8 e-mail, Anderson said it took the team about "12 hours
to make the six-hour trip because of the damage to sections of the road
and bridges." When they arrived in Concepción, there was an 18-hour
curfew and military personnel were posted throughout the city.
"As we drove through the city … at 7 p.m., it was like a ghost
town with very few cars on the streets, and (there were) military
checkpoints," said Anderson. The team was on its way to visit
Educación Popular en Salud (Popular Education in Health Foundation), an
ELCA partner organization that works to improve health-care services in
The team met with Dr. Lautaro Lopez, the foundation’s director.
Since the earthquake, Lopez has been providing medical care to neighbors
and organizing water distribution. More than 300 families –
about 1,200 individuals -- are receiving water every day from the water
source on the foundation’s property, Anderson reported.
Concepción's municipality "has been helping pump out the water with a
generator," Anderson said. With funds from the ELCA, "we bought
our own generator, which we took with us. Luckily the power was
back on, and we were able to run the pump with electricity from our
building," she said, adding that Lopez organized a neighborhood
committee to distribute water.
Although the first few days after the earthquake were very tense, as
people were panicking about the lack of water, food and other basic
necessities, "things are running smoothly now," said Anderson.
For the Rev. Víctor Hugo Cisterna, pastor of the First Methodist
Church of Concepción, the frequent aftershocks have not helped smooth
the way to recovery. “We experience such uncertainty and stress, because
the quakes come back every 15 minutes,” he said on March 5, the same
day the city experienced two earthquakes of 6.3 and 6.8 magnitude.
His church includes a prestigious school and a boardinghouse for
college students. Both the parsonage and boardinghouse held up well
during the Feb. 27 earthquake, but the church’s steeple had some damage,
and the sanctuary has two large cracks.
At the school, the computer laboratory was completely lost and the
gym heavily damaged. The library also sustained damage. In Chile, the
school year starts in March, but that won’t be possible under the
current circumstances, Cisterna said.
“My big concern now is that we haven’t seen much help coming in.
Today, six days after the earthquake, the relief is starting to come,”
he said. “Everything has been too slow. This has produced disgust in
the population. The government did not take the problem seriously.”
Both denominations have been assisting their counterparts in Chile
with relief efforts. The ELCA sent $10,000 to the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Chile and the United Methodists sent a $10,000 grant to the
Methodist Church of Chile.
The ELCA also provided $10,000 to assist the efforts of the health
foundation, and $20,000 for an ecumenical response through Action by
Churches Together Alliance. Church World Service provided $15,000 to
The Rev. Gloria Rojas, pastor-president of Lutheran Church; Kathryn
Lawler, a regional ELCA Global Mission representative based in Buenos
Aires, Argentina; and a Church World Service representative also were
part of the team.
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.
*Humberto Casanova of United Methodist Communications contributed to
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.