Baptist Global Response

Baptists meet needs, share hope among fire victims in Chile

Associated Project: Global Hunger Relief


By Daniela Ramirez

VALPARAÍSO, Chile — Baptist Global Response is working with partners in Chile to provide food, supplies and the hope of Christ to survivors of a large and fast-moving forest fire that killed 15 and displaced at least 12,000 people in Valparaíso, Chile. 

The fire broke out April 12 and rapidly spread through some of the 42 hillside neighborhoods that make up the historic city of Valparaíso, Chile’s chief seaport. Because of strong winds, firefighters have had difficulty containing the blaze, which has destroyed close to 2,500 houses in the densely populated area, according to Chilean news reports.

Chilean Baptists responded quickly to the disaster by designating Iglesia Bautista Monte de Sión (Mount Zion Baptist Church) on Playa Ancha Hill as a collection point for donated food and supplies for fire victims, said Karen Wright, a Southern Baptist missionary in the nearby city of Viña del Mar.

Next week Chilean Baptist volunteers expect to begin a feeding project at a school on Las Cañas Hill, a badly burned area that has no Baptist church, Wright said. The door for that ministry opened April 15 when Wright and Damaris Zapata, director of Christian social ministries for the Chilean Baptist Union, made a connection with school officials while visiting the disaster zone.

Chilean Baptist volunteers will cook and serve meals to families who are camping out on the land where their houses burned. “People are afraid if they leave, they’ll lose their land,” Wright explained.

As that relief project gets underway, partners hope many of the city’s troubled residents will find new lives.

“Valparaíso is a city plagued by drugs and alcohol [abuse] and a lot of social problems,” Wright said. “Pray that lives and communities will be transformed” through the Baptist relief and outreach in the area.

Wright added: “Pray that Christians will find many opportunities to share the hope of Christ in the midst of this tragedy. Pray for wisdom as we [Baptists in Chile] determine how we can best help those who are suffering.”

Meanwhile, churches across the Chilean Baptist Union are sending food and supplies, and the Baptist union is collecting an offering for the relief effort. Chilean Baptist volunteers – many of them youth – have been delivering sandwiches, drinks and supplies to residents and workers on some of the badly burned hills, including Las Cañas.

In addition, BGR has released an initial $5,000 in emergency relief funds to meet immediate needs. Wright expects those funds will be used to purchase tents to house displaced families and for other supplies needed in the response.

As she and Chilean Baptist leaders continue to assess needs, Wright said additional funding likely will be requested through BGR.

Donations to help with the relief effort can be sent to: Baptist Global Response, 402 BNA Drive, Suite 411, Nashville, TN 37217-2546. Checks should be made payable to Baptist Global Response and designated “Disaster Response Fund.” On-line donations can be made at www.gobgr.org.

The Chilean Baptist Union reported that none of its churches’ members had lost their lives or homes. However, Miguel Ángel Lineros, pastor of Achupallas Baptist, said about 12 children attending a school near one of the new church plants lost their homes in the fire. “So our church will be seeing how we can minister to those families,” Lineros said.

Besides that outreach, Lineros said some Chilean Baptist volunteers from the region also are delivering food and supplies to government-operated shelters and are working with some of the children whose families are staying there.

As Baptists continue to meet needs, Chilean Baptist prayer leader María Cristina Castillo called on believers to pray for fire victims and volunteers who are ministering to them.

“Pray for children who feel disoriented and afraid during in these days and for their parents who feel inadequate to encourage them,” said Castillo, prayer coordinator for Chilean Baptist churches in the Valparaíso region. “Pray for families who have lost their homes. Pray for volunteers who are trying to meet the needs of those most affected. And pray that the Lord will give us a vision to meet the needs, and that we will be able to … accomplish this goal.”

Partner with Baptist Global Response to provide food supplies to those affected through the disaster response fund, click here.

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Daniela Ramirez is a BGR correspondent in the Americas.

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