Editor’s note: Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is working with our ecumenical partner Church World Service (CWS) in Chile to provide basic humanitarian assistance and to help local partners in assessing the needs. $25,000 in One Great Hour of Sharing funds have already been sent. CWS emergency response staff are coordinating their response with two Chilean agencies, FASIC (Fundacion de Ayuda Social de las Iglesia Cristianas) and the Humanitarian Team of the Methodist Church of Chile, IMECH. PDA will also coordinate with PC(USA) World Mission and their work with CLAI (Latin American Council of Churches) and with ACT Alliance member Lutheran World Federation. Carlos Cardenas, PC(USA) mission co-worker in Nicaragua, is assisting in communication of assessments. —Jerry L. Van Marter

The Rev. Edinson Caba Burgos and his wife, Mariela Correa-Montecinos, were just settling into their new assignment at a Methodist church in the historic section this Chilean city when the Feb. 27 earthquake struck.

Their unpacked boxes remain forgotten as they visit those sleeping in the streets around Primera Iglesia Metodista, located in Sector Centro near the Alameda, sharing tea and cookies. Like many Chileans, they are concerned about having enough food and water.

“Trust in the Lord” is what Caba is telling his congregation as they and other churches hold prayer services for earthquake survivors.

“During tragic moments, when an earthquake strikes, nothing else matters but our loved ones,” he said March 1. By forgetting about material things, “We begin to think that life is precious.”

As a nation, Chile is well prepared for earthquakes, but the experience was still frightening. “It was long, too long,” recalled Mariela Correa-Montecinos. “Because it lasted over three minutes, a lot of people got panicky and thought it was the end of the world.”

She considers it something of “a miracle” that their home remained intact. The church building suffered some damage. “You can see the cracks and broken pillars and windows, but the damage is not as bad as in other churches in other districts in Chile,” she said.

Primera Iglesia Metodista serves a large population of immigrants from Colombia and Peru. Although they did not conduct regular Sunday services the day after the earthquake — much of the neighborhood has no electricity or running water — some people came anyway, to start the cleanup process.

Caba, a pastor for 25 years, has lived through three strong earthquakes. His goal is to provide emotional support to his congregation, his neighbors and his country.

He was among the Metropolitan District pastors who met with Bishop Mario Martínez of the Methodist Church in Chile on March 1 to determine the best ways to assess damage and deploy help to the affected churches. Martínez had assumed the post of bishop just 10 days earlier.

“Congregations in the north are coordinating efforts and assessing how to gather help — food, water, clothing that can eventually be distributed,” Caba reported. “They have to find alternate ways to get to the southern region since the main bridges and roads were totally destroyed.”

Linda Bloom, a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York, contributed to this report.

El Intérprete is distributed by Latin American and Caribbean Communication Agency, Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI)