Earthquake revives hope in Jesus

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Chile still suffering from its fifth-largest quake

by Francisco Paredes, Captain –

The people of Chile are still reeling from the devastating impact of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that shook the coastal country on Feb. 27, 2010. The disaster was Chile’s fifth largest quake in its recorded history.

Walking around Bio-Bio—the quake’s Ground Zero—one can still feel the tension. Streets are closed due to the risk of landslides and the civic center and part of downtown have collapsed. Many of the smaller towns lie in ruin.

Deaths, plundering, military enforcement, gas station lines, the search for water and food and continuous aftershocks cause fear in both the population and the volunteers.

Essential products are scarce, the help is insufficient, and The Salvation Army’s Central Division also suffers from these conditions. Although we do not have much to give, we continue believing that God will provide. We have accepted the challenge to be “saved to serve.” When we look into the faces of the survivors, we have to fight to hold back our tears. The scene reminds me of William Booth’s reaction to the sight of suffering men and women on the streets of London.

Army embraces Chile
In the first hours of the tragedy—and my first days as divisional secretary—Maria had come to the Army canteen looking for food.

“I do not know what to do now… I have nothing,” she said. “You are the only ones that are helping us.”

While I was listening to Maria, a small child with curly hair came up to me and hugged me around my neck.

How can we help when our own resources are so limited? The answer to my question came with the hug of this small child: Embrace Chile!

Still bringing hope
In the first hours after the quake, Salvationists, Red Cross agents and volunteers offered support to people who had lost everything. They began removing debris until their hands hurt from the lack of gloves. They tried to make do with what they had to help those in pain.

The little girl who ran up and hugged me is now living in a transitional housing area with her parents. She has no idea what she started with that one little hug. The South America West Territory of The Salvation Army was emboldened and inspired by her show of affection and trust—a show that fostered a crescendo of hope in Jesus Christ and empowered a new generation of Salvationists.

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