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Methodists in Chile assess quake toll


1:00 P.M. EST Mar. 1, 2010

The earthquake in Chile
 damaged churches and schools as far away as Santiago. </br>UMNS 
photo courtesy of Jan O. Spixeles
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 earthquake.

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 reported.

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.”

Preliminary assessment

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 Emergency.

*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 newsdesk@umcom.org.

The Rev. Osvaldo Herreros

“We had a meeting that we called the ‘Mary and Martha’ meeting.”

“Tuvimos una reunión que le pusimos de nombre de las dos Marías.”

The Rev. J. Daniel Pacheco

“What we urgently need is food because there are children without milk…”

“Lo que estamos necesitando urgentemente son alimentos, porque no hay leche para los niños.”

The Rev. J. Daniel Pacheco

“I say there have been two earthquakes, one was real, the second was, vandalism.”

“Hubo un primer terremoto, el segundo terremoto fue el vandalismo.”

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