Chilean church plans for post-earthquake ministry
In the midst of the chaos following the Feb. 27 earthquake and resulting tsunami, leaders and members of the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile (IELCHI) remain focused on how they can minister to each other and to others in their communities.
An earthquake hit Chile in the early morning of Feb. 27, with its epicenter near Concepción, Chile's second-largest city. The resulting tsunami, looting, lack of water and electricity, road closures, and airport closings have affected millions of Chileans.
On March 2, Rev. Carlos Schumann, president of the IELCHI, wrote an e-mail to President Kieschnick, expressing thanks for his concern and encouragement during this difficult time. President Schumann wrote, "I enormously thank President Kieschnick for putting all the support force of the Synod to our service."
Schumann also shared that after a special meeting of the IELCHI, plans are emerging for ministry in this post-disaster situation. Schumann shared that the church will take advantage of contacts that they have in areas badly affected by the earthquake to visit and see how they can help. He also stated that they hope to establish a base of operations in one of the affected areas and that the church hopes to respond to both urgent and long-term needs, both material and spiritual. Schumann shared that the IELCHI hopes to minister to smaller communities where damage is proportionally higher than in some of the larger cities-communities that have been "forgotten by TV cameras" and have suffered damage from the tsunami that followed the earthquake.
Rev. Dr. Jorge Groh, regional director for LCMS World Mission in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Olga Groh, director of project management in Latin America and the Caribbean for LCMS World Mission and LCMS World Relief and Human Care, have been in contact with President Schumann and others from the IELCHI since the earthquake hit. The Grohs, and potentially, other LCMS representatives, plan to visit Chile on March 12 to help evaluate the opportunities for post-disaster ministry and to encourage the leaders and members of the IELCHI.
Rev. Christian Rautenberg, an IELCHI pastor serving in Santiago, Chile, expressed thanks for the support the Chilean Lutherans have received from their brothers and sisters in other countries, and shared an update on the IELCHI's steps to minister to people in their communities. On March 2, he wrote, "Thanks for the message and support in the times that we are living. Thank God we are already quite recovered from the destruction. The electricity is gradually returning, along with the water. As it was reflected yesterday in an urgent meeting with IELCHI, God has been our refuge and strength despite the forces of nature. He is still sustaining us every moment with His grace.
"I'm still making visits to people who have suffered badly. This morning, I visited several families in the community of La Florida, a neighborhood with many poor households where one family that goes to church lives. We are still in the stage of gathering information and making a list of people that we are going to visit-especially in the south. We are bringing the encouragement of the Word to all those we meet."
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, Lutheran Church-Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Paraguay, and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod have pledged to support their Chilean brothers and sisters in various ways in this time of need.
On behalf of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, LCMS World Relief and Human Care (the mercy arm of the LCMS) is working cooperatively with LCMS World Mission (the mission sending arm of the LCMS), LCMS congregations and districts, and U.S. and international partners to provide immediate and long-term relief for the people of Chile and Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile (IELCHI). Learn more about the LCMS' partner/sister church, the IELCHI, at www.ielchi.cl.