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Lutheran Disaster Response

The Ripple Effect of Japan’s Earthquake

Our thoughts and prayers remain with Japan’s communities impacted by today’s earthquake, one of the largest in history.  As we continue to monitor the situation, the ELCA has been in contact with companions throughout the region threatened by the earthquake’s ripple effect sending tsunami waves throughout the Pacific region.

Reports from ELCA Global Mission personnel located in Latin America state that precautionary measures were taken to evacuate most coastal communities.  Anxiety in the region decreased after initial reports from Hawaii indicated the impact would be less than originally anticipated.

Chile continues to wait for the last tail end of the tsunami to come to shore sometime late tonight.  According to ELCA companion EPES in Chile, since early this morning families were informed about the situation in Japan.  In coastal areas, schools were suspended so that families could take precautionary measures.  In Penco, families of two camps that EPES continues to work with after the devastating 2010 earthquake have moved to elevated areas or are awaiting further instruction from government authorities.  Local news services report some 80,000 to 130,000 Chileans are part of the country’s evacuation measures.

The video below from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) illustrates the earthquake’s ripple effect through the Pacific region.

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Children play to cope with the earthquake in Chile

Karen Anderson, missionary of the ELCA assigned to EPES writes:While nervous parents lined up to get water from the EPES well, accompanied bychildren too frightened to stay behind at home, the EPES staff produced crayons and paper from office supplies recovered from the disarray, and encouraged thechildren to draw.

“All the drawings and all the talk is about the earthquake,” reports Maria Stella Toro Santiago-based EPES educatorwho traveled to Concepción last week to support the local staff. “The level oftrauma is high.”

In the street, children are taking turns tossing one another about in an old handcart in their newly invented game of “Earthquake and Aftershocks.

— “How strong was that?” someone asks.

— “That was a 9!” the young girl vigorouslyshaking the cart announces, as a little boy relinquishes his space in the hotseat to the next comer.

As the shaking gets more energetic (“That’s an11!” an onlooker announces), the little girl’s bravado crumbles. “That’senough, Karina,” she pleads, “not so strong.”

Bravado,acting out and game-playing are all coping mechanisms that children adopt inthe aftermath of traumatic experiences like Chile’s 8.8 quake, one of thestrongest ever recorded in a country whose deceptively modern facade iscrumbling along social fault lines exposed by the seismic cataclysm.”

The reality is that the trauma caused by the earthquakes and after shocks both in  Chile as well as in Haiti, needs to be adressed. EPES has been working with an organization that is providing them with the tools and skills to work on trauma healing with children. The Lutheran Church in Haiti has in its agenda to do some treauma healing with the communities where they work. Trauma healing is the least that comes up in our minds when we think about disaster reflief but it is a fundamental issue to address. The scars are long lasting.

EPES continues to respond to earthquake victimes

Karen Anderson, ELCA missionary assigned to EPES has written:”we are stressed to the limit…EPES is one of the only organizations

actually on the ground functioning in Hualpen (the municipality was looted as were the clinics).

We are keeping things going by sending relief teams from Santiago (staff and volunteers) but that means

funding is needed and less people in Santiago where we also have an enormous amount of work to do. Carlos Rauda

who is here funded by the LWF to carry out an assessment will be hosted by EPES in Concepcion as he

works in the region. Food and health kits were distributed from our Center. We are

committed to responding with all the strength, organization, commitment, faith that we have.

We are working with Mercy Corps who approached us because of a former wonderful intern Matt Streng —

EPES is their local partner, to develop a post trauma program for children in Hualpen and other

areas of the region. Comfort for kids is a program they have done in China, Peru, Haiti, etc.

We are also working long, long hours and are faced with situations we have not

handled before.”

Please keep Karen and the EPES staff in your prayers.

New Aftershocks in Concepcion, Chile

On March 11, Rosario Castillo , executive director of EPES informs that the situation in Concepcion became difficult again.There have been strong aftershocks all day and there are rumors that a stronger aftershock will come as well as another tsunami. People are terrified and the level of trauma is overwhelming. EPES continues to treat many, many people whose levels of stress are off the charts.

EPES is trying to pull together a third team to go to the Concepcion area because their staff there needs support from the Santiago office.

Only Dr. Lautaro, director of the Concepcion office is there regularly because the transportation is scarce and other staff is too traumatized to go to work.

Aside from material resources such as water, food, shelter and health kits, the people both in Chile as well as in Haiti, traumatized by the earthquake and aftershocks are in need of our prayers and will need specialized pastoral care in the area of trauma healing. That will be in the hands of our companion church the Evangelical Lutheran church in Chile (IELCH).

Chile – Journey of Solidarity Day 1

A delegation of church leaders is making their way from Santiago to Concepcion, bringing prayers and fellowship in the areas hardest hit by the earthquake.  Here are a few of their reflections. 

Thursday March 4, 2010:

As we departed we joined hands and Pastor President Gloria Rojas of the IELCH (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile) led us in prayer asking God to accompany us throughout the journey. 

In general the trip was calm and faster than we had thought, though we were surprised by the damage to the highway, the large cracks, roads bulging up, bridges that no longer served as bridges and more than one drop in the road to remind us that we needed to take it slow.

3. In Talca our first meeting was in a low income community, where from the outside it did not seem that there had been a lot of damage, but as we listened to people’s testimonies we were surprised by the level of pain and need that was inside the houses.

It is what we call “the Earthquake that Lies”. 

We met with a pastor in Talca, his face still reflected a very painful experience and his strong embrace expressed gratitude for the visit of his brothers and sisters who said: “Pastor, you are not alone, we bring affection, greetings, and solidarity from thousands of people both in Chile and abroad.”

Dear friends, the journey was not tiring, what was tiring was to see the faces of anguish of the people and to hear their fears about aftershocks. But we are encouraged by the testimonies of solidarity, of how they see in us the hope of assistance, but above all what is valued is:  that you are here with us. 

With an embrace, feeling each one you close.

Inter-Church Emergency Committee Chile 2010

Chile Updated information from companion Synod


The following note was added as a comment to the first Chile Earthquake post.  I thought it might be missed as a comment, so am copying here.

                           Peace,  Dan.  (Daniel Rift, ELCA World Hunger and Diaster Appeal) 

Note from Bill Gafkjen on February 27th, 2010 at 6:24 pm

I am Assistant to the Bishop in the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, ELCA, with responsibility for our companion relationship with the IELCH (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile). Today, one of the Spanish-speaking members of our Global Mission Committee spoke with a son of Pastora Gloria Rojas, Presiding Pastor of the IELCH who lives in Santiago. Cell phones have not been working in much of the earthquake area; interestingly many land lines have been fine. Pastora Gloria has been able to connect with most pastors of the IELCH and reports that they are without injury, including Pastor Oscar Sanhueza, who serves in Concepcion, near the earthquake epicenter. We pray for the people of EPES, the IELCH, and Chile as they seek to stand on the firm foundation of God’s gracious promise of resurrection and new life.