Presbyterian World Mission partners are asking for prayers for those affected by the September 16 earthquake off the coast of Chile.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors earthquakes worldwide, an 8.3 magnitude earthquake struck offshore of the port city of Coquimbo. At least 13 people were reported to have been killed and 14 injured in the quake and its resulting aftershocks, including a 6.2 magnitude tremor on September 22 and a 4.0 tremor on September 23. More than one million people were evacuated from their homes following the quake, after the government issued a tsunami alert.
Immediately after the earthquake struck, Dennis Smith, Presbyterian World Mission regional liaison for Brazil and the Southern Cone, rallied the support of World Mission Partners, including the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Chile (IEPCh) and the Evangelical Theological Community (CTE).
The quake hit as Chile was preparing for Independence Day celebrations. On September 19, in a pastoral letter to the IEPCh, Rev. Dr. Jorge Cárdenas, moderator of the IEPCh wrote, “Once again the very nature of the territory we inhabit has put us to the test … It has become part of daily life to confront repeated natural disasters.”
Cárdenas reminded Christians to seek strength in God as they dealt with the devastation. “A provident God has given us the opportunity to live in this place with all its bountiful gifts as well as the challenges imposed on us that teach us to be stronger, able to pick ourselves up time after time, richer in solidarity and brotherhood.”
His letter continued with a pastoral challenge: “The Lord has not called us to huddle in prayer in our churches, filled with fear and distrust. The Lord calls us to go with him from city to city announcing God’s reign, healing the sick, feeding and taking in those in need, the little ones, even though we are but a little church. When we do this, we can trust that God will provide for our needs and multiply the efforts of our hands.”
On September 22, Rev. Dr. Daniel Godoy, CTE rector, circulated a pastoral reflection on 2 Cor. 4:8-9, which focused on how churches throughout the country are actively helping to clean up and rebuild affected communities. “The national, regional and local governments are helping, but that is not enough. Community organizations, including the churches, are also collaborating. Nor is that enough. Now we see the need to follow-up by providing food, water, medical treatment and medicines. Some communities are dealing with the stench that remains after such a disaster. Others are beginning community campaigns to vaccinate against tetanus …. And every aftershock generates renewed anxiety.”
The letter concluded: “From our perspective of faith, we see in all this God’s hand and God’s mercy. We also have seen many manifestations of solidarity by so many people who, despite their own suffering and loss, have been able to console others, share and look to the future. . . As the Word says, ‘We are struck down, but not destroyed.’”
Smith said Presbyterian World Mission partners have not issued a call for material aid at this time, instead they ask U.S. Presbyterian congregations to pray.