Greetings from Chile, where I arrived on Wednesday after twenty hours of travel. Although there is very little jet lag here (just two hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time), I am experiencing a little Seasonal Lag, as the southern hemisphere is coming to the end of the summer. The tomatoes are ripe and the leaves are beginning to change in some places.
James Jones and I flew into Chile’s capital, Santiago, because the airport that is closer to the earthquake’s epicenter (at Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city) is shut down due to earthquake damage. Santiago is largely intact, but there are pockets of earthquake damage. We spent Thursday evening with a old pastor friend of James’ and learned that five families/people in his church could not return to their rented apartments because of structural damage. James personally met with each family/person prior to my arrival into Santiago, and we were blessed to partner with their church to help them get started in new apartments. Rents have naturally increased in Santiago due to supply and demand.
We spent much of the day on Friday driving to Concepcion (on a highway that was damaged in many places).
Our team includes two other members, Chilean Pablo Jiliberto, who took it upon himself to print 1,500 copies of the Spanish translation of The Disciple-Making Minister and personally distribute them to Christian leaders all over Chile, and Miqueas Vientos, a Spanish-speaking pastor from New Jersey. As we drove towards Concepcion, we stopped at a big grocery store in order to fill the back of our pickup truck with necessities such as bottled water and Clorox for the saints in the earthquake areas. It was in that grocery store that I experienced my first and second aftershocks, one of which we later learned was 7.2 on the Richter scale. It was an erie sensation to which I’ve since grown quite accustom (having now experienced many). Bottles were falling off of shelves and store lights were swinging. People hurried for the exits (including us).
Upon our arrival in Concepcion, we drove to a city park to meet with a church congregation whose building was made unusable by the tsunami that followed the earthquake. They were having church outside, and were praising God in a big circle when we arrived. As stray dogs weaved in and out of the group, James shared a thirty-minute sermon that I could not understand, but that was obviously a great encouragement to everyone. Tomorrow we’ll be visiting some of those among them who lost just about everything, and who are now living with other church members or relatives.
So far I love Chile. When you greet someone, you shake hands, then you hug and put your cheeks together and make a kissing sound, then shake hands again. Lots of love flowing at the Grace and Peace Church here in Concepcion!
Below are a couple of photos of our team members and some of the earthquake damage in Concepcion. Thanks for your prayers. — David