Dear Friends and Family:
I am sure that by now you have heard of tragedy heaped upon tragedy in Chile. As Bishop Ulises of the Pentecostal Church of Chile prepares to fly to northern Chile to assess the damage from the recent earthquake, a devastating fire in the historic port of Valparaiso has consumed now over 1,000 homes with at least 8,000 people homeless. The weather conditions with hot, dry and shifting winds, along with the coastal mountain terrain has made it very difficult to control the blaze.
Valparaiso is a world heritage site, also known for having been one of the ports mentioned in Moby Dick by Herman Melville. It is the third largest city in Chile, with homes built on the tops of the coastal hills down to where the skirts of these slip into the sea. These coastal hills have been built up in the past years with wooden houses teetering on stilts that cling to the sides of ravines and have spectacular views of the bay. On the opposite side of the hills, away from the coast, the rough terrain is covered with highly flammable pine plantations - where every year there are forest and shrub fires. Sunday night, one of these fires got out of hand and began to burn towards the city.
There are about seven churches of the Pentecostal Church of Chile spread out on the different hills in Valparaiso, but so far, according to the reports that Bishop Ulises has received, none have been affected by the fires. We still do not know if any church members have been affected. For those of you who know the Aguirre family and Pastor Mario Torres and his family, as far as we know they are all ok.
I have been preparing materials on emotional and spiritual first aid from the information we collected after the 2010 earthquake to send to the pastors in northern Chile. This same information will be shared with the pastors in ValparaÃso. Sometime later this year, brothers and sisters from the Pentecostal Church of Chile who have been trained by the Shalom Center's "Roots in the ruins: hope in trauma" program will be training pastors and Sunday school teachers to further facilitate trauma healing and resilience development in the churches and communities affected by both the fire and the earthquake.
I thank each of you for your prayers; we certainly need them as the sense of loss this Easter Week will be palpable in the lives of many people. May we bring the hope of Christ's victory over death and destruction to those who suffer in the midst of the ashes and the rubble.
Elena Huegel, Centro Shalom
United Church of Christ Missionary working with the Pentecostal Church of Chile.